Getting help for mental health – my experience of services
My school life from the age of 11 involved a large amount of bullying, I found fitting in with other students of the same age extremely difficult from the day I started. My teacher suggested counselling and social skills session back then, and I have had some sort of therapy on and off ever since.
When I left school I didn’t know what would be the best option for me to progress with my career goals, so I decided to start at my local college and study business. A few months later I started to feel really trapped and anxious, I had felt confused previously in secondary school but this was a completely different feeling that I wasn’t used to. I think these feelings came because I was being bullied severely on a daily basis, both verbally and physically threatened, and this made me feel I was completely alone as no one seemed to be interested in just respecting me for who I am.
Eventually this led to a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), as I had started having serious suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, psychosis and felt I was losing my identity completely. I didn’t know who I was at all which left me feeling scared of staying alive.
When my referral went through to CAMHS, my understanding of the service was extremely vague, I didn’t really know much information and hadn’t heard the experiences of others. So I went to my appointment with an open mind, me and my mum went together, I managed to offload a large amount of information and feelings in just one session which felt nice and I felt I was heard for the first time by a health professional.
I had workers visiting me on a regular basis and was prescribed an anti-psychotic medication and anti-depressants, but a few months later I ended up being admitted to an adult mental health hospital at the age of 17 while I was still with CAMHS – I was still seen regularly by CAMHS workers, they came to me on the unit, they were extremely respectful even though I wasn’t in the best place to talk.
My first time in hospital was around 3 weeks, then a few months later I was admitted again. I was 18 now, which meant I got discharged from CAMHS and went in to adult services. Luckily this happened quite quickly. But during my second period in hospital my mental health deteriorated even further. At this stage I was told I would have no future apart from mental hospitals and medication. Being told this at such a young age made me feel my life was over, my feelings about this were unexplainable.
But this made me really determined not to let this happen. With a lot of willpower and hard work, and the support of my family, mental health workers and the youth workers at Hear Our Voice, through good days and bad, some extraordinary things have happened and I have been able to completely turn my life around.
When I was discharged from hospital I managed to fill my life with productive activities – I found an art course at a local college which was for students who have mental health difficulties and learning disabilities. This wasn’t the most ideal course for me but was right for where I was feeling at the time, it made me feel connected with everyday life again, just being able to have the confidence to walk around and not be ashamed of my individuality.
Then I joined a local young men’s music project. My first impression of the project was that it would just be individuals who are going to conflict with each other through the rivalry of different types of music and personalities. But then through each session a great bond grew between the group members and it started to feel like a small family, we just understood our abilities and respected each other for who we are, not by what we were going through, which is such an important thing to me!
We we managed to write and produce our own original music and had the amazing privilege of performing these pieces at the Hall Of Cornwall – it was an absolutely great honour to see the audience reaction to our pieces. After this I joined a singing project where we practiced and performed covers of recent chart songs and I was able to develop my interest in rap and spoken word, this was a great opportunity to meet like musicians with the same interest in music as me.
As I got better and felt more confident I was able to join the CAMHS young people’s board – it’s such an outstanding position to have, to represent young people and be the ears for their voice and make a real difference in Cornwall and nationally.
Luckily before I got really unwell I had done my university application through my college course and was accepted at Bath Spa University for a Business Management (Fashion BA Hons) Degree. This is such an exciting next chapter of my life as I’m going to be able to focus on my career goals and meet different types of people and experience different cultures which I’m sure I’ll enjoy.
Recently I have been elected as a South West Representative for UK Youth Voice who are an organisation which support youth work across the UK – this feels like I can make a significant impact to deprived areas in the South West which often miss out, to establish projects which get young people participating in positive activities. Being interviewed by UK Youth representatives and being successful was such an amazing achievement which will always stay with me.
My overall experience of CAMHS is that they were amazing and I really couldn’t have got through the crisis point of my life without their support. I have presented this story so hopefully other young people can relate to my experiences and understand the feelings they may currently be going through, and so they know that there are a lot of amazing health professionals who can help you before the worst scenario happens, you just need to ask for support.
Anything is possible as long as you have the willpower to work through it day to day. I didn’t think I would be where I am right now a year ago, I really didn’t think I would be alive. I am really grateful to the professionals, friends and family members who have supported me a through the most difficult part of my life and this has completely transformed me.
You can see more about my story in our film – Breakthrough