Mental Health in the Classroom: Gaby's Story

Mental Health in the Classroom: Gaby's Story

One of our Activists, Gaby, attended the Conservative Party Conference in October 2017 to share her experience of having a mental health condition whilst attending school. Here’s her story...

Around one in three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition, rising to one in four children when emotional distress is included.

These statistics get thrown around a lot but for every statistic there is a severe, tangible and devastating reality behind it. I want to give you an insight into the integral human experience that the numbers simply do not do justice.

So I’m going to tell you a story, my story in particular, of my experience of support in the education system in the years I was told would be the best of my life and genuinely could have been my last.

My Story

When I was 14 I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. This made me part of a club that no one wants to be in, part of the one in four young people with a diagnosable mental health condition that don’t get the access to the treatment and care they need.

Like many other young people across the country, my school did not have any kind of support in this department, there were no protocols in place to help students like myself who needed not only an educational structure from their school but also pastoral care. 

My morning routine for school consisted of at least two panic attacks every day, and then another each evening at the prospect of returning the next day to somewhere that was meant to be a home away from home but terrified me.

I was repeatedly and continuously told throughout my educational career that due to my attaining of good grades, my ‘worries’ were unfounded and underserving of the help it took all of my strength to even think about asking for.

Sitting Exams

When I was taking my GCSEs, despite consistently and stubbornly pestering teachers and whoever else would listen that I needed support in my exams, there was nothing they were either able or willing to do to help me. When I was taking my A-Levels and sought some form of help from the start, I was told despite being in a different educational institution from before, that because no support scheme had been in place previously there was nothing they could do for me, since my grades were high.

When I persisted, I was told that if my mental health problems were ‘as bad as I claimed they were’ university would never be an option for me in the future.

At University

I started university last year, and this time I was more than prepared to face the fight in front of me. I had disclosed details of my mental health issues within my UCAS application to await further contact from the university. I had medical evidence of the medication I’d been taking. I had doctors’ letters confirming my history of mental illness. I had recommendations from professionals for what sort of support should be put in place. It took 12 weeks for the disability services to agree to see me. In that meeting I was told that all students get ‘stressed’.

My medically diagnosed mental illness was being questioned by a disability support worker because my grades were above average.

It took a devastating breakdown a week later, which left me unable to leave my house for a month, to even be in the same room as another person and to complete the assignments I had been set over the Christmas period. It took my ‘good grades’ falling from 76% to 15% and the prospect of the university losing an ‘above average’ student for me to be taken seriously.

One in Four

That’s a young person somewhere out there who is potentially fighting for their life. They shouldn’t have to fight for anything else. You don’t need me to tell you that help you have to fight for isn’t remotely helpful. I was part of that one in four statistic, and the fact is I shouldn’t have been.

One in four young people with mental health problems experience something like this. One in four. That’s one of your grandparents, or parents, or siblings or children.

Gaby, YM Activist 

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