My CAMHS journey
Sometimes young people do not get the support they need for their mental health when they need it. Ed, 17, shares his experience of getting help from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
This blog contains references to domestic abuse, suicide and self-harm. While it does not go into detail on any of these things, please do not read on if you think the content may be upsetting for you. If you are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts or you're having a mental health crisis, please visit our page on getting urgent help.
Depression: it's just sadness, right? That's what I used to believe, until my life changed a few years ago.
For as long as I can remember, my father had been abusive towards my mother, both verbally and physically. I remember the shouting, the doors slamming, the screams, the tears, and much more. It got to a point where my mum was living out of her car. She lost contact with friends due to smashed phones, she lost jewellery, and she suffered injuries. This led to her attempting suicide. But she was fearful to speak out.
After one incident I sought help and texted a friend’s mum. She called the police who arrived and arrested my father. The next day the police told my mum she had to leave because it wasn’t her property, which effectively made me and mum homeless. I also lost my personal space, my comforts, my pets, and my normal life.
The next eight months saw us sofa-surfing with friends and family, staying at Travelodges when we could. This had a detrimental effect on my mental health. I started losing interest in life – I saw everything as a chore, I had no motivation, my school work suffered, I was irritable and constantly tired. Eventually, I reached out for help by going to my GP.
I was referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). I waited and waited, but it wasn’t until two months later that I was given an appointment. The doctor I saw was nice and referred me for counselling. Again I waited and waited, despite calling CAMHS multiple times to check on the status of my referral. During this time, I started thinking about self-harm and questioning the purpose of life. I went and saw another GP who prescribed me Sertraline. This helped slightly but I was still waiting on CAMHS.
In the following months, I began to self-harm. I did this as I couldn’t feel anything and couldn’t cry. At one point, I even came close to taking my own life. To this day I don’t know what it was, but something stopped me.
Finally, we were able to secure a new house. Because it was in a different area to where we lived before, I had to see a new GP and get a referral for the CAMHS team in the area.
My school wasn’t very helpful about my mental health. They constantly applied academic pressure and didn’t give me any breathing space. Most teachers didn’t know what to do - some were even dismissive.
Throughout school, I put on a brave face. I would always smile and seem happy even though I was suffering internally. Friends of mine made negative comments about mental health, which was really hurtful. I would regularly break down in tears with people saying “why are you crying?” and “what have you got to be sad about?” Some days I was too tired and scared to cope, so I would skip school.
While I was taking my GCSEs, I was finally given my first counselling appointment. The lady I met was nice, but I felt as though she treated me like a child. I had exams at the time, so the appointments were intermittent and I stopped after five sessions. My self-harm continued throughout my exams.
I reached a tipping point in late June and attempted to end my life.
The road to recovery
I ended up in the hospital and was discharged the next day. I was told I would be contacted within two weeks, but after four weeks of waiting, miscommunication and frustration, I was told I’d been discharged without my GP’s knowledge. My GP told me CAMHS were overwhelmed and understaffed and I would have to wait for another referral. I continued taking my medication, but I was struggling.
That September I started at a new school, who gave me a lot of support. I saw their counsellor, who was lovely and helped while I waited on CAMHS. A couple of months later when I had a dip in mood my GP sped up my CAMHS referral. I soon got an appointment with a doctor who was lovely, funny and caring, who increased my dosage of Sertraline. Unfortunately after a few sessions I found out he’d left and I’d need to wait for a new doctor.
Meanwhile, my father was found guilty of common assault with beating. The whole process was difficult and stressful for my mum and me.
Although these experiences have been difficult, there have been some positives. I decided to use my negative experience to make a difference, and became a YoungMinds Activist last year. I also joined Time To Change to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, and have spoken out to help raise awareness and change a broken system. I have also since qualified as a youth mental health first-aider.
My top tips if you're struggling
- Talk to someone you trust - it's scary but important
- Don't be afraid to cry, especially if you're male - it helps to release emotions and you'll feel better afterwards
- Find a distraction technique - we all have different ones; it could be jogging, music, art, reading etc.
- Practise self-care - find what works for you
I would like to see the Government reform social services and housing teams so they better understand mental health. I also believe CAMHS needs more funding, exams need to be reformed so there is less pressure on children, and the courts need to have easier forms for vulnerable people. Finally, I think teachers need to have mental health training, and schools should teach about mental health and mindfulness.
Author: Ed, 17
Ed is one of our YoungMinds Activists. To find out more about our Activist programme, check out our page on becoming a YoungMinds Activist.
If you're worried about abuse, find out what it is and who can help you on our Abuse page.
Find out what self-harm means and what to do if you think you're affected by it on our Self-harm page.
If you're struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings, there is help out there for you. Have a look at our Suicidal Feelings page.
If you need urgent help, you can message the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger for free by texting YM to 85258.