It wasn’t until I was in sixth form that I opened up to my mum about my mental health. She noticed my behaviour was affecting my everyday life, including college, and we had a conversation about the appropriate steps we could take going forward to find a solution. She booked a doctor’s appointment for me and that’s when I was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression.
Things started to look up when I found the right support and I realised it was ok to speak about my mental health. Now, if I’m struggling or I need someone to talk to, I speak to my mum. Sometimes having just one conversation can make a situation feel less daunting and allows you to feel a little better.
I finished my access course this summer, however due to the current situation my final grade was based on my previous and predicted ones, which felt like a bit of an anti-climax. I’ll be starting university in September, but there’s a lot of uncertainty.
At one point I didn’t even know if I would be able to move into my accommodation due to social distancing measures. I know I can now, but I’m still feeling anxious. I’m nervous about meeting new people, especially because if we go into lockdown again I’ll suddenly be living alone with them in isolation away from my family. Moving away from home and my support network worries me, because I won’t have all the comforts of being in my own home anymore which help me manage my mental health – I’m just fearful of the unknown.
Going to university is a big life change at best of times, but coming out of lockdown I feel even more nervous about it and I have lots of unanswered questions. I’m trying to be as prepared as possible, but that’s hard to do when you don’t really know what you’re preparing for. I left education previously because of my mental health so, although I’ve gone to college, I’m very worried that I won’t be able to deal with it all. I’ve asked myself, ‘will I be intelligent enough to pass university?’ I’m also uncertain how I’ll balance the work and student life. However, I’ve been reassured that the university support is very good.
I’ve discussed my mental health and concerns with my mum a few times. Sometimes I find it difficult to start the conversation because I don’t want to cause her more stress but, when I can, I try to speak to her about how I’m feeling. I’ve told her that there’s a lot to take in right now, as my move in date is fast approaching. I don’t bring it up too much, because it makes me feel self-conscious sometimes, but I know it’s not any good for me to suffer in silence.
My mum can always sense when I don’t feel myself. When I’m in a bad place she can see I’m acting differently, so she asks me how I am. It’s helpful when she starts the conversation with me, because it shows she’s not too busy to listen to me. Sometimes she wants to speak about my mental health but I’m not in the right place to speak about it, but I know I can talk to her later when I feel able to.
My tips for parents who want to talk to their child about their mental health are:
- Don’t force them to talk. They may not feel comfortable discussing their mental health yet. Attempting to force them to speak could cause them to withdraw from future conversations.
- Listen, never judge. The last thing a child needs during a time of emotional difficulty is a parent making out they know better or telling them they shouldn’t be feeling that way. Show compassion and support them.
- Let them know that you and others are there for them. Mental illness can be extremely isolating, and lead to lots of self-doubt. Therefore, sometimes it’s nice to just be told that you are able to confide in somebody should you need to.