‘I felt so worthless’: two teenagers on their mental health struggles

‘I felt so worthless’: two teenagers on their mental health struggles

Caitlin Dews, 18, Norton, North Yorkshire

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When I was 14 a friend noticed I wasn’t eating and was really withdrawn and told a teacher.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 emailjo@samaritans.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.

 

Link to Guardian article here 

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MSP Mary Fee in call for better access to mental health services

A WEST of Scotland MSP has called for improved access to mental health services, particularly among young people

To mark World Mental Health Day last week, Labour’s Mary Fee lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament calling for greater support for people who need help with their mental health.

Ms Fee’s motion says every individual who experiences poor mental health should have access to well-funded and adequately resourced support services within their local communities.

It is estimated that one in four people in Scotland suffer from poor mental health.

This year’s annual theme for World Mental Health Day, that took place on October 10, is young people.

Research conducted by Stonewall Scotland in 2017 found that 58 per cent of lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils and 96 percent of transgender pupils have deliberately harmed themselves.

Ms Fee said: “It is important that politicians, public servants and public bodies help to raise the profile of mental health.

“I believe that in order to break the stigma around mental health we must widen the conversation and deepen our knowledge and understanding of the range of mental health issues that people may experience throughout their lives.

“I am unequivocal in my belief that mental health should be treated with the same priority as physical health.

“It is a scandal that nearly one-third of young people are waiting longer than 18 weeks for vital mental health treatment. It is simply unacceptable.”

In marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Scottish Labour outlined a 10-point plan in which they pledged to provide access to a mental health counsellor for every school pupil in Scotland and improve the access to crisis mental health services.

The Scottish Government has since promised to invest in extra mental health services in schools, though Ms Fee warned that any dilution of the pledge will cause greater difficulties for children and young people accessing much needed treatment and support.

Clydebank MSP Gil Paterson added:“Most families will have known of someone with a mental health problem who has kept it hidden.

“The Scottish Government have done a lot of work on raising awareness of mental health and tackling the stigma associated with it.

“This work has resulted in a lot more people coming forward for treatment and the Government recognises that this puts added demands on the service, which is why the SNP Government has allocated an extra £250 million for mental health services, which includes £60m for schools to support 350 counsellors and 250 extra school nurses so that every secondary school will have a counselling service.

“I have asked a series of questions at the parliament about exactly what has been done to support mental health services in the past and the Post will be first to know when I get the answers.”

 

Link to Clydebank Post article here 

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Petition demands that all pupils in Scotland have access to counsellors, amid fears of a deepening mental health crisis

Call for mental health counsellors in every school

A petition calling for all pupils to have access to trained counsellors in their schools by 2022 has been submitted to the Scottish Parliament.

More than 700 signatories have already backed the petition from Joanne Waddell, a parent and volunteer counsellor for the charity Place2Be, who fears there is a “deepening crisis” in children’s mental health in Scotland.

Supporters say that Scotland has limited counsellors with specific training in supporting children and young people, and that school-based counselling is available only to a small minority.

Ms Waddell said: “My own experience showed how powerful in-school counselling can be for children struggling with their mental health and the challenges of growing up in a 24-hour online world.

“Getting support at an early stage can help to avert children and young people reaching crisis points where costly and lengthy interventions might be needed. This service should be available in all schools and be provided for under national health policy, not something that schools have to provide through their hard-pressed education budgets.”

Teachers ‘can’t give pupils the time they need’

One primary teacher in the north-east of Scotland who supports the petition, and asked not to be named, said: “I can really see the value of having school-based counsellors.

“I have experienced children with mental health problems becoming disruptive in class because they are unable to fully understand or communicate how they are feeling. Often, just being able to talk this through allowed them to re-engage with their learning.

“Unfortunately, as a teacher with whole-class responsibility, I am not always able to give the time I know that child needs. I feel a service such as school-based counselling would be helpful not only to individuals but also their peers.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “This petition is an opportunity for the Scottish government to recognise that young people’s mental health is still not being treated with the seriousness it deserves.

“The lives and wellbeing of countless young Scots are counting on a seismic shift in government policy.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We want every child and young person to have appropriate access to emotional and mental well-being support in school – our ambitious mental health strategy, launched last year, sets out clearly how we can improve early intervention, and ensure better access to services. The very first action commits us to a national review of counselling services in schools. We expect the results of thereview to inform any future work on school counsellors.”

He added: “Education authorities and all those working in our schools already have a responsibility to support and develop the mental wellbeing of pupils, with decisions on how to provide that support taken on the basis of local circumstances and needs. Some will provide access to school based counselling. Others will utilise the skills of pastoral care staff and liaise with the educational psychological services and  health services for specialist support when required.”

 

Link to TES article here 

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Mental health: How one young man conquered his rage

I can remember the night vividly. I was playing football with a few of my friends at the local pitches. The rage that hit me as we were knocked out of the tournament was like never before. I can remember being so angry that I kicked the bags next to the goals containing our stuff, smashing a friend’s phone screen in the process. The rest of the boys were laughing as I was going ballistic and this was all over a game of football – I regret it to this day but looking back it was just what I’d needed.

I knew at this point that there was something wrong with me. For the rest of evening, I said nothing apart from apologising to my friend about his screen and offering to pay for a new one. I had never wanted to cry so much in my life but I held it together as I didn’t want to totally embarrass myself in front of my friends.

As soon as I got home, I rushed upstairs, avoiding any conversation with my family. I knew exactly the person to ring, my gran. She was the best listener anyone could have hoped for – always looking to help anybody out. I poured my heart out, told her every issue I’d ever had in the run up to this point whether it be substance abuse, entire summers spent solely in my room or the fact that my confidence with girls was at an all-time low. I didn’t particularly want to do anything or go anywhere, even pulling out of a boys’ holiday with some of my best friends.

I was spending days at school, working at McDonald’s at the weekends and not enjoying a single minute of it. Rejection from Heriot-Watt University. Rejection from IKEA looking to upgrade my part-time job made me feel like a total loser.

I’d been made Head Boy at Penicuik High School but felt like a below average student and kept saying that I’d been appointed because “the staff felt sorry for me.”

As I sat there, blubbing away, my gran told me to see a doctor. It was her that took me to my first doctor’s appointment and then counselling session. We’d had my future counsellor, obviously I didn’t know at the time, from MYPAS (Midlothian Young People’s Advice Service) speak to the school and I had previously put my name down on the sly but the doctor arranged an appointment sooner for me knowing that I was in trouble.

Robb said: “Counselling is unique to each client and whilst there are some common factors in every therapeutic relationship, I tailor how I work, taking my lead from each person. It’s key to successful counselling to be able to form safe and trusting therapeutic relationships. I feel that I do this and my client’s outcomes and feedback suggest this is true.”

But it was not only me going through such a horrendous ordeal. Some of the statistics and facts are alarming. According to menshealth.com, 9% of men go through depression on a daily basis, more than 6 million men. On top of that, 3 million men are hit with a form of anxiety every day.

“I have been a mental health nurse for eight years and have probably nursed hundreds of patients, some you’ll never see again and others I’ve nursed several times. As difficult as it can be some days it is also very rewarding.”

Anderson says: “We are a recovery focused ward and building a therapeutic relationship initially with patients can be challenging. However, when there is an understanding that our goals are the same – ie to get a better level of health and be discharged – working alongside a patient developing care plans to suit their individual needs and treating people with respect. I don’t expect thanks but even seeing someone smile when they have been so unwell is a fantastic feeling.”

She said there was still an unwillingness among men to admit that they have a mental health issue. “By the time they are admitted either informally of formally [sectioned under the mental health act] there is some recognition from the person that they are unwell. In the community, however, stigma is still very prevalent. The perception that males are raised to be stoic, brave and strong further enforces this belief.”

I asked her what factors could lead to compound mental health issues. “Lack of knowledge and understanding, embarrassment, feeling of failure, fear of letting others down and looking weak,” Anderson said. “This can be a generational issue, older males are less likely to be open about their mental health, younger males are more open although don’t necessarily accept it.”

She said: “I suppose the ‘problem’ is that mental health isn’t a nice happy topic so would turn people off from watching. We live in a consumer society, happiness and laughter brings viewers and readers and makes money for the big television and media companies.”

I’m a huge football fan and it amazes me when I see people literally living my dream who aren’t entirely satisfied and perhaps feel that they never will be. The cases in Scotland with David Cox of Cowdenbeath who was taunted by a rival fan, “Away and hang yourself and do it right this time,” and James Keatings (formerly of my beloved Heart of Midlothian) recently sharing his battles on Twitter despite playing for three of the country’s biggest clubs. Even a Barcelona academy graduate, Bojan Krkic, came out and said: “I had anxiety attacks but no one wants to talk about that. Football’s not interested.”

That speaks volumes to me about the prevalence of mental health problems. Krkic has graduated from one of the leading academies in world football, has played in several of Europe’s major leagues (Spain, Italy, England, Germany and the Netherlands) and has presumably amassed a healthy standard of living through an astronomical wage but still suffers.

In more recent times, many in the entertainment industry have committed suicide due to mental health problems. Frightened Rabbit’s singer Scott Hutchison and the actor Robin Williams are all examples of people who, seemingly with the world at their feet, who have taken their own lives. It should never have to be this way.

Some may see suicide as the brave way out but the most courageous act you can take if you are suffering is to do something about it yourself and surround yourself with a loving family, supportive friends and people that ultimately want to put you right.

And, please, please, get help.

Adam Kennedy is a student journalist at Fife College

If you need help

Breathing Space

0800 83 85 87

Samaritans

116 123

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men

0800 58 58 58

Papyrus – for people under 35

0800 068 41 41

Childline – for children and young people under 19

0800 1111

The Silver Line – for older people

0800 4 70 80 90

 

Link to The Herald article here   

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Are smartphones causing more teen suicides?

‘All of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.’
 ‘All of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.’ 

 

Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.

In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of US teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33% in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23%. Even more troubling, the number of 13 to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31%.

In a paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.

What happened that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden rise of the smartphone.

Because the years between 2010 to 2015 were a period of steady economic growth and falling unemployment, it’s unlikely that economic malaise was a factor. Income inequality was (and still is) an issue, but it didn’t suddenly appear in the early 2010s: this gap between the rich and poor had been widening for decades. We found that the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, smartphone ownership crossed the 50% threshold in late 2012 – right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. By 2015, 73% of teens had access to a smartphone.

Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online was linked to mental health issues across two different data sets. We found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71% more likely than those who spent less than an hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Overall, suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online.

Of course, it’s possible that instead of time online causing depression, depression causes more time online. But three other studies show that is unlikely (at least, when viewed through social media use).

Two followed people over time, with both studies finding that spending more time on social media led to unhappiness, while unhappiness did not lead to more social media use. A thirdrandomly assigned participants to give up Facebook for a week versus continuing their usual use. Those who avoided Facebook reported feeling less depressed at the end of the week.

The argument that depression might cause people to spend more time online doesn’t also explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.

What’s lost when we’re plugged in

Even if online time doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online crowds out time for other activities.

For example, while conducting research for my book on iGen, I found that teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide. We found that teens who spent more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed. Since 2012, that’s what has occurred en masse: teens have spent less time on activities known to benefit mental health (in-person social interaction) and more time on activities that may harm it (time online).

Teens are also sleeping less, and teens who spend more time on their phones are more likely to not be getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough is a major risk factor for depression, so if smartphones are causing less sleep, that alone could explain why depression and suicide increased so suddenly.

Depression and suicide have many causes: genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying and trauma can all play a role. Some teens would experience mental health problems no matter what era they lived in.

But some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental health issues may have slipped into depression due to too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three.

It might be argued that it’s too soon to recommend less screen time, given that the research isn’t completely definitive. However, the downside to limiting screen time – say, to two hours a day or less – is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing – given the possible consequences of depression and suicide – seems, to me, quite high.

It’s not too early to think about limiting screen time; let’s hope it’s not too late.

 

Link to Guardian article here 

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Student mental health ‘failing a generation’

British universities say they risk “failing a generation” unless students get better mental health care.http://

A Universities UK report found some students risked “slipping through the gaps” due to a lack of co-ordination between the NHS and universities.

The most up-to-date statistics show 146 students killed themselves in 2016. At Bristol, three students have died suddenly in the past month alone.

An NHS official said local services should collaborate with universities.

Henry Curtis-Williams, a photography student, took his own life in 2016, aged 21.

“He had lost weight, he had dark shadows under his eyes, he was clearly in crisis,” said his mother Pippa Travis-Williams.

“He changed from being that super-confident person to [becoming] just a shell of a person.”

The number of deaths in 2016 was higher than the 134 students who killed themselves in 2015 – which in turn was the highest total since 2006.

Universities UK said that over the past five years, 94% of universities had seen a “sharp increase” in the number of people trying to access support services.

Some institutions noticed a three-fold increase.

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The report said data on students was rarely shared fully between universities and local health services, which could lead to students accessing “treatment and support with incomplete information, or not accessing it at all”.

The report added students leaving their family homes to attend university often enrolled with a new GP.

They would then return home during holidays, meaning they were without their bespoke GP care for several weeks or months.

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What is Universities UK suggesting?

  • Universities and local NHS services should communicate more about students who may need mental health services
  • Local services and universities should assess the need for mental health services for students in specific towns and cities
  • Institutions should promote positive mental health, make reasonable adjustments for students with pre-existing conditions, and reduce the stigma of mental health
  • Create “student mental health teams” with NHS providers to improve referrals to specialist services
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Universities UK’s head of mental health, Professor Steve West, said the system had to be “radically changed”.

“If we ignore it we will have failed a generation,” he added.

“We will be setting ourselves up for huge costs and burdens on the NHS, but more than that we will be destroying lives.”

Chief executive of Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust Paul Jenkins said: “We need to improve the links between local NHS services and the support that universities provide.

“It is essential that these young people are provided with the right support at each step of the pathway.”

The National Union of Students (NUS) said that mental health services in higher education were “strained” and “at times non-existent”.

It welcomed the report, adding: “A joined-up and coherent approach between the NHS and universities is exactly what students need.”

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‘Young adults struggle with transition to adult services’

By Hugh Pym, health editor

Some of the issues highlighted at universities are linked to the state of child and adolescent mental health services.

Young people who may have struggled to get treatment from these NHS services may find that problems resurface when they get to university.

Alternatively, the transition to adult mental health provision at 18 will coincide with the start of student life away from home – and that can be disorientating.

Universities have been criticised for not investing enough in counselling services and not promoting more general well-being in student life.

But they argue that a wider strategy involving the government and the NHS as well as higher education is essential.

 

 

Link to BBC article here 

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