get help - illustration

Getting help with my mental health

Name - Louise

Age - 20

Bio - I am currently studying an education degree and work part time.

Understanding I needed help

It was the difficulty of just getting through each day that made me think that something wasn’t quite right. I was lucky that people around me were quite open about their mental health, so I didn’t feel too ashamed about it.

I ended up going to my GP with one of my family who said they thought I was struggling.

Talking to my doctor

The GP was quite helpful. My family member helped me explain everything. The GP didn’t ask many details. They just let me talk about things and referred me to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

They told me how long the wait would be which was disappointing because it is one of the first things you hear about CAMHS. The long waiting list.

I wasn’t offered any support in that moment, which I think was disappointing. There is a such a run up to the appointment and I don’t know what I expected them to do but it was a bit of a let-down.

What I did whilst on the waiting list

I ended up going back to my GP again because my mental health had gotten worse whilst waiting to be seen by CAMHS. They gave me some medication, but that process wasn’t brilliant. They didn’t explain to me what the medication was for or how it would affect me. It gave me some quite bad side effects.

I was also doing breathing exercises and writing things down. I’d screw the paper up (with my writing on) and put them in the bin or keep it on my phone.

Talking to people helped quite a lot and colouring-in helps keep my mind busy. And that all helped.

Meeting CAMHS for the first time

I was nervous about seeing CAMHS. I didn’t know what was going to happen. No one told me. It’s nerve-wracking waiting for support.

The first meeting was quite difficult. The professional that I saw was hard to speak to. She wasn’t very understanding or supportive. There was a student in the room too, and I consented to him being there, but it felt uncomfortable. All eyes were on me.

I was told that I would have to wait again for group therapy. Which I didn’t even want to do. I was just sort of pushed into it. I told them that it might not work for me, but they said you have to follow the pathway.

I also got linked with a Barnardo’s buddy which is someone who can support you through your journey. I found them supportive.

Group therapy

Group therapy felt very scripted. But what I got out of it was meeting other people in the same situation as me. Although it didn’t help my mental health in terms of the actual struggles, having it did help me feel less alone.

I met people who I am still in touch with now and it was nice to feel less alone and isolated.

One to one therapy

I was offered one to one therapy after the group therapy. I was really struggling by then because I had been left to wait for so long. One to one support was helpful to an extent, but I was always told how time limited it would be.

This was difficult because I couldn’t get to the bottom of how I was feeling because there were only 6 half hour sessions. You can’t limit your mental health to 6 sessions.

Being autistic and mental health services

I found one of the big barriers I had was being autistic. They don’t really know how to adapt support for autistic people. They use CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) for example.

It was very much based on metaphors and complicated explanations of things, and not understanding how things like sensory issues or struggles with communication might impact someone’s anxiety or low mood.

I faced ableist attitudes from professionals saying, ‘you don’t really look autistic’. Being autistic and not being believed was quite frustrating. They don’t believe you are really struggling.

How my experience has shaped me

It’s been positive in that it has given me an understanding of what people are going through. And being able to support other people.

I don’t think I’d be doing an education degree if I didn’t struggle as much as I did. It’s given me the idea that I want to change things and help people.

It's given me different opportunities. I have been involved with Barnardo’s and other charities that can help change things. And meeting people and my friends who have gone through the same.

I was involved with the Barnardo’s Youth Forum and made changes to our local service. We renovated the garden and the waiting room, and training for staff, which was such a good experience.

therapy • talking