On this World Mental Health Day 2018, we're hearing from our Young Champions who are sharing their stories to challenge stigma and discrimination around mental health.
My name’s Elinor and I am an 18-year-old Time to Change Wales champion. As a young person growing up, life can be full of challenges. From the immense pressures of school to finding out who you really are, even just knowing the right clothes to wear can be overwhelming. Young people are being made to make more and more decisions that will impact their whole lives. This isn't easy for anyone, let alone for the people with mental health problems like myself. I have lived with mental health problems from under the age of 10 and as far back as I can remember I have had eating difficulties and struggled emotionally.
For many years I silently struggled as I thought the things I was going through were something everyone experienced. At the age of 13 I broke down to my family about everything that had been going on and sought help. I was coping for a while, but things spiralled out of control a year later. I felt very alone with my mental health problems as no one around me was experiencing the same thing.
Eventually my eating and mood deteriorated to the point where I had to leave school at the age of 15 and couldn’t complete the remainder of my GCSEs. When I left school, I had a teacher say to me “But there are children in Africa who are starving”. Comments like this made my illness seem invalid by making out I can choose not to feel this way. However, with the help of professionals I managed to enrol in sixth form the next school year.
Elinor and her therapy dog, Bella
The path of recovery isn’t a straight line. During that year, despite coping better with eating, I became very self-destructive and tried to take my own life. I was very distressed and breaking down every day. This was a very difficult time for me, everyone was planning their future and I just dreaded waking up in the morning. Being a young person, I found a lot of people just passed off my illness because of my age. On more than one occasion I’ve been called a “moody teenager” and heard things like "you’re just like this because you’re a teenager”.
Fast forward a year and with a lot of support and treatment I am in a much better place. I am very passionate about talking about mental health after experiencing discrimination and stigma myself.
I once disclosed to someone that I was struggling with my mental health and they stepped back in fear and said “You’re not going to attack me, are you? Are you an aggressive type?”. At first, I was quite shocked, but instead of being angry I just accepted that this person hadn’t been educated about mental health problems.
I realised that being upset and angry wasn’t going to change what had happened but speaking out about mental health could prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.