How I took control of my mental health treatment
Josephine shares how joining a focus group for her local CAMHS team helped her take control of her treatment.
When I first attended CAMHS at 13 years old, I remember feeling anxious. I didn’t want to be there, although my parents could see that I hadn’t been my usual self for a while. I was struggling with eating, my mood was constantly low, and I was having panic attacks when I left the house. Upon reflection they were right - I did need support.
As a black teenager, I often felt misunderstood. This was sometimes the case at CAMHS too, especially in the relationship I had with my CAMHS team. I struggled to talk openly which sometimes meant that there was friction between us. At the time it felt like I was attending appointments that I didn’t want to be at, with no option for anything else. I felt frustrated and sometimes ignored.
This changed when my local CAMHS created a children and young person’s focus group. Initially I felt extremely nervous at the thought of taking part but, after encouragement from my doctor, I signed up. I am so glad I did - this has been one of the best decisions I have made.
I attended evening meetings after school with other young people and the participation worker. We discussed many things, from the displays in the waiting room and using recycled paper for letters, to the support that we would like to see available for us and other young people. It was great to work together and have our voices heard and opinions valued. Seeing the displays that we created and letters printed on the paper we chose felt extremely rewarding. Although it may seem small, it really boosted my self-esteem.
I had other opportunities to develop new skills, like when my local NHS trust provided me with interview skills training. Myself, the participation worker and some of the friends I made at the focus group travelled together to the training course. We had pizza, learnt new communication skills and took part in team building-exercises, which built our confidence. Soon after, I was on an interview panel with a doctor and psychologist - asking some questions, working together and deciding who should get the job! I never imagined that I would be able to do anything like that.
During my transition from CAMHS to adult mental health services, I worked alongside my team to create a new care plan that worked for me. I spent time with the team so they could get to know me as a person and we could talk about the things I valued, which helped us come up with goals that worked for me and what I wanted to achieve. Over time I became better equipped to make decisions about my own treatment and to discuss the risks and benefits of different treatment options. It was on this foundation that I built a trusting relationship with my team, where I not only felt listened to but understood.