I’ve struggled with my mental health for seven years. I’ve got anorexia, and depression and anxiety. It started at school when I was 11. I don’t remember the root causes. I just started being really anxious and restricting what I ate, and hiding food. I felt so worthless and horrible. I hated the way I looked. I started self-harming, my mood was really low and it all spiralled out of control.
I didn’t understand what was going on. After a while, I thought it was normal to feel like that. It’s only recently that I’ve started realising that a lot of people suffer.
When I was 14 a friend noticed I wasn’t eating and was really withdrawn and told a teacher. I was really angry and annoyed but, looking back, I’m glad she did that because I wouldn’t have said anything. They then told my parents and I was referred to child and adolescent mental health services. I still didn’t think anything was wrong with me.
My parents were heartbroken. I can’t imagine how hard it is for them. I’ve put them through so much. I was in hospital for just under a year and they had to visit me and see me in such a distressed state. I think they found it really tough and still do.
I felt I couldn’t go out for ages. Even now, when I go on public transport I get really anxious. At its worst I used to panic, my heart beat faster and I started shaking. My thoughts would race and I would think that everyone was staring at me and that something bad was going to happen. Everything was exaggerated. Most times, I felt like I deserved self-harming. It was like a punishment for eating or going out.
There are days when I feel more optimistic about my future. Things are still hard but I’m doing a lot better than I was. Quite a few people have told me that they struggle with anxiety. It’s not fair. I know some amazing and lovely people; they don’t deserve to be going through that.
Harvey Sparrow, 16, Badsey, Worcestershire
When I started my GCSEs, my school was really pushing everyone, saying we all had to do well and work hard. I’ve always been the sort of person who is very motivated but the stress started building slowly and I couldn’t handle it. The thought of going to school made me nervous and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. It carried on and I felt a lot of sadness and hopelessness. It was awful.
I started feeling really detached from myself. I didn’t feel in control of my body. It turned out that was a type of anxiety. My stomach felt like it was churning. I’d feel sick when I knew I didn’t have a stomach virus. I lost concentration and if there was even a small doubt about me doing well, I’d lose focus. I couldn’t deal with it. It got really dark at times. I felt there was no point in me being here because I wasn’t bringing anything to the world. I wasn’t making my life any better. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts. I told my dad and we went to see the doctor. It took a few appointments for them to take me seriously.
A lot of my friends have anxiety around school. I thought everyone else was OK because people didn’t show it. Some of them lose out on sleep, some sleep way too much and some are very depressed. They don’t see a point in living. I know what it’s like. But to hear them say things like that is shocking when in my eyes they’re amazing. I guess they would have said the same thing about me. It’s a weird situation.
When I talk to my dad he says he never wants anything bad to happen to me. Now I’m in a good place, I’m like: “Why would I ever think of ever hurting myself?” I don’t want to throw my life away just because I’m in a bad place.
• In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
Chairwoman Jill Scott said it was a “scandal” that sufferers were having to “sort out their situation” themselves following the shutdown of the Mulberry Unit at Stracathro Hospital.
Angus Health and Social Care Partnership hit back at the criticism and said it was “encouraging” that a local group of people had come together to support one another and address mental health stigma.
Mrs Scott said: “It is a very sad reflection on Angus Health and Social Care Partnership that at a time when the mental health of our community is a growing concern that the first rate Mulberry Unit is being hived off for alternative use.
“Members of the public, sufferers of depression and people of influence in Angus Health and Social Care Partnership all recognise the problem but it comes down to the patients themselves who are having to sort out their situation.
“I am full of admiration, as an individual, as is Brechin Community Council, for these people but I despair for the future.
“It is a scandal that mental health is treated as a poor relation. Patients have been hung out to dry.”
The Mulberry Unit at Stracathro Hospital in Angus was finally closed earlier this year and patients were transferred to the Carseview Centre in Dundee.
Richard May, 45, who suffers from depression, set up Stop Mental Health Stigma three weeks ago and his ultimate goal is to eventually put in place a 24-hour mental health facility.
“There is just not enough being done for people struggling with mental health issues,” he said.
“Too many suffer in silence and feel alone but we are getting people out of their houses and it’s changing lives in a very positive way.”
The group meet in Montrose on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Brechin on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Mr May, who lives in Montrose, started the group after being overwhelmed by the response when he put up a Facebook post admitting he was suffering from depression.
Bill Troup, Head of Mental Health Services, Angus Community Health Partnership said “self-management” is an element of mental health treatment.
He added: “Other local services that are available in Angus include self help groups, listening services, health and wellbeing, befriending and community mental health.
“Multidisciplinary Community Mental Health Teams are available in every town in Angus.
“It is important to remember that only six out of every 100 people who access mental health services each year need hospital care.
“With a greater focus on recovery and improved mental wellbeing in communities most people with a mental health problem are treated at home or in the community.
In both the UK and US, services for young people are being cut, leaving those from marginalised groups at greatest risk of suicide.‘Whatever the language deployed to describe the scale of mental health challenges facing Britain’s young people, it has to be addressed immediately.`
One recent report called the problem a “silent catastrophe” while a survey of teachers labelled it an “epidemic”. But, whatever the language deployed to describe the scale of mental health challenges facing Britain’s young people, it has to be addressed immediately.
Of course, an increase in referrals over time may be, in part, an indication of more young people self-reporting and GPs being more receptive to it. Nevertheless, the warning flares on children and young people’s mental health have come thick and fast lately. In June, the NHS England boss, Simon Stevens, said a major expansion of serviceswas needed to deal with growing demand. A few days earlier, a report from the Association of Child Psychotherapists warned of “a serious and worsening crisis” following a survey of staff in child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs). Underfunding on top of service reorganisation was an ongoing threat to specialist services, it concluded. “There was never a golden age of funding” for young people’s mental health, as Andy Bell of the Centre for Mental Health explains, but help must include a concerted focus on groups that face additional inequalities, such as LGBTQ youth who are much more likely to experience common mental health problems. Research shows that almost twice as many young LGBTQ people in the UK (44%) have considered suicidecompared with heterosexual non-trans young people (26%).
In the US, concerns about young people’s mental health have come to the fore lately, too, including for common problems like anxiety, depression and suicide. Suicide is the second biggest cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds in the US and 90% of those who die have a mental health condition. And research shows the proportion of young people treated at children’s hospitals for suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts more than doubled between 2008 and 2015.
The 2018 State of Mental Health in America report tells a story similar to Britain’s. “Rates of youth with severe depression increased from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015,” it reports. And again, access to treatment is a problem as budget cuts put pressure on insurance coverage and services. “Even with severe depression, 76% of youth are left with no or insufficient treatment.”
And, as in Britain, for youngsters from marginalised groups the picture is especially challenging. Amit Paley, chief executive of the Trevor Project, which offers suicide prevention and crisis intervention support for young LGBTQ people in the US, points out that the rate of gay, lesbian and bisexual young people who have seriously contemplated suicide is around three times that of heterosexual young people. The evidence tells us that early identification and intervention can mitigate damage to young people’s mental wellbeing. We know, for example, that if children’s centres and young people’s services and schools are better equipped to promote wellbeing they can make a difference.
When it comes to young people in extreme distress or at risk of suicide, effective crisis services and access to support are utterly essential. But so too is preventing youngsters from reaching a crisis in the first place.
• In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
“I was taken away from normal life essentially at an age where I was half-formed,” Blake said, referencing his newfound fame he experienced in his early 20s after tracks like ‘Wilhelm Scream’ and ‘Limit to Your Love’ were released. “Your connection to other people becomes surface level. So if you were only in town for one day and someone asked you how you are, you go into the good stuff…which generally doesn’t involve how anxious you feel [or] how depressed you feel.”
Additionally, he discussed how impactful his (bad) eating habits were on tour, a complaint often felt by touring artists. “I would say that chemical imbalance due to diet and the deterioration of my health was a huge, huge factor in my depression and eventual suicidal thoughts,” he said. “I developed [dietary] intolerances that would lead to existential depression on a daily basis. I would eat a certain thing and then all day I would feel like there was just no point.”
Additionally, and possibly alluding to his previous statements about being labeled a “sad boy”, Blake dispelled the common notion that an artist must suffer in order to succeed, creatively. “There is this myth that you have to be anxious to be creative, that you have to be depressed to be a genius. I can truly say that anxiety has never helped me create. And I’ve watched it destroy my friends’ creative process too.”
Blake also shared his experience with an experimental treatment called EMDR therapy, which uses rapid eye movement to allow patients to “reprocess” traumatic experiences. Along with his girlfriend, with whom he lives with in Los Angeles, Blake explained that he found success in simply cutting ties with negative sources. “Honestly, a lot of catharsis just came in telling lots of people to fuck off. And saying no. Saying no to constant touring. No [amount of] money will ever be enough.”
He concluded his time on the panel by pointing out that “we’ve reached a critical point”. “We are the generation that’s watched several other generations of musicians turn to drugs and turn to excess and coping mechanisms that have destroyed them. And there are so many high-profile people recently who’ve taken their own lives. So we, I think, have a responsibility to talk about it and to remove the stigma.”
Read more about DJs and artists opening up about mental health here