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Let’s Talk About: Mental Health

Mental Health has very suddenly become a very large part of today’s society, whether it is stigma or raising awareness, it is very prominent. Obviously, like many many other people, I’d like to work towards removing the stigma on all forms of mental health problems, especially as they’re nothing to be ashamed of and it is no different than having any physical health problem. No. Different. At. All. They both require a huge part of NHS funding, but there’s so much discrimination at the moment as Mental Health services are seriously in-demand and tragically underfunded. This leads to things becoming so much more than one small thing that can be easily fixed with some therapy sessions. Instead people are placed on ridiculously long waiting lists and their problems are much more severe and harder to treat by the time they’re seen. This obviously put a fair amount of strain on the hospital staff as they’re dealing with a much bigger thing. This is particularly prominent in people my age, adolescents, because if they’re referred when they’re 16 or 17 to CAMHS (Children’s and Adolescent Mental Health Services, a paediatric service) then by the time they’re seen, they’re almost too old for the service and so not much can be done by them so they’re placed on another waiting list for adult services. This needs to change. Both children and adult services require much more funding as they’re so underfunded they are almost dysfunctional, despite the amazing work that they can do for many many people across the UK. So many people are at risk still though as they can’t access the help they need when they need it the most.

To contribute to eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health, I’d thought I’d share a few things about mine. From my early teen years, about 11 or 12, I have suffered from anxiety and eating problems. My anxiety stemmed from the transition from primary and secondary school. It took me probably two years to fully settle into secondary school. Year 7 was hard and demanding. Everyone acted as if they were already in Year 11 whereas I didn’t. I didn’t know how to for starters. The other girls in my tutor group struggled to speak to me I believe, due to my hearing impairment, and so eventually just made the assumption that I was weird and immature based purely on observation and speaking to me a few times. I was shy, so I found it difficult to mix with them, especially at first in an unfamiliar situation.  They never really put in the effort to get to know me as a person, and that is why anxiety and hearing impairments are seriously isolating conditions. Girls, if you’re reading this, I know we went to school for five years together, but you don’t really know me at all. My friends would tell you that I’m funny, kind, organised (lol), sarcastic, amazing, Jeffy (ok, that’s my nickname and it has a funny story behind it!), unique and (apparently haha) beautiful. (I literally texted my friends to give me a few words to describe me!). Did you know that? Enough of talking indirectly to the girls I went to school with and back to anxiety. I also have a tendency to worry about thing that are so not worth worrying about, but I can’t help it. It’s these kind of things that make my anxiety visibly obvious. Anxiety is an exhausting and deliberating and potentially disabling condition that is often seriously overlooked. It can impact on you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year if not controlled. When I have space in my blogging schedule, I might do another post focusing on anxiety and what it is like to live with. I feel like that would be important to people to understand it as a condition. I’m currently under a clinical psychology team at a hospital in London who are working with me to combat and manage my anxiety so that it doesn’t interfere with me so much.

I have also long suffered with some form of eating problem since I was in Year 7 or 8 in school, or about 12 years old. It started off fairly mild. I had a slightly decreased appetite, I wasn’t particularly satisfied with myself, and food became something I didn’t enjoy at all. I’d say it first became obvious when I went on a Guides Camp in 2012 (which  means I was actually 11!) and all my leaders did was complain about how little I was eating. I didn’t really realise at the time was was going on and I kept telling them that I just wasn’t hungry and that I was full. It became obvious again when I went on a school trip to Normandy in 2013 (aged 12) and I must’ve had so little to the that the teachers would physically sit and watch me clear the plate, which made me feel ill as I was too full. They then gave no sympathy when I complained of illness or nausea, instead they gave a comment such as ‘you should’ve eaten your breakfast then’. This happened again in 2015 (aged 14) when I went on another school trip to France. This time I had teachers phoning my parents and threatening to send me home. I became ‘famous’ around camp as ‘the girl who didn’t eat anything’. That wasn’t fair, I felt attacked and did me no justice. It made me worse and I had almost no support. My condition has been more rapidly deteriorating since then and I have to admit that now is probably the worst it has ever been (I wrote this on January 7th 2018). I was turned away by CAMHS at some point last year because I wasn’t ‘a skeleton’, despite them having evidence that I was eating only one meal or less a day. As a result I was referred to a Dietician and then by her – onto the psychology team. I know any kind of eating disorder or anything even vaguely similar is horrible, you can’t eat even if you wanted too. It’s emotionally and physically draining and most people underestimate what it does to you. Before CAMHS I had a bad experience with my GP too. He told me to simply ‘eat more’ and ‘eat chicken nuggets for breakfast if that’s what you like’. I mean COME ON, eat more? Oh thank you I’m cured! (Note the sarcasm). Eat chicken nuggets for breakfast is also stupid health advice. I don’t even like them THAT much. I’m also experiencing a huge fear of putting on any more weight which adds significantly to the issue, and I can’t seem to shift that feeling. This is why it’s super important that everyone is educated on the impact of eating problems, that definitely includes GPs! I’m now working closely with the psychologist to overcome my eating problems as well as a gastroenterologist as I have had previous issues with a stomach ulcer and other stomachy issues, weight loss (which I’m by no means complaining about, yes I’m aware of how bad that sounded) and problems with my throat.

I really hope I can start writing more on here to raise awareness and support others with mental health problems, and of course remove the stigma! Perhaps from time to time I will update you on my own progress. Maybe that will inspire others to get help, rather than digging yourself a huuuugge hole, which I think is what I did for a while. To support mental health the best I can, I am doing two charity events! One is in March and it is for the eating disorder charity Beat! Beat has an excellent support system for those struggling with eating or feeding disorders and it has tonnes of information on their website. The event is a swimarathon in which a team of up to six people have to complete as many laps as they can across the pool within the given time limit of an hour, in a relay style. The second is in May and I am doing a colour obstacle rush for Mind, the mental health charity. Mind supports those and raises awareness of every kind of mental health issue. Their website also has a lot of really useful information! The event is very much like a colour run, except that there are huge inflatable obstacles too! It’s really cool (and anxiety inducing if I’m being honest) and I’ve done it two times before, for Young Epilepsy and Ehlers Danlos Support UK. I have chosen these charities because they mean a lot to me and I want to help those struggling. I would never wish any of my eating problems, for instance, on any one. It is really mentally and physically painful! Here are the links to my fundraising pages if you’re interested in supporting two amazing causes, it would mean so much to me!

Mind Fundraising Page (Virgin Money Giving)

Beat Fundraising Page (JustGiving) OR TEXT EATS49 £(amount) TO 70070 TO DONATE

Thank you so much for reading. It took me a long time to write and it’s hard to put this kind of stuff on the internet! Congratulations if you got through all that!

Thank you again!

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1 Comment

  1. Grandma
    19th January 2018 / 3:18 pm

    Well done Jess, A really interesting and informative article. I just hope that writing all this down helps you a bit too – even if it’s only a tiny amount to begin with.

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