My experience of being a teenager with a mental health condition

Local mental health services are marking Children's Mental Health Week by sharing stories from young people and their families who have been affected by mental health difficulties. 

For a young person there are lots of changes and feelings that come hand in hand with growing up. But adding in symptoms caused by a mental health difficulty can make it even more challenging, especially when they don't know why these changes are happening or what they mean. 

We spoke to Abigail, not her real name, a young person who first started experiencing mental health difficulties at a young age: "I was 11 years old when I first started to feel different. I wasn't sleeping and I had started doing these rituals. I was worried about these changes so I told my family and they were as confused as I was about why this was happening. 

"My parents took me to my GP when they could see me starting to struggle more and more and I was referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

"When I first went to CAMHS I was really nervous, but when I got to know my psychologist I felt a lot more comfortable. I was supported by clinical psychologists and doctors and after having treatment, I am now able to live my life and manage like any other teenager would.

"There are still things I struggle with but I'm doing better than ever in school, and that's really given me a big boost!

What would your advice be to another young person who thinks they are starting to have difficulties with their mental health or emotional wellbeing?: "Speak to someone you trust, anyone, have a vent and pour out your feelings. It really does help. And until you can get the help you need please don't give up because you deserve the world - remember that.

"I'm incredibly thankful for all the support I've received in the last five years. I may have hated the people trying to stop me from making bad decisions or giving in to my compulsions at the time but now I can look back and realise that I couldn't have done it without every single one of their help."

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust provides specialist mental health and learning disability services across the South East. They have developed specific websites for their CAMHS services in Hampshire and Sussex, which have information, tips and resources to help young people and families with mental health difficulties and other challenging life issues. Go to www.hampshirecamhs.nhs.uk and www.sussexcamhs.nhs.uk