“I am 1 person in 800, but I am also 1 in 10. Not only am I a pupil at this school, but I am also 1 out of every 10 young people who suffer from mental health issues. The majority of people here will have watched the news and seen the Royal campaign; but more likely will have watched ’13 Reasons Why’, with the deeper meaning that we can’t bottle up our thoughts and that everyone has their own internal battles. But here is my story with mental health: I was diagnosed in 2015, during my GCSE’s, with 3 disorders but I’ve recently been diagnosed with more, 6 disorders in total. These six include the more known diagnoses of depression, anxiety disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, amongst others. Despite my diagnosis in 2015, I have suffered since Primary School, but I was never brave enough to talk to someone about what I was feeling. The lack of communication with others forced me to be secluded inside my own head, forced me to compact emotions I didn’t understand, and stopped me from progressing through the issues I had. The most significant mental illnessI have is depression. This is the umbrella term for what I have, with the specific form being Dysthymia (a continuous long-term (chronic) form of depression). This can only be diagnosed if you have constant depressive tendencies for at least 2 years. But I still suffer with the same symptoms as all other people with depression. Symptoms include: a feeling of worthlessness; constant fatigue; inability to sleep; and a sense of complete darkness in everything I do. More extreme symptoms include: self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts; all being a sensitive topic. Depression is the most common of mental illnesses, and one which people think they know the most about. Depression does not cause me to look mad, or deranged. Instead, it is something that is an internal battle. Something that I don’t like to ever express. My experience of depression is that it is all consuming and finding other tasks to occupy yourself with, instead of the constant negative thoughts is tiresome. It has also made school work very complicated for me as I have little energy and can easily get distracted. But I don’t use it as a get-out-of-jail-free card because I don’t like it to impair me. For me depression is an ongoing battle and I am trying to cure it through therapy. But I have also seen others battle with depression, they have had massive impacts on me; with one person giving me the confidence to speak out and help destroy the stigma behind mental health. These people also showed me how to deal with any struggles and that no matter what happens, I can persevere and carry on with my life. I’ve seen the worst outcomes and I’ve seen better outcomes, mostly the result of therapy and medication. And this is one of my happiest moments, knowing thatthere is an end to it. Depression presents itself in many different ways and if you have even the slightest thought that you could have it, do not try and hold it in, just talk to someone. Standing here I’m petrified, I can see all of you and it is just enhancing another condition I have, anxiety. Medically it’s called an anxiety disorder, as anxiety is just an emotion. It means that I get fearful over small things, feel as if everyone is watching me constantly and judging me, I get panic attacks, I get the feeling of the world closing in on me, I shake, sweat and cry; I also feel like the world will end due to the consequences of my actions. The worst thing about it is the fact that I don’t expect things to impact me and sometimes even the smallest thing can impact me in the biggest ways. An example of this is a test, it may be insignificant for my end result but it still puts me into a massive negative tailspin. But, this is just how it affects me, not how it effects every one with the same illness. It presents itself in the tiniest of forms to everyone, but for people with this condition it is enhanced to an extreme level. Panic attacks are common for people suffering with this, they are triggered by the feeling of anxiety and means your breathing is very fast, your heart pounds at a million miles an hour and you can’t think. You feel as if you can’t breathe and that everything is completely closing in on you. For me I go into a foetal position and stay still and cry.
For anyone who has a panic attack just remember to breathe, follow a time or rhythm, remember it isn’t the end of the world and it will inevitably be ok. The final two that I want to talk about are Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Both have abbreviations of OCD and BDD. OCD is stigmatised in that it is the need to clean and have everything in an order. It isn’t this, it’s that there are compulsions and almost a set of rules I have set myself to follow, that I cannot break. For me it is presented in a lot of ways, but one way is with the way I eat. I have to eat things in sections, no particular order just eat things one at a time and not mix my foods together. This may seem weird but it is a rule my brain has decided and no matter how hard I try, I can’t break this rule.BDD has the basic effect of seeing yourself as imperfect in comparison to others in relation to their bodies. This is such a common thing within our generation through distorted images on social media that contort our perception of others and how we are meant to look. For people suffering with BDD we see this in an extreme and constantly see the complete negatives in our appearance, hair, clothes, skin, eyebrows – absolutely everything. BDD is then enhanced by OCD in that I am compelled to do things like: exercise and spending obscene amounts of time on getting ready. It also heavily links to anxiety and depression. It enhances my anxiety in how people perceive me and what they think, constantly making the assumption that they only have negative thoughts. And it is seen in depression as I feel worthless because I do not look a certain way. For me it is not simply comparing myself to others but also how others perceive me and my need for that image to be bettered. I decided to do this talk in front you to show you that anyone can suffer from mental illness, to show you the impact it has on my life and that despite it being concealed I still suffer. And I know that I wouldn’t be able to cope without the help of my friends, family, teachers and therapist. I also wanted to raise awareness of mental health in young people, especially in a stressful environment like School. If you ever struggle remember that there will always be people with open arms to help you.
Lastly, I wanted to attack the stigma that is attached behind mental health. One of the main reasons for me not going to talk to someone was due to the stigma of mental health, in that it was for weak people, and that you can’t be permanently sad. This stigma needs to be fought so others who are in the same boat as me can reach out and get help without the fear of being judged or that something is wrong with them; or worse, that others will think they’re just making it up. The archetypal person with mental health disorders is a person in a straight jacket, messed up hair, psychotic looks in their eyes and generally looking helpless and deranged. And here I am, not only to tell you but also to show you that we aren’t what you may assume us to be. Mental health is very often hidden; mainly due to the fear of the stigma that is attached to it. Another stigma that comes to us from older generations is the idea of a ‘stiff upper-lip’ and that it’s just feeling a bit sad, and that we should just “cheer up”. This isn’t the case for someone who medically can’t, also this stigma – especially for me – forced me to hide my mental health. Mental health is hidden so it is not visible to everyone else, it isn’t like a broken arm in that sense, and it doesn’t allow for days off school, making it even harder to see. But in a sense it is like a broken arm it does effect you and it is a genuine illness and in many ways affects you much more than a broken arm. But I want all of you to remember that it can be fixed, it is likely not permanent. And this is why I am here, to encourage the whole school to take action against it and destroy the horrid stigma behind it all.