July 7, 2016

"Since becoming a Young Champion, not only is my voice louder, it's made stronger with all the others who have the same message to share."

Three years ago, I lost my voice. I could still say what I was expected to, say what people wanted me to, say whatever I was told to, but I couldn’t seem to find my voice. I could say whatever anyone needed me to, anyone but me. My voice had been almost silenced by the people around me. I was made quieter by the people who called me selfish, the people who thought I was weak, the people who convinced me I wasn’t worth their time or energy, all because of my worsening mental health. I was made quieter by the people who doubted the credibility of my mental health problems and by the people who doubted my credibility because of them.

During the five years before that, my mental health had slowly deteriorated, starting with unexplainable indescribable sadness, and panic attacks, onto hours of crying, and the start of obsessions and compulsions that would soon start to take over my life. After three years of suffering, of not realising that life wasn’t supposed to be this way, I sought help. Over the next two years, I talked to mental health professionals, a policeman, some friends, who had nothing for me but discrimination based on preconceptions they’d formed about what it meant to have mental health problems. I ended up discharging myself from local mental health services, because I couldn’t deal with my worsening mental health and the chance of facing any more cruelty. A few months later, voiceless and lost, I saw a tweet about becoming a Time to Change Young Champion. I disregarded any trepidation I had and signed up to be part of the Time to Change young person’s panel.

When I attended my first meeting three years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I had no confidence left in what I had to say, but that didn’t matter; it was a space free of judgement and ridicule. Both young people and staff, those that I met that day, and at every training, and event since, have shown nothing but respect and kindness to me and all the other young people. I continued attending various training sessions, from media training, and training on speaking out, to training to help me to deliver my personal testimony, each one starting to give me my voice back, starting to convince me that I had something to say worth listening to. I’ve been able to put my training to good use at events, from joining Time to Change in several schools at events, talking to students while they wrote pledges and watched the campaign videos, to sitting on the panel at a roadshow event for youth professionals in Bristol.

More recently, as part of being a Young Champion, I’ve been delivering my personal testimony in schools around the South, to groups of between eight teachers, to anywhere around 100 students. I share the story of what it feels like to experience anxiety and become so convinced you are being poisoned that you eat sealed food for months, of how I ended up being sectioned and spent five weeks in hospital recovering. I share the story of how I made it through and of how far my family and friends have come in understanding what I’m going through and being supportive. Some of the worst moments of my life were somehow made into positives, from the first time I gave my testimony, and a student came to talk to me at the end, because it was “so nice to finally talk to someone that understood”, to every other student and teacher who has intently listened.

Since becoming a Young Champion, when I face discrimination I now know that I have something important to say, something worth listening to and that I deserve better. Three years on, not only is my voice louder, it’s made stronger with all the others who have the same message to share as me. Together we can change attitudes to improve young people’s understanding of mental health problems. Our stories are all different but each one powerful in its own ways, each one making a difference, each one making me feel honoured to share the title of Young Champion with them.

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Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.

Comments

Mental health

I've battled with depression for years after losing my little girl in a horrendous way and my partner nearly killing me but I want going to let him get to me as he would of been winning and that's one thing he wasn't going to do so I asked my GP could refer me to the local mental health team and I've got a care coordinator now and my life has turned round full circle but I've been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder but I'm not letting this beat me as I'm proud to stand up and be counted yes I have a mental health issue but this is nothing to be ashamed of even the richest of people have experienced a mental health issue of some kind what I'm trying to say is the stigma needs to be stripped I've had some negative comments about my depression over the years like you don't look ill you look well and you should be at work not off work well depression is a silent illness it doesn't show its self on the surface it's underneath you put a brave face on the outside but inside your breaking suicidal thoughts dark dark times and you can't see anyway out you become selfish you don't care about anybody else you sit at home all day cause you don't want to show your face to the outside world I've had these symptoms and more at my worst I tried to take my own life but I was taken to a safe place for my own protection however I was let down by the system as I had no aftercare when I was sectioned if it wasn't for my sister I wouldn't be here now as she knew something was wrong that day I owe my sister everything as she saved my life and she talked me round and after I felt so selfish I would miss out on my niece and nephew growing up and that was the first time I had ever seen my sister so distraught and so so worried about me I'm so so grateful now she saved my life I'm thriving I've got a job lovely friends and a fantastic social life and most of all my family which I couldn't live without

Thank you Daniela, I think

Thank you Daniela, I think that you are right, 'loosing your voice' when your mental health is challenging to the point of cornering you into your last retrenchment is not only true as an image, it also feels very real. And 'losing your voice' when your surrounding is challenging to the point of being unable to communicate, to grasp meaning and make sense, with only flat notes in guise of a voice, left aphonic, is an experience that is not only distressing, it is also very isolating.

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