‘We have a responsibility to raise awareness and nullify the stigma of mental illness’

Photo posed by model.
Photo posed by model.

A few days ago new research suggested nearly a quarter of 14 year-old girls in the UK are now self-harming, writes Jason Hanson,

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as only three months ago, an article was published highlighting the rise in school referrals for child mental health treatment.

Seeing children and adolescents enduring emotional anguish causes a great sadness in me and the truth is, I am unsure whether this is a new issue or whether it has always been there, it is just now being highlighted more.

I spoke to a young girl (21) about her experience with mental illness. She wanted to share her story to try to promote more awareness and understanding around mental illness, particularly within the younger generations.

She had been in the system since 13 years old, receiving weekly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). At 15, in addition to this, she was also seeing a counsellor at her secondary school. When you look at her you see a very innocent, polite and bubbly individual, but that doesn’t tell the whole story and gives no indication of the battle she faces on a daily basis.

At 18 she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and admits this has been incredibly challenging for her.

“I have a fear of abandonment and the smallest of things can evoke intense feelings of anger and upset, due to this fear. This often pushes people away”.

Whilst most of us take every day relationships for granted, giving them little thought, for somebody with BPD, this can prove an enormous task. Due to the inconsistent emotions and moods, relationships can be quite turbulent.

“In the past I have had extremely unstable relationships where the people in my life have either been idolised or demonised and many of my friendships have not lasted for a prolonged period of time. Some of my romantic relationships because of this have moved very quickly and as a result have been very destructive.”

The impact on relationships however is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to BPD.

Other common symptoms can include self-destructive and/or impulsive behaviour (such as self-harm, substance abuse, excessive spending etc.) as well as identity disturbance.

“My sense of self is unstable. I often change my hair colour and style. I have been to college four times and changed the subjects each time. My personal style has previously completely changed in a matter of months. I have had many piercings which I have often removed in less than a year.”

The vast array of emotions has had a profound impact on the life of this individual and listening to her story fills me with sadness, yet admiration at the resilience she has shown throughout her life. She will regularly have to deal with anger, sadness, a feeling of emptiness, as well as feeling out of touch with reality. Friendships will come and go and the constant she craves seems so elusive.

Mental illness in adults can often be traced back to their childhood and adolescence. We have to be more aware and parents, teachers, employers, siblings and peers all share that responsibility to protect the more vulnerable within society. It is vital we raise awareness and nullify the stigma. https://jasonhansoncounselling.com