Mental health services have been present in my life from childhood to adulthood. It took over a decade to be properly listened to and have attention given to my story. As a teenager I was given the reason: 'You are intelligent. You don't want this on your record. It could hinder your career opportunities' as to why the CAMHS team couldn’t see me. That statement still doesn’t make sense. How can leaving a sick person alone aid them in meeting their potential? Only now at twenty two, after dragging myself through education and collapsing at the end, am I getting the proper support I need. Yet, it has come at a price: I have become too sick and burnt out from fighting for help to be without carer support.
To see everyone around me whizz off into the utopian adult life whilst I am left behind is a daily, and frustrating, battle with my self-esteem and confidence.
Often, I wonder how differently life would have gone if I had been intercepted at eight with a proper care plan and taken seriously by the system. If I had that strong support, would I have been able to manage growing up through the teenage years? Would I have had the emotional tools in place to prevent me from placing myself into vulnerable situations? Would I have still received notification at twenty one that what had been happening for many years had a name and is referred to as PTSD?
In UK society, we shield children but in doing so, we neglect them and don’t pause to listen to what THEY are thinking and feeling. As adults we believe we must know everything better. Growing up we are taught to just pick ourselves up and to get on with it, a mind-set that can become toxic and neglect emotional wellbeing.
Similar to internet safety, the adults come in and make noise. They place blame on the child for being naïve; rarely take issue up with the companies and social media platforms themselves; and passive in listening to the children involved to set up effective support.
There are many variations to the messages: 'talk to people', 'speak up if you are down', 'it's okay to not be okay', yet I see little focus upon children and their mental health or mental ill health that bypasses the ‘safe and not scary’ Anxiety and Depression.
Everyone says reach out, but I did. I did at 8, 11-15, gave up at 16 and 17, then 18-20, only truly supported at 21, and started to receive skills based group programmes at 22. My past selves deserved better. Children deserve better than the current climate of support on offer. Teenagers deserve better than ‘just teenage hormones’ when there is underlying health issues occurring.
I reached out so much that as a result, I feel immense guilt when I do speak up today. It's drilled into those that try to access support that you are not ill enough, yet when you are at crisis point the running joke from service users is that the support you receive is: ‘you just need to make a cup of tea and have a bath’.
People will remain stuck until there is support to meet them when they do reach out. At the current time, reaching out is often met with rejection and waiting lists, very similar to shouting at a brick wall. The support messages are also limited to ‘reach out [when you are having a bad day]’ and refuses to dive deeper to the ‘reach out [when you need support to continue to live your life]’.
These performative messages that pop up when the calendar says to show some awareness have become insulting. There MUST be a focus on PREVENTION from the get go, way back in children’s development stages so they are better supported to navigate the world regardless to with or without mental ill health. Waiting until someone is in full-blown crisis bears similarities to placing a smiling face sticker on a broken bone and sending you off on a hike.
"Mental health problems in adulthood often have their roots in childhood (Kim-Cohen et al, 2003). Childhood through to adulthood is a key developmental period. If a young person is seriously mentally distressed and made to wait for a considerable period of time for psychological therapies, this can have a huge impact on the child (as well as on friends and family)." - While we are waiting: Experiences of waiting for and receiving psychological therapies on the NHS
As someone who was that child, teenager, and now adult, I aim to utilise my experiences in a productive way and counter-argue those ‘adults’ who make decisions without lived experiences. More often than not, they take the belief that older humans must know better past the evidence presented in lived experiences and in turn, harm vulnerable people even more and prevent effective support from being given.
With the constant societal messaging to 'just keep swimming', we neglect the necessity to truly self-care for ourselves, not in terms of 'run a hot bath and have a cup of tea', but to have support systems in place that can provide us with the tools to look after our wellbeing. Children need to be protected past the point of shielding, communicated with, and listened too so that they can receive tailored support. We should focus on normalising reaching out for additional help, and when we do, to be met with a proactive care plan as opposed to unbearable waiting lists as shown in this article Hidden waits 'leave mental health patients in limbo' from December 2019.
If you would like to contact Megan, her Instagram handle is @talksbymegan
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