These vidoes have been curated to support professionals working with young people with complex mental health issues, including personality disorder, trauma history, self-harm and suicidal behaviour and difficulties with affect, identity and relationships. 

Other lived experience videos can be viewed here.

More videos curated for health professions working with consumers, families, partners and carers of people with personality disorder, emerging personality disorder, symptoms or traits can be viewed here.


Self-harm in students

Project Air's Michelle Townsend on self-arm in students

My name is Michelle Townsend and I work with the Project Air team at the University of Wollongong.

Self harm in schools is a growing issue and schools across Australia are struggling with the alarming number of students that are self harming. Certainly, recent research shows that one in ten students have self harmed and three quarters of those have self harmed in the last 12 months. So it’s an issue that schools are really at the forefront of in addressing and responding to working out what is the best way to support their students.

What we’ve learnt from our conversations to date with teachers and student welfare teams is that schools often have skills and the professionals within the system to respond, but on a day to day level, the teachers, when they’re aware of a student, can be quite overwhelmed by what they see and how to best respond to individual students. And so, in our experience, the best way to respond is the whole school approach, where student welfare teams come together and bring in health professionals if required , to work out the best way to support that individual student, but also be able to protect other students, to engage families where it’s possible, and to ensure that students are participating as much as possible in school life and continuing their education.

Parenting with personality disorder

This short video follows the life of Sam and her three children. It shows the choices Sam has to make as a parent while struggling with personality disorder. It was developed as a training tool illustrating parenting strategies for caregivers with a personality disorder.

Parenting with a Personality Disorder 

(Background music)

Prof Grenyer: Hi I'm Professor Brin Grenyer and I lead the Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders.  We work with mental health professionals and researchers to help parents get the information they need to deal with the challenges they face. We all love being parents, but it can also be hard at times, and personality disorders can make it even harder. 

Sam: Jack, don't open those eggs. 

Prof Grenyer: Today we'll meet Sam. Sam is a single mother with personality disorder and she has three children; Ethan, Jack, and Mia. We look at the choices that Sam has and ways to care and support children when struggling with mental health problems. 

Parenting with a Personality Disorder: A film for health professionals, parents, care givers & families 

Sam: I know what I do affects my kids. I could say it, yeah ,sometimes I just see in their eyes how much they need me and I - just everything's just so intense. I can't even think about them, you know, like I just feel so filled up with so many emotions and it's really hard to think about anything else. I hate myself. I just hate myself. 

Classroom conversation: (Girl) I need to find a way to regulate their environment. If they get too cold it might not work. (Boy) I’m working on something at home. I am. I've got to go. (Girl) Remember we need to get all this done by Thursday. (Boy) I know. (Girl) I'll call you. 

School bell. Text message Ethan to Mum: How are you feeling? 

Jack (knocks on door): Mum. Mummy please open the door. 

Sam: I'll let you in but you have to promise not to tell anyone, okay Jack, especially not Ethan. (Music) Sometimes it just it just happens but I don't even realize what I'm doing and I've already done it and I can't go back. Then I know that if I can learn how to deal with my problems then I won't have to put that on to my kids.


I'm okay Jack. I'm just washing my face.

That would be a lot better

Can you go check on Mia? 

Jack: Okay. (To Mia) Do you want to watch cartoons? 

Sam: Thanks for looking after Mia, Jack. You’re a big help. 

Ethan: Hey mom. 

Sam: Hey 

Ethan: Everything all right? 

Sam: Mm-hmm 

Voice giving instructions: You want to mount the sensor on the side of the warming chamber, way from the heat lamps. That way you get a more accurate temperature reading and have the best chance of a consistent result across……(Music

Ethan: Hey mum. Can we talk? 

Sam: I'd pull myself out hole, haul myself out until I have nothing left. 

Ethan: Jack, it's almost dinnertime 

Sam: No one gave me anything, you know, not me. Nobody helped me and I just keep thinking, why does Mia get everything when nobody gave me anything? 

Mia: Mummy! 

Sam (shouting): Stop your whinging!

I just get so angry and then I don't even realize what I'm doing. 

Mia: Mummy, come play with me. 

Sam: You want me to come play with you?

When I feel better, well when I feel better I to know that it's just about opening my eyes and really seeing her. You know, like really seeing her as her own little person, and when I can focus on her world and talk to Mia about what she's doing, that makes things a lot easier.

I like the way you used the orange with the red ones over here and then the pink ones over here, with the green, that's very nice. I'm gonna do that too. I'm gonna use some pink like you did and some green. And, shall I get a brown one too?   

(Blocks fall

Sam: It’s okay, we can rebuild it. Very good.

(Music, tap dripping) 

(Ruby text message): You still up?

(Ethan text message): Yep

(Ruby text message): Everything ok?

(Ethan text message): No

(Ruby text message): What’s wrong?

(Ethan text message): My mum is sick – erased -

(Ruby text message): Is it me?

(Ethan text message): No. Why would you think that? My mum has a personality disorder. It’s hard sometimes.

(Ruby text message): I’m sorry

(Ethan text message): It’s ok. See you tomorrow to finish our project?

(Ruby text message): Course. Can’t wait.

(Ethan text message): Me too. 


Sam – crying: All right! I already told you I called in sick and I need you to come over. I don't know, just, just to be here, to look after me. You don't even care if I live or die. Crying

Don’t say this to me right now when I really need you that is not true and never easy.

Ethan, don’t leave me alone today. Can you stay with me? Please stay with me. 

Ethan: Yeah. Jack, let's go. Mia, here’s your bag. I'll just take Jack and Mia up to school and I'll be right back. I'll be right back. Okay. 

Sam: I already told you I called in sick and I need you to come over, just to be here with me.

(music) Ethan is such a good kid. It's easy to rely on him too much. Sometimes I don't even realize how much he's doing around the house. I don't want him to miss out on being a kid.

Thanks for helping everyone get ready Ethan. 

Ethan: That's okay 

Sam: Just give me a minute. I'll get dressed to take you to school. 

Ethan: Mum, I’m not going. I'll stay here with you. I'll just take Jack and Mia up to school and I'll be right back, okay. 

Sam: No, that's okay. You've got your science project to work on. I'll be okay. I'll call the clinic okay. I'll be here when you get home this afternoon. 

Ethan: Okay. 

Sam: Right, Mia get your bag. Mummy’s going to get dressed. I'll be back in two minutes. 

Professor Grenyer: Parenting when you have a personality disorder provides extra challenges but it's important to know there are small steps you can take to make a positive difference. No one can be a perfect parent but it's important that our kids feel loved and protected. Our role is to talk to them about what is going on, protect them from harm, and ensure our children are able to be children. Talking these things over with a mental health worker can help you develop a treatment plan that's right for you and ensure a safe calm and loving family environment. 

Sam: It always seems really weird to me that in the hundreds of conversations I've had with therapists, not once have I been asked about my kids. You know, being a mother as my main role and raising kids is really hard - full-stop - let alone trying to do it dealing with personality disorder. I feel like other people are judging me, especially other parents. I guess I've avoided getting to know the other parents at the kids’ school. But my kids are what I live for. They are the reason I stick with my therapy and they motivate me to get better - so that I can be a better mum, so that so that we can have a better life than I had, because my mum pretty much left my brother and I to raise ourselves and our household was pretty violent, so I'm determined that my kids won't grow up the way I did. My worst nightmare is if I would pass something on to them and I really don't want them to have to deal with the struggles that I have. But I'm me and I'm their parent so I just try and be good enough every day and just, you know, focus on the positive and take positive steps towards what really matters in my life. 

I worry a lot that my kids could be taken from me but I know now that working with my therapists and being really honest about my struggles is the best way to keep us all together, because you know, my therapist and I work on my problems and that helps me be a better parent too. I just hope that I can keep making progress. You know, it's really hard, but I know that my kids really need me and I'm really important to them, and they bring just so much joy and happiness into my life. I just try and put aside my worries and enjoy time with them.

Chloe's story

In Chloe’s bedroom


Things started to get real messed up a couple of years ago, mum and dad were fighting a lot more than usual. At first I tried to ignore it, kept telling myself that things would get better, they never did though. Things happened that never should have happened.

Eventually dad left, mum well she had to work, so she was never around. It was just me and my little sisters. We started hanging with the kids at the skate park because I couldn't stand being alone. Even had a crush on one of them. I thought they felt the same way. Then I found out that they were cheating on me, and I, I lost it. Everything I thought was solid in my world was gone. That rejection felt like my life was over and there was no reason to live anymore.

I uh, I started stealing alcohol, and got involved with another girl who was a pretty serious cutter. We would drink so much that we got totally wasted, I had to do it just to get through the day. At first I would only cut myself when things were really bad. Like when I felt I was going to get kicked out of home. But now now I do it everyday. I became obsessed with death and went deeper into dark thoughts, and it's spent a lot of time with the wrong things on the internet, and in clubs. I go on line and chat to people like me, we talk about hurting ourselves and how best to do it. I just feel like I'm falling deeper and deeper into this dark hole. My moods go up and down all the time and sometimes I just get so angry I just want to break stuff.

My mom and sisters are so different from me. They never lose it, they're always perfect. I don't understand it either. Why am I so messed up, when everyone else gets to be normal? I think there is something seriously wrong with me.  I don't know who I am, what I feel. Cutting makes me feel something. Stops my mind racing through all my dark thoughts, the kids at school have turned against me. Treat me like I'm a freak. I guess I am. Maybe I'm better off just dropping out. I mean what's the point in wasting everyone's time? it's not like I'll ever be smart or good at anything I may as well just give up now. I think I've let just about everyone down.

In School yard

[Girl leaning on locker]


[Girl sitting on ledge]

Really rockin that goth look today are we?


Come on girls get to class. Now!


[Ron Jeffries, Year advisor, Greylands school]

Chloe is one of our more interesting students. She has a lot of potential but unfortunately, something is stopping her from fulfilling that potential. She's taken up a lot of the teachers and students time. She struggles to fit in, and can be very combative. I'm really worried that many people here are starting to feel as though they've given Chloe too much of their time, too much energy, and that's been resulting in people starting to disengage. I would hate for Chloe to fall through the cracks, I just want to understand her, and give her the best chance of doing well in finishing school. She is a capable student, but unfortunately the difficulties are getting in the way I think she's asking for help. But in ways that make it challenging. Underneath it all is a really nice young person who has a lot to offer.

[Chloe’s mum]

I'm just so exhausted. Work is hard to get, and the bills are piling up, and I have to do it all on my own and Chloe just doesn't make things easy for me, her sisters are the complete opposite, they do really well at school, and yeah they're sweet, they take after me. But Chloe she's such a handful and I don't know what to do about it, I mean I'm finding it hard to understand her and she's not even trying. I guess schools not for everyone though right? Maybe it’d just be better for everyone if she just drops out

Meeting with Chloe’s teacher

[Chloe’s teacher]

It's clear there's something going on with Chloe, she's always late for school. She's never handing in any work.

[Chloe’s mum]

Look I'm busy. I don't have time to supervise her, I need to get to work. I think she should just get herself out of bed and off to school.

[Ron Jeffries]

We need to understand what is going on with her.

[Chloe’s Teacher]

She's not contributing in class anymore. I don't know if she has trouble paying attention, or she's just bored.  I mean what she handed in was an exceptional piece of writing. But since then there's been nothing.

[Chloe’s Mum]

Look, I don't think school is good for Chloe. She's just not taking it seriously and it is embarrassing for me to see the way she looks.

[Ron Jeffries]

Chloe is self-harming and it's getting worse. Look whatever it is that Chloe is going through it goes way beyond not wanting to come to school. We just want to help your daughter.

[Chloe’s mum]

So what are you thinking?

[Ron Jeffries]

We should touch base with the school counsellor. I'm gonna talk to Chloe and involve her in developing a plan to move forward. Sound good?

Meeting with Chloe’s school counsellor

[Ron Jeffries]

Chloe's mother's on board. We all want what's best for Chloe, but we're not sure how to achieve that. I think it's time to try something different to help her.

[Chloe’s counsellor]

After speaking with her it's clear she's high risk. I think Chloe should see a clinical psychologist from the health department.

[Ron Jeffries]

I'm also worried about the other students, and the effect that this is having on the school.

[Chloe’s counsellor]

I'm meeting with some of those students tomorrow

In Chloe’s classroom –private discussion between Chloe and Ron Jeffries

[Ron Jeffries]

As you know spoken with your mother and the school counsellor


Let me guess, I'm a lost cause?

[Ron Jeffries]

Do you really feel like that? We need to find ways to keep you safe, that focuses on you, and doesn't involve the other kids. I know you've been cutting yourself and I'm worried that without help you'll really hurt yourself. How can we make you safer and want to be here at school?


I can't stop the haze in my head.

[Ron Jeffries]

It's good you've been speaking to the school counsellor But we think we should speak with a clinical psychologist in the Health Department about getting you some extra help. Do you give him permission to arrange a meeting with you?


Yeah, I guess. If you think it will help 

School counsellor arranges a referral and first meeting with clinical psychologist


I don't like that I cut myself. But I don't know how else to deal with everything that's happened.

[Clinical Psychologist]

I understand there have been a lot of setbacks. The most important thing now is to focus on today and tomorrow and the next few weeks. And we can plan some ways to keep you safe from harm


I want to squeeze the life out of it

[Clinical Psychologist]

That’s your strength we're gonna need that, but also work on some strategies to help you control those urges, and to keep you focused in class and stop you drifting off. First, I want to understand a bit more about your goals in the short term. You know we're gonna have to work well together, so what I would like us to do is to develop a care plan. Now, a care plan here is – it understands what's important to you. Some of the things we can do to help you, when you feel, you know in crisis, considering harm and actually plan and understand those people they're going to be there helping to support you through this.

Three weeks later

[Chloe’s counsellor]

She talked about the skills she's learning with you to cope with difficult situations, with the care plan. She's also starting to trust the people that are helping her. I've noticed improvement already Chloe came to our last session with enthusiasm.

[Clinical Psychologist]

That's great to hear, and we need to remember that borderline personality disorder and other self-harm problems can be treated without drugs. The skills that were identified in Chloe's care plan will ultimately be her very best chance at managing her distress and avoiding future self-harm.

I would also work on her dissociation and some of those trauma symptoms that we're seeing, but it will take time and there will be setbacks along the way, but I think if we can all talk through this and work well together then we can work these things through.

[Ron Jeffries]

I am still worried about her schooling however I want to set up an individual education plan to support her. What would you suggest?

Chloe’s counsellor, Ron Jeffries and Chloe’s teacher sitting in Library

[Ron Jeffries]

As you know we're working with Chloe to get her in a better place but we're still concerned about her in the classroom 

[Chloe’s teacher]

She's not engaged, she doesn't take the work seriously, she's a bad influence on the other kids

[Chloe’s counsellor]

We understand it's difficult for you, look Chloe has a lot on her shoulders right now.

[Ron Jeffries]

I know there are challenges but she is committed to change. I spoke with her mother about the importance of keeping her in school and got agreement on ways to ensure she gets to school on time. Her father is not responding to my contact, but her mother is relieved she's getting counselling.

[Chloe’s counsellor]

I wasn't sure if Chloe felt like her mum was on her side.

[Chloe’s teacher]

If Chloe's prepared to come to class on time then I'm prepared to keep working with her. She's got the ability.

[Ron Jeffries]

Is there anything else that the clinical psychologist said that we should know?

[Chloe’s counsellor]

He said that problems like those facing Chloe can be treated, we just need to provide a calm environment, and let her practice the skills that have been discussed in treatment and in her care plan. Chloe has agreed for us all to have a copy of her plan

[Ron Jeffries]

Chloe wants to get this right but we also have a role. Thank you for speaking to some of the students that were getting under her skin. I noticed yesterday that some of them were actually chatting to her and not stirring her up.

[Chloe’s teacher]

I noticed she even made a joke in class, and the other students were thrilled.

Two months later


I never thought there'd be other people out there that felt the same way I did. It was really good to know I wasn't alone and that I could work on getting better. I now know that I'm a hypersensitive soul and little things can really affect me. They used to be my own worst enemy, but my feelings can be really intense, had way too many negative feelings about other people and I end up suffering for it. Now my psychologist is helping me to find ways to be more mindful, to help calm me down and get me through the day.

I'm using some skills that are helping me to be kinder to me, when I feel things getting tough I use the strategies I've learnt. The school is being really supportive too. My teachers, my year advisor in particular, he's been great and helped me so much. All the breakups in my relationships nearly killed me. But I realize now that I've gotta look after myself and try not to follow into a big hole.

“It's not easy and I know that sometimes I will struggle but I can see now that my mum, teachers and friends do like me, and so I'm trying to like myself a bit more too - that's really hard sometimes. If I stick with my care plan and take each day at a time, it would be much better for me.


Helping schools help with mental health, A Project Air Strategy Film

[Professor Brin Greyner]

Mental health is a community concern but particularly in young people who are also struggling with adolescent development. Schools and the community play a critical role in assisting all young people to face the challenges. Sometimes young people can get overwhelmed by their difficulties and look for solutions that can cause even more problems, we may need to intervene when life gets too tough, emotions become overwhelming, and relationships become strained. We need to be aware of risky behaviours such as self-harm, drug use and suicidal gestures. The young person might think these will solve a serious problem, they don't believe they can escape but they end up causing much bigger problems. Understanding the distress but also providing practical solutions to help the young person can go a long way. We've seen how small changes can make a big difference it's important for young people who are falling behind and struggling with mental health problems to get the help they need.

Schools play a critical role in helping connect students with the right care, young people who are struggling deserve our compassion and we need to become and try to understand what's going on rather than getting reactive ourselves. Schools can also play an active and positive role to help get students staff families and the community to all support the changes necessary to get young people like Chloe back on track