In honour of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek I just want to shed light on a few things.
I read on a site that the groups of people that experience the highest prevalence of mental health problems are; Those that experience homelessness, substance misuse, domestic violence/trauma, those with learning difficulties, carers and those that are refugees and asylum seekers. I find it astonishing that Care experienced isn’t listed. Considering a large proportion of children in care and care leavers fit into every single one of those groups.
Statistics show that 62% of looked after children are in care due to abuse or neglect, which can have a lasting impact on their mental health and emotional well being.
45% of looked after children in the uk have a diagnosable disorder and 70-80% have recognisable problems.
The Care experienced conference reports states as 1 of the 10 key messages that mental health and well being are those that are care experienced biggest worries and the most important and urgent factors that need to improve.
It is suggested that 75% of mental illness start before the age of 18. So for me its scary when you put the inevitable mental health factors of statistics of children in care and combine it with the factors of the general population.
How are the care experienced not our most vulnerable group of people within our society?
I have always known something was wrong, even thinking about it now and reflecting on the earliest memories I have of me as a child, feeling this sense of unhappiness and purposelessness. Something that I have actually battled with all my life and that I am currently at the age of 23 still trying to figure out. What angered me the most was that I didn’t understand why I felt the way I did, what triggered it but most frustratingly the answer to how I could make this lingering feeling that left a huge part of who I was questionable. From a young age I had been to multiple therapist for various reasons. Trauma, separation, bereavement; I was numb to the pain and talking to strangers, I felt was a waste of time because after a session had finished, I left feeling the same.
My coping mechanism was just to not allow it to consume me. My desire for something more, something better not knowing what but trusting God because hope was the answer when I can’t find a tangible one. I have come to terms with the fact that this questionable feeling may never be resolved. I am ok with that. I haven’t known or felt anything different my whole life, the emptiness. There’s even been more contributing factors. Experiencing so much loss, but trying not to allow it to affect me to an extent that I lose sight of who I am.
It feels like a keep your head above water kind of thing. Treading water after a while can become tiring. I personally have never been diagnosed medically with a mental illness. The aim through all life’s bullshit was and still remains to just keep going with the hope that if I work hard enough, I can create the life I know I deserve.
The last 6 months have been quite difficult, I had to take a step back and study myself in order to assess and figure out what is really going on. I struggled to get out of bed, I had stopped eating and lost a lot of weight. I was depressed about how I felt about my life and couldn’t understand what God required from me but I was even more depressed that I looked how I felt & no one saw it but me. Most of my adult life I felt as though I somewhat self sabotaged and that being strong was a curse as much as it was a blessing. I was tired of being told I was so strong, I was tired of being strong and I voice that up to today on death ears because we all know I’m going to be all right lol.
Every month without fail, I would experience this extreme melt down. My heart ached and I would cry in bed all day and at the exact point I’ve convinced myself everything is falling a part. once it passed, I got up and just got on with my day. I was tired of that also. I didn’t understand why I constantly went from 0-100 but I did recognise that it occurred around the time I was due on my period and that made me feel a little better. I knew what I had to do to better my mental state ie exercising, healthy diet, positive relationships etc but I wasn’t ready. I lacked confidence in myself and practically, I was too weak to lift myself out of despair. I was and sometimes still remain my last priority but I am working on it.
Someone asked me recently how do I make life look so good when everything’s falling apart around me. I was shocked at the thought that I was giving those that don’t know me the impression that my life was perfect. People are usually surprised to find out I was in care. “But you don’t look like it”. What does that even mean? Am I expected to imitate a product of disruption? But I know exactly what they are referring to. No one posts the negative on social media. The down days, where you can’t get out of bed. I could post a pic of me on insta the same day I thought about if this so called thing called life is worth it. My point is, I am good at pretending; my aunt referred to me as a swan swimming graciously on water but paddling vigorously below the surface. I tackle unsettling with ease that it sometimes to be honest it even scares me.
Basically, things are just a little harder for the care experienced. With the feeling of the unknown and the lack of a solid support network often young people feel isolated and become depressed. Depression affects over 350 million people worldwide. Depression increases suicidal thoughts, suicide is the leading cause of death in young men and women aged 20-34. Plenty of times I have contemplated on the thought that I wouldn’t mind not being here, I have come a long way from a few attempts in my younger days. But I never thought I would lose a family member to suicide. When it’s close to home and becomes your reality it hits differently. You feel guilt, anger, confusion, frustration & hurt. Wondering if there is anything you could have done to change the outcome.
Stigma against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care. It’s strange because at some point in almost everyone’s life they will experience a mental health crisis or challenge. It could be our parents, a cousin, a friend or even you.
I do believe we need to talk about these things more, make it the norm so it doesn’t seem so scary. So, those that are suffering don’t feel a sense of helplessness because we talk about it more and increase our understanding of how to tackle it and support our family and peers. To decrease the chances of a premature loss of life.
To anyone that feels as though they may be suffering from mental health issues, but aren’t getting the help they need. Please do not hesitate to speak to someone appropriate that will be able to get you the correct support.
Sometimes you need someone to talk to and my door is always open.
Lots of love,
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Available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.
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Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
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