Hello everyone! Welcome to Growinggg!
For my first post, I decided to write about the most crucial part of recovery- the beginning- and my advice on how to go about getting help. I’m going to talk about some options for accessing helpful services, and would very much encourage you to try, and discuss in detail the options that I have experience with.
When I first wanted to get help, I turned to people at my high school for guidance and advice- my personal learning mentor was always there when I needed her but unfortunately there was not a lot she could do for me; she had no experience in working with people with mental health issues and there was no professionals at my school available to help students. The only thing she could do is contact my parents to let them know I may be at risk (which is so important to do for your safety, and something that she has to do as part of her job regardless of how students feel about it), and recommend to them that I see a GP and explore other options (which I did and will discuss later).
Though support in school was not as helpful as I’d have hoped, I didn’t give up on turning to teachers for help, and I couldn’t be more glad that I asked for help at college. The tutors are fantastic in dealing with mentally ill students’ needs, and importantly, they’re supportive and understanding of how mental illness can affect a student’s motivation and work they produce. I now see a counsellor weekly to discuss my issues and resolve them, but people are always available to help people if they need it. I know I’m probably repeating myself a lot, but the support at my college is genuinely incredible- I’m being helped any time I need it, and being valued and taught to value myself too; I don’t think I could have made a better decision than asking for support.
In my experiences with mental health support in both high school and college, I can see a clear contrast: while my school were almost clueless in what to do to support students, my college has a flawlessly supportive environment with professionals available for anyone who feels they need them. However, it is still a good place to try. If things start to take off and you feel supported and secure, then enjoy it and make the most of all of the help you get. But unfortunately not all places are going to be as helpful as the college that I’m so lucky to be in. If you seek help in your school or college but feel your needs aren’t being met, I advise that you look to other places for support, especially those I plan to mention later in this post.
As I mentioned earlier, an option available to everyone that I would absolutely recommend is seeing your GP. Though building up the courage to do this is very difficult, it will definitely be worth it- even if you don’t feel it helps too much, you always have the reassurance and confidence in the fact that you tried to help yourself to motivate you to keep recovering. I only mention the possibility of not feeling helped because of the infamous CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services), which is a UK mental health service known for it’s usually poor support. However, I could not put more emphasis on my belief that everyone should try it; though even on an emergency referral I faced long waiting times between referrals, and some pretty poor therapists (especially good old “but is self harm really bad?” Nick), I ended up having a really positive experience in CAMHS. My therapist became one of my best friends, she offered good advice on how to improve my life and was always ready to contact my school and complain about the lack of support I received there. For a while, therapy was my favourite time of the week, and she truly helped me grasp recovery fully, and I haven’t self harmed since I started seeing her.
However, we were tragically split by the fact that I turned 16, and had to be referred to SPoA (Single Point of Access), which is basically CAMHS for people aged 16 and over. I ended up leaving SPoA months early, as I felt it wasn’t helping me at all (probably because I was placed on the wrong kind of therapy “because the waiting list was shorter”), and haven’t been for a few months now. That is more advice for anyone seeking help, if you take up an option and it doesn’t feel like it is right for you, or you think that it isn’t helping you, leave. There are plenty of options there for you, don’t rob yourself of the chance to find the right one. To sum up my feelings about CAMHS, there are good and bad therapists there- if you connect with yours and feel you’re being helped, stay and make the most of it. If you feel it’s doing more harm than help, leave. But I ask everyone who feels it may turn out well for them to at least try, and try any other option they can when finding the right way to recover for them.
Something else a GP can offer to you is medication (this is where the entire post spirals into a mess because I have no experience with this and no idea what I’m talking about). Although side effects may be difficult for you to manage, for example drowsiness may impact your school or work life, The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that 50-65% of people treated with an antidepressant for depression will see an improvement (source), my advice, is again, to try whatever your GP recommends and find what works best.
However, it is a harsh truth that not everyone is going to be helped by just therapy or medication. In more severe cases of mental health issues, admission to a hospital may be the best way for you to receive the care you need and keep yourself safe. A care team would tailor a plan for your treatment during your stay in hospital, and a care co-ordinator would also work with you to create a care plan for after you are discharged. If you feel that admission may be the right option for you, then asking your GP, psychiatrist, or any other mental health specialist could lead to a referral. Although it sounds scary, if you do choose to be admitted, then you won’t lose your freedom; you should have the right to come and go from the hospital when you like (within reason), and even the option to discharge yourself whenever you choose. More information on hospital admission can be found here (because I have no clue what I’m talking about if I’m honest).
However, if you feel unable to take the step of speaking to someone you know, anonymity is your best friend- many websites offer anonymous talks with trained professionals to clear your head when it is needed. I have often found these to be helpful, but they have never worked for me as my only source of support. Some examples of these websites include Mind, Childline, and Kooth, and many more can be found on Google. Similarly, helplines are also available to talk to you when you need it. American helplines and UK helplines can be found by clicking the links, and a quick Google search can help you find organizations based in your country that can help you out. A huge advantage of using these services is being able to share your thoughts anonymously and discreetly, and receive useful advice from professionals, most of the time for free.
An important note is that although getting help involves other people, you have to avoid falling into depending on them to hold your hand and lead you to good health- you have to take care of yourself and build your independence while you take their guidance. Something no one else can impact is whether you keep yourself safe. Seeing therapists isn’t going to get you anywhere if you go home to an unsafe environment which poses a risk of a relapse. One of the most difficult stages of beginning to recover is breaking any self destructive cycles. However, it is absolutely key to dispose of items that relate to your destructive behaviours, such as scales or razors. I can’t give advice on this that will fit each and every person and their recovery, but I’m sure you as an individual know what you are unsafe around and need to keep away from or dispose of. One thing I can recommend to people who need things like sharpeners for school or work, but aren’t safe around them are sharpeners with anti-tamper screws, which are available for as little as £1 and can really give you the confidence boost of being able to own such an ordinary object without the risk of a relapse. That wasn’t even relevant but I just love them and wanted to slip them in to the post somewhere.
Hopefully, following any of these steps will get you on the right path on the way to a healthy and happy life. However, a mistake I have made in the past is seeing these options as some kind of cure that will leave you feeling content with life in an instant; remember that these are crucial moments in your recovery, but are in no way the whole journey. Taking these steps are the instant in which you choose to recover, but recovery is something that you must constantly choose in the face of your difficulties.
If you are considering any of these options to start the recovery process, I encourage each and every one. Though it can be very difficult to find what works for you, don’t give up on it, I promise you will find something that works for you.
Thank you for reading! I hope you have found this post helpful and I wish you the best of luck in your recovery. Keep growinggg!