A young woman has opened up about her battle with severe anxiety to help others who are struggling for Children’s Mental Health Week.
The week runs from today to Sunday (February 5 to 11), and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has released stories from people accessing its services and has also launched new social media channels specifically aimed at helping young people with mental health issues.
A teenager’s story
The young woman was referred to the trust’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) at the age of 13 for severe anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said: “One of the major symptoms I was having was flashbacks, which were triggered by certain sounds, objects or images.
“I was also having really traumatising nightmares, which were very intense.
“I was having sleepless nights almost every day, which was making me physically and mentally tired, draining my mood and just making me feel really down.
“I was struggling to find things that would make me feel happy, which also made it difficult to socialise – as a result I lost most of my friends which made me feel even worse.”
“My parents were the first people I spoke to about the problems I was having, and I didn’t realise but they had already suspected something was wrong.
“It wasn’t difficult to tell them because I knew I could trust them, but I didn’t feel comfortable to tell any of my friends about it because I didn’t want to seem weak to them, or for rumours to be spread about me.”
She said: “When I was first referred to CAMHS I was given my own therapist. I found this really difficult because I had a hard time trusting strangers, but they respected this and tried to find ways to make me feel more comfortable.
“Before any of my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) appointments started, we spoke about other things such as my interests, and we would do activities such as colouring, to make me feel more at ease.
“Then when I was ready, we started my treatment plan.”
Two years on and now aged 15 years old, the teenager, who has remained anonymous, no longer requires support for her mental health.
She told Sussex Partnership Trust: “CAMHS has helped me in so many ways, but mostly by helping me get past my troubles and manage my anxiety attacks.
“I can now be in situations I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near before.”
She now works alongside the CAMHS team on the young person panel to help others, and said: “I think it is really important for young people to get help for their mental health difficulties as early as possible instead of letting them get worse and starting to affect everything they enjoy in their life.
“However, it is also important they feel comfortable to take it at the right pace for them.
“If they’re not sure, take small steps, and deal with problems one by one, eliminating one at a time.
Find a trustworthy person they can speak to - whether it is a parent, a carer, a friend or a teacher – and tell them how you are feeling.”
Mental health services go online
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services for children and young people in Sussex and Hampshire, says of the of the 16 million people in the UK living with a mental illness, three in four would have begun to experience difficulties in their adolescence.
To mark Children’s Mental Health Week, the trust has launched new Twitter, Instagram and Youtube accounts to promote awareness of the important of good mental health and wellbeing.
Ruth Hillman, service director for Sussex Partnership’s Children and Young People’s services said: “We know that social media plays a big part in our lives today, but this is especially significant for children and young people.
“Social media and apps can be very beneficial for young people, but can also sometimes cause them more pressure – such as feeling the need to post regularly, and get recognition through likes and retweets.
“These new dedicated social media accounts have been set up to give children and young people a place to turn to for advice and support when they need it, in a format that works for them.”
Between April 2016 and March 2017, Sussex Partnership Trust received 10,869 referrals to its Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), a slight rise on the year before.
It is reported one in ten young people will experience a mental health condition, so early help and intervention is recognised to be of the utmost importance, more so than ever before.
How to access services
With a brand new Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channel, young people will be able to get information and support for their mental health and wellbeing.
Its ‘what is’ series on the new YouTube channel will give an overview about lots of different conditions which can effect young people, such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
Twitter - @our_mh_space
Instagram - @our_mh_space
YouTube - Our Mental Health Space
To find out more about the services that Sussex Partnership provides for children and young people in Sussex, go to www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk/Sussex-CAMHS