Helen is 18 years old and has received help from the mental health services CAMHs and CLD from the age of 13. She’s agreed to talk with me about her experience with both services and how they helped to improve her mental health.
At what age did you first receive help from CAMHs and CLD?
I think I was aged 13 ish, and at that point it was for low mood and self-harm. There were other things going on, but they didn’t know about it at that time. I was referred to CLD by my school, which was nice as it was in the school itself, making it a little easier. To start with, I found it pretty terrifying and I thought it made me completely different to everyone else. Afterwards, I found it a little helpful for a while, but after a couple of months after it finished everything got worse and escalated. I had another referral made to CAMHs from my doctor when both I and my school got worried about my mental health again, but that got turned down. Around two months after the referral to CAMHs the situation got pretty bad; my school contacted my parents and CAMHs, and I was given an emergency appointment and told I needed to go to my doctors before my appointment. This referral was for problems with eating, low mood, self-harm, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I stayed with CAMHs for approximately two years after that.
How were the issues with your mental health impacting on your everyday life?
Socially, I didn’t want to go out at all, I felt like I was a huge burden on everyone and like it was pointless trying to go out. Academically, I was really struggling, my concentration was terrible and made a lot worse by my problems I had with food. When you’re in such a bad place mentally, you don’t really place too much importance on education. Even a couple of years later, I’m still trying to counteract the effect that it had on me academically. Physically, I wasn’t doing well, I had a lot of health problems appear due to how I was with food and regular panic attacks. My whole outlook changed drastically, so it’s hard to say specifics of how it impacted.
Did you gain any additional support from family/friends?
My friends were a great help! They never gave up on me no matter how frustrated they became, especially during the times I didn’t really want help. In hindsight I know I didn’t appreciate it enough at the time, not nearly enough, but I think a large part of that was because I was looking through fogged up glasses – I really wasn’t well.
It was really hard for my family and I kept a lot of what was going on a secret. They didn’t really understand it, which they said themselves. They did listen to me if I wanted them too, though.
How did you find your overall experience of receiving guidance from a professional counsellor and would you recommend these services such as CAMHs and CLD to someone experiencing a similar situation that you did?
Overall I’d like to say yeah, it has helped. Things are different to how they used to be; they aren’t quite right yet but it’s going to take time, admittedly more than I originally thought but I’ll get there eventually. Communication in regards to appointments is definitely the main thing that could be improved by both services. Besides that, they taught me quite a bit, so much that I can’t really list it but I know that it’s helped me a lot. I think the thing I use most at the moment is mindfulness and breathing techniques (a bit cliché at the moment I know) they really help with sleep and anxiety! The counsellors were pretty nice too – I felt like I had trouble connecting with the first counsellor I saw, but I think part of that is because I wasn’t really ready for counselling, so I kept stuff to myself. Although it’s hard, I really recommend being as honest as you can so they can really give you the best help possible. They’ll have seen a lot of people and whatever you say probably isn’t going to shock them. With all of the people I’ve seen, everyone just wants the best for you, some just take different approaches.
I would recommend CLD/CAMHSs without a doubt. I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t been there, I know it’s hard to go through but it’s definitely worth it.
What’re your future plans and how do you feel about progressing forward?
I want to become a mental health nurse and plan on going to university in September to do my training. I’m a Wellbeing Ambassador and have worked alongside SYM for a while now. I’m also part of the Youth Council, and do all of this with the aim to help make a difference for young people in the Herefordshire area, and especially for those who are also struggling with mental health problems.
Helen first received counselling at a time where CLD referrals for 10-24 year olds were made mostly through schools or GPs. However, self-referrals are now possible due to the Strong Young Minds (SYM) project. If you know someone who is struggling to gain a valid referral, or who feels too anxious to be referred by their GP or school/college, then please visit the link below.
http://www.thesymproject.org (for self-referral, click ‘Get Help – Young Person’).
Additionally, if you think the ‘Mindfulness’ technique would help you, or you want to know more, visit http://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/ for more information and tips on how to get started.
*any names given in this post are false names for protection of the interviewee.