I first properly experienced mental health issues at the age of 15 was when, and with this came a lot of damaging attitudes and actions. When I started going to therapy for treatment of depression and anxiety, I was still at school and my peers told me that ‘I didn’t look like a psycho’, which is kind of a backwards compliment that made me feel I had to be sicker.
Then, later on in my life when I was 19/20, I was diagnosed with a personality disorder and an eating disorder. People told me I wasn’t ‘thin enough’ for an eating disorder. This made me want to control my eating more and made me reject a diagnosis that took me so long to get in the first place, which in turn led me to not get the treatment I needed.
The stories above are part of the reason why I started campaigning as a Time to Change Young Champion. I wanted to change these attitudes that people had towards me, so that no one had to feel the way that I did. It was also important to me as I knew that I myself had played a part of causing some stigma, due to the way I was brought up.
It was ingrained into me from a young age that depression didn’t really exist, and if it did it was only adults who had a bad life who got it. And it was a weakness if they did had it.
These misconceptions had an effect on me when I was suffering as they prevented me from getting help. It made me realise that I needed to do something to stop others from thinking and feeling the same way, and that's why I started campaigning with Time to Change.
I love campaigning with Time to Change and have so many great stories about my experiences already. However, I’m just going to share one.
I had just finished my first year of University and had decided to do some work experience in a school. This school is where one of my old teachers now works – he helped me a lot in the past when I was really struggling. He knew about my work with Time to Change and asked if I could do something with two of his classes.
So I decided to read them my testimony. These children were around 11 years old, so in my head they were quite young, but the teacher assured me they’d be fine.
I walked into a loud classroom, of busy children, and thought ‘there is no way they are going to care or want to listen’. I was introduced and one of the boys made some sort of joke about ‘oh is this going to be serious stuff’.
I then started talking, and the room fell silent. Everybody was listening to me, and even when I had stopped, the room was silent. They were then invited to ask questions, or which there were many, but I was willing to answer them all.
I was at that school for four weeks, and I did this on my first. For the next four weeks I had these children come up to me and tell me how brave I was, I had some come and see me every break time to help plan their own campaign focusing on happiness.
Not were the young people approaching me, but I also had their tutors telling me how much of an impact I’d had on them. One day the deputy head said he had received an email from a parent, and I initially panicked, but it was saying how grateful she was that I had spoken to her child and that I had made her child feel less alone. One parent even come up to me and hugged me in tears in the playground because of how glad she was that I had spoken to her child.
Even though, at times, this campaigning can feel hard work, it is always so worth it for the impact it has on people. I’m so glad I’m a part of it.