Now that I’ve got your attention, I’m going to be talking about mental health, this wasn’t easy to post but necessary to break the stigma! I’m sure by now you are aware that it is mental health awareness week this week and mental health affects everyone differently and plays a different part in everyone’s life. I’m sure you have seen the statistic that 1 in 4 people will suffer with a mental health issue at some point in their life. Now break that down, 1 in 4. If you are currently in school, in any one lesson of an average of 28 people in your class then statistically speaking, 7 people will suffer with mental health. This doesn’t exclude people such as teachers, administrators, cleaners or kitchen staff. This isn’t an illness that anyone is immune from, not the rich nor the poor, this has been clearly shown over the past year where we have lost big names due to mental health, despite their successes.
As many of you are aware, I spent the majority of last year in a number of psychiatric units with people struggling from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia, anorexia and personality disorders. The assumption that people make when they first hear ‘psych ward’ is that of crazy people locked up in cushioned rooms, straight jackets and crying and wailing with no realisation of who they are or what planet they are on. This is all inaccurate (mostly, people may think they’re from another planet at times but that’s okay), the people I met were all simply students, sisters and brothers, children and most of all, humans. They were the most understanding people who listened and helped, they were all people who were lost in themselves or struggling to handle their mental health. A lot of people were there coping and recovering from complex traumas throughout their life, in therapy for things such as physical, emotional, sexual abuse, neglect and there were others there who had no direct ‘trigger’ to their mental health, goes to show that anyone can be impacted despite whether people think they have ‘a good life’. I witnessed children as young as 12 locked in crying out for their mothers and others at age of 18 being discharged with no place to go.
Now this is MY side of MY mental health. I’m not going to discuss particular events but I will share my view. Over the past few years I have been diagnosed with/ querying with a number of mental health diagnoses. I have been in 5 units, whether long or short admissions, multiple therapies, 1-1s, police encounters and pick ups, various holding sections and A&E trips. Nights spent awake on crisis lines and months to years spent on different medications and drugged up nights. There is no glamour in mental illness. The photos attached are all from when I was struggling immensely, some are smiling and others not, there could be hours or minutes in time difference between the photos, a smile does not mean someone is okay. Most of you have probably seen (and will notice in the photos of my tattoos) that I have scars. I don’t go to extremes to hide them because this is MY body and I shouldn’t be ashamed. I am fairly open minded and willing to discuss topics with people as this is how it should be, mental health should be a topic that can be openly spoken about and directed as the issue that it is.
I am proud to say that I am a big part of developing the CAMHS inpatient unit in Cornwall, which is long overdue. Because of the lack of units and provisions for both young people and adults, people are being sent across the country for critical support. Due to this I got sent to Birmingham to a low secure female forensic (I WAS NOT MEANT TO BE THERE), away from my community and my friends and support system so I am overjoyed that this unit is being developed!
I can definitely say that I am now in recovery, I am back in education with my attendance near enough 100%, I have a job and my own flat. I am preparing my personal statement for university and planning a gap year, spending a lot of my time volunteering as well as being back at netball (despite it not being my original club). There is a future beyond mental illness. Thank you to all the friends, nurses, doctors, police men and women, youth workers, teachers and everyone else for the hours spent supporting me with my struggles.
It is okay to not be okay!
I am Milda, I AM NOT my mental health.