I was 14 when I first noticed that I was depressed: it crept in without me realising until it got much worse. By the time I was 15, and with the pressure mounting up in my final year of GCSEs, I became much more unstable. I began to self-harm around October that year, something I am still overcoming today. I remember knowing that what I was doing to my body wasn't something I wanted to be doing, but I felt I couldn't stop hurting myself. I also knew that I needed to reach out to someone, but I didn't know where to go first. I worried about how my parents would react to finding out that I was depressed. I thought they might be angry or upset, but most of all, I was scared that they would be disappointed in me. I didn't feel I could reach out to my school because I didn’t think they could offer any support.
Slowly, I began to reach out
The first person I talked to about my mental health problems was my best friend. She’d had an eating disorder in the past and we had always told each other everything so I knew she would understand. Slowly, I began to reach out to other friends, who I had thought wouldn't be able to empathise with me; however, everyone I spoke to was extremely supportive and kind. My best friend urged me to seek professional help after talking to my parents, but she also understood that I felt I couldn't do that. Instead, with her advice and support, I began to see my school listener once a week, to try and talk about the feelings I was experiencing.
After six sessions, and just before the Easter holidays with the intense revision for my GCSEs starting, she became increasingly worried about me: I expressed the suicidal thoughts and ideations that I had been experiencing since as early as November the same academic year. As a result, I had a meeting with my school pastoral care team, made up of the deputy headmaster, and designated person for safeguarding, who then referred me to The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
I felt I might be judged at school
I was extremely worried about my school being involved, especially because I knew my parents would be informed about my situation. I also felt I might be judged at school for having mental health problems. I go to a private boarding school, and although a day student, it is sometimes assumed that just because I am lucky enough to attend the school I go to, that I am happy one hundred percent of the time. But I know from my own experience that mental health problems can happen to anyone no matter what background you’re from.
The support that I received from my school had a great impact on my recovery
A lack of mental health support in schools is often publicised in the media, and it is definitely a prominent issue that needs to be addressed; however, the help I received was exceptional. My school were able to tell my story to the psychiatrist from a different perspective to what my parents could say, which was very helpful for the support team to better understand my experiences and help me start recovery.
When I started feeling increasingly suicidal in late May, I was offered free boarding from my school. This was particularly helpful given that CAMHS decided not to contact me for 6 weeks, despite the pastoral care team and my parents contacting them on numerous occasions. I firmly believe the support I received from school was the reason it was decided I did not need to be placed within a psychiatric ward temporarily, as this was seriously discussed in my early meetings at CAMHS. This allowed me to finish my GCSEs and achieve very good results despite my situation.
I feel I have a constant safety net around me now
I am just about to start my final year of A Levels, and I can honestly say this is the happiest I’ve been for long time. I feel I have a constant safety net around me now; there is always someone to go to. Whether that be talking to a friend or parent, tutor, a member of the pastoral team, or my psychiatrist - I always have somewhere to go with my feelings, and now they don't get on top of me as much as they used to.