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Stigma, discrimination and getting help

written by Nancy 31/07/2012

I threw myself into school work and finished with relatively good grades. I thank my understanding history teacher for getting me through the last few months of school.

''The dog scratched me'' excuse wore thin. I knew deep down that she didn’t believe me, and forced the words out of my mouth to admit ''I had done it to myself''.

I agreed to see the school counsellor, which was meant to help me control the difficult emotions I was facing, however it had the opposite effect, everyone knew that only the ‘difficult’ pupils were asked to see her. When she came to me on a Thursday afternoon during a boring RE lesson, everyone’s ears picked up. As soon as I returned to class I was greeted by 101 questions. I was ashamed to admit I had a problem to myself let alone a class full of peers.

More off putting than the classroom was the looks the counsellor gave me and the remarks ''you’re young, you don’t have anything to be down about''. I was young and naive and didn’t want to accept the help, it wasn’t until my favourite teacher asked for a private word, and she suggested I go to the doctors that I made the phone call, and forged the note excusing me from my English class to “get my knee seen to''. The doctor I saw basically told me the same as the school counsellor, and that because I was nearly 16, it would be a long road through psychologists and therapists.

I threw myself into school work and finished with relatively good grades. I thank my understanding history teacher for getting me through the last few months of school. I naively thought once I left school and was away from the teasing I would be ‘normal’ again, but it went from bad to worse. My dad finally found out how bad I was feeling after finding out I was contemplating suicide. They didn’t understand why or how I felt that way. Looking back I can’t really blame them because neither did I.

I threw myself into school work and finished with relatively good grades. I thank my understanding history teacher for getting me through the last few months of school.

Eventually I moved out and refused to speak about my mental state because I felt I had nobody. Doctors gave me different medications telling me ''these would sort me out''. Eventually, I took the big decision to take myself off the pills, and went about a year without any medical help. In this time my mental health deteriorated considerably and OCD began to take over my life.

I hated leaving the house with fear for being stared at. All I wanted was to be ‘normal’. The girls on my college course would comment on my behaviour, which threw my anxiety levels in the air, there was no point making excuses as it was obvious that I was different to the rest. In the end I confided in a supposed friend about my previous issues, but this was when the bullying started again. I was singled out yet again ''the freak, the odd one, the psycho''. Needless to say we didn’t remain friends!

With all the negativity and false diagnoses that I have experienced, I have been reluctant to seek help. Even when I went to A+E after taking an overdose I was still greeted by unhelpful nurses and doctors. They just saw the pain I was experiencing was self inflicted, the crisis team told me to discuss my issues next week at my routine appointment. I felt like I was a burden to everyone and that everyone would be better off without me.

Within a week of the A&E incident, I'd been detained under the Mental Health Act. I'd been suspected of drinking and taking drugs, which I hadn't (the only drugs I take are from a doctor), and escorted to the police station. However, the sergeant who greeted me was understanding and empathetic to my circumstances.

The very few people who have heard my experiences are surprised I haven’t been put off by my experiences and that I am training to go into a professional field. I’m not cured, but with my diagnosis being correct, I now know how to control my illness with medications and being able to identify my own triggers.

went to the mental health unit that night and the staff there were also extremely empathetic and understanding, these last two groups of people and the history teacher from my old school, show that not everybody has a heart of steel. I still believe that if people were more educated on the effects of mental illness they too would be empathetic. The very few people who have heard my experiences are surprised I haven’t been put off by my experiences and that I am training to go into a professional field. I’m not cured, but with my diagnosis being correct, I now know how to control my illness with medications and being able to identify my own triggers.

I don’t regret letting myself get so bad to be admitted to hospital, I’m grateful for that experience and the positive effect it has had on me. The negativity I received previously prevented me getting the correct help. If I had accessed the help earlier things may not have been as bad. I was lucky I didn’t die, many others aren’t so fortunate, but if the negativity those suffering with mental illness experience when reaching out for help diminished, more sufferers would speak out and get the help they need and deserve.

Nancy has been through difficult times but continues to achieve: she is training to be a nurse. If you have also faced big challenges, including stigma and discrimination, but have overcome them, we would love to hear about your achievements. Post them below or email us to write your own blog!

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email info@timetochangewales.org.uk

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