The first time I started experiencing severe mental health problems was when I was in Year 10. I turned round to my teacher, A, and said; “what is the point?” - that’s when I first started opening up about my problems.
After I asked him that question, he sat with me for two hours trying to figure out why I asked it. He then tried to make me feel better by answering it in a way that wasn’t too miserable. Since then, I began to build up trust with him and spoke to him more and more about how I was feeling.
Another one of my teachers, C, was just as amazing. I started talking to her about things roughly a month after I had been “outed” - the first thing I did was come out to her.
“I was worried about what she was going to say, but she just smiled at me, said it was okay and gave me a hug.”
Both A and C were the first teachers I had properly opened up to. Although they had a duty of care, meaning at times they did have to forward on what I said, I still felt like I could trust them. I told A about my self-harm first, and although I knew he’d have to pass it on, he was still very nice and willing to talk to me about it. The key thing was that he was calm and not panicked. I had a similar incident with C, when I was in sixth form, where one of my injuries was bleeding. I went and told her and she dealt with it calmly and kindly – most importantly, she didn’t blame me.
At home, I had a very rocky time trying to talk about my mental health.
“My mum would quite often have a go at me for self-harming, so to have someone who wasn’t judging and was supporting me meant a lot.”
A was the first person to suggest to me that I may have some mental health issues and he encouraged me to speak to the school counsellor about it. However, it was only after an attempt on my life two years later, that I actually began to get help from mental health professionals. Yet regardless of this, if I didn’t have A and C up to that point, I wouldn’t have made it that far to begin to get the support.
Even after I started to receive professional support, A and C were still there, and I also began to get more help from other teachers during Year 12 and 13. H began to help me and her firm attitude made sure I passed the subject that she taught me, which made me feel slightly less useless.
During my last year of sixth form, the head developed a very good approach towards me; a lot of the time I’d just go into his office, have a cry, and then walk out fine. Even if he didn’t know what to say, (which was quite often), he would just find something that he knew would make me laugh and then I’d feel better, even if just for a moment.
The last teacher I’m going to speak about is my singing teacher, S, who was just so great at listening to me and finding the perfect song to reflect how I was feeling at the time.
“The most important thing about all of them was the fact that they listened. They may not have always known what to say, but quite often that didn’t matter. Just them being there to listen was all I needed.”
They also always made sure I was safe and never panicked - even when I was at my worst they never did (well, they never showed it!). I remember telling them about my diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) and they were so relieved for me to finally have an answer. They were equally as happy that I'd get support for it.
I know that not all teachers are like this, but mine were brilliant and definitely helped make up for a family who didn’t really know or accept what was/still is going on.
The best bit for me is that they are still there for me now!