As part of Be Kind to Your Mind, we asked young people who've lived with mental illness questions about their experience. Here's what they told us.
I first reached out for help when I was 15. I went to my local GP and was prescribed medication for anxiety and depression. I was unaware of the kind of support and help I needed for my mental health struggles.
Between the ages of 15 and 20, I went to multiple doctors and saw many different psychologists, I was always treated for anxiety and depression, however I always felt it was more severe than anxiety and depression. It was a case of the professionals around me and myself not being educated on complex mental health diagnoses.
If I could change anything, I would have advocated for myself much more, I would have pushed harder to see a psychiatrist in the beginning, to get a more comprehensive diagnosis much sooner.
I was 16. Knowing what I know now, if there was something I could change it would be getting help before my life was as negatively impacted as it was.
At that point in time I was frequently experiencing panic attacks or intense dissociation and I found that I had no motivation, and this affected my school work and my social life negatively. I couldn’t keep up in school and I felt that I was a burden to my friends and closed myself off from them.
I would also have been more open in the other experiences that I had with other symptoms that may have allowed me to get diagnosed correctly earlier.
I was just coming out of high school. I was in and out with various therapists and psychiatrists but I was never able to fully open up. I would go so far as to fib about my true thoughts and feelings because I didn’t entirely trust the person I was speaking to.
Knowing what I know today, I would not feel pressured to stay with a particular therapist if I didn’t feel like they were helping me.
Then I saw a therapist who was different. He didn’t try to explain to me how I was feeling, he asked questions to prompt me to go through the process of discovering how I felt.
Once I felt like I could speak about my traumas, thoughts and fears without a filter, I knew that I was getting help from the right person. I would leave the session and genuinely feel like a weight had been lifted off my chest.
I think we feel ashamed about reaching out for help because, in doing so, we have to acknowledge that not everything is going well with ourselves. It was very common for me to put on an act and behave as though everything was fine with me, even though it obviously wasn’t.
By reaching out, we’re not only telling ourselves but someone else that we need help. We are putting ourselves in a vulnerable position.
I quickly snapped out of feeling ashamed of asking for help once I was hospitalised. I knew I had hit rock bottom so whatever reservations I had about reaching out had to be put aside.
I’ve cultivated a philosophy where you don’t have to share your entire story with someone if you don’t want to. It’s more about finding the right person to share it with. I realised that once I found the right people, the shame became secondary.
I first sought help from CAMHS in my home town, which my mother organised when I was 14. I would perhaps encourage my younger self to be more forthright about situations and symptoms that I was experiencing, before becoming too unwell to articulate them.
Sadly, I did not seek help independently when I recognised I was experiencing mental illness. Instead, my health derailed until I entered a state of psychosis and it became immediately apparent to those around me including parents and school teachers that I needed urgent care.
I often consider the turmoil that may have been avoided if I did seek help earlier, and knowing that being too ashamed, and guilty about my thoughts and feelings was a barrier to me reaching out for support is what motivates me to be involved in mental-health advocacy and de-stigmatisation of mental illness.
During my initial period of low mood, when I knew something was wrong I would have confided in a friend, my parents or a school councillor.
Usually, I have been pretty good at this. I would know my early warning signs and seek help for them. The last time I was unwell I experienced a lot of psychosocial stressors that led to the onset of severe depression. I did not sleep for 6 weeks and only had very short periods of sleep due to extreme anxiety.
I was discouraged to seek help with the attitude of “she’ll be right mate” and it almost cost me my life. I am so glad that I didn’t listen and I went straight to my GP and started the process of recovery again.