a man walking up stairs

Small steps and goals

Name – Kiefer

Age – 21

An incident 4 years ago had left me housebound. My mum and college said I needed help, so they started looking.

They were looking at getting child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) involved. College were also looking at Aspens, who are an autism charity.

Trying to access help

Originally, I didn’t care much. I was depressed and scared about it all.

CAMHS took too long to get involved. Whenever I was referred, they kept just suggesting other services. These other services would not help me because I was autistic.

By the time I was 17 they said they would help me, but because I was going to be an adult soon, I would need adult mental health services (AMHS).

CAMHS felt I had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and needed trauma counselling, but they wouldn’t give it to me, and we ended up making a complaint. Then we were told that I would get the help, but we had to make another referral through the doctor.

It’s taken 4 years now and it has stopped me reaching my goals.

Help from other charities

With the help of Aspens I've made smaller goals and I have achieved small steps. I can now go out a bit more. For example, my first goal was just going in the garden. And now I am going to libraries.

Barnardo’s services helped me during the pandemic. They helped me with my separation anxiety and to socialise more with other young people. We did quizzes and games online, which helped me to be in a better place.

Understanding autism and my mental health

Aspens explained to me how my brain works and how the autistic brain works and how anxiety can effect that. They told me how to do more to reduce the anxiety. It was really helpful.

It helped me understand why I was doing the things I was doing. My reactions were fight or flight responses. I was always reacting with flight. They explained that when I’m in that situation, I don’t always listen, and I won’t concentrate on stuff because the concentrating part of the brain is switched off due to my flight response.

If you know how your brain works, you know how to deal with it.

Getting a diagnosis

There was a lot of confusion with my diagnoses. CAMHS said I had PTSD and AMHS said it was depression and later said I had trauma, but not PTSD.

The doctor I am seeing now said it sounds like PTSD. I have now had three assessments, and they have only just said they will offer support.

Things I did to help myself whilst waiting

Setting smaller short-term goals helped me. I can’t do anything with the trauma (that has happened) but I can work on my separation anxiety and going out.

Whenever my trauma is triggered, that causes a flight response and makes me go home, so it needs dealt with, but the small goals help.

Young ambassadors

Young ambassadors is part of Voice and Influence in Barnardo’s and it is about getting our voice heard.

It has helped me so much with socialising, that I want to help them. I am trying to do as much as I can.

We are planning videos for mental health, disabilities, and autism to try and get awareness out there to support people. I have had training in mindfulness which was helpful.

talking • autism • self-help