"You can start to take back some of the control, there is hope, there is a light in the darkness"
I first started struggling with my mental health when I was about 12 years old.
I was having severe panic attacks and diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. Panic attacks have been an ongoing battle, and at my lowest point, I was self-harming and suicidal. For someone who was normally bubbly, out going, and enthusiastic about life, this was almost impossible for anyone to understand, I couldn’t explain it, but I felt empty inside, I had lost hope, and I didn’t feel that I had the energy to keep pushing on. I had been at various school counsellors and Children Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), but these weren’t the right services for me. It was only when I started counselling at Christian Guidelines that I discovered that I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain to end. While my mental health struggles have been a significant source of pain, hurt and distress, they have also given me a powerful story to tell. You can start to take back some of the control, there is hope, there is a light in the darkness, and most importantly, you are not alone!
I discovered that I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain to end
My own struggles and frustration with the lack of mental health support in Northern Ireland, inspired me to start my own mental health campaign. I started my own Facebook page in 2017, ‘Positivity only’ to raise awareness. In 2018, I developed a proposal for Student Mental Health Ambassadors, like a student council, who would focus specifically on improving mental health support within their school. This was presented to the All-Party Group on Mental Health, which gained cross party support, and it has since been piloted and operational in a range of schools, such as Sullivan Upper, Bangor Academy, and the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s University. During this year, I also walked 297 miles, a mile for each person lost to suicide in 2018, raising over £1,000 for Action Mental Health. Action Mental Health awarded me ‘Inspirational Young Person of the Year’ for my commitment to mental health advocacy. At the end of this year, I published a poetry anthology, ‘Searching for Freedom’ about my mental health struggles. In 2019, I was selected as one of the top 20 youth volunteers In Ireland by Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards which aims to honour young people for their voluntary work.
Your journey is far from over!
For me, supportive family and friends have been, and continue to be, the most crucial help and encouragement during my most difficult times. I am in a much better place now, Queen’s have been an excellent support, particularly with providing extensions for assignments, and tutors have taken the time to understand my anxiety, and support me personally, as well as academically, which means everything to me. Recovery is a lifelong process, there will be many storms to come, but you are stronger than you know. Keep fighting, keep pushing forward and don't give up on yourself. Your journey is far from over!
Mental Health issues can affect anyone at any time. But confidential, professional help is available through the University.
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I couldn’t explain it, but I felt empty inside, I had lost hope.