#MHAW16: All My Strength - One Year On
It was a turning point in my own struggle against anxiety and depression and the birth of a campaign that allows me to raise awareness and fight back against the services that have failed me and many others.
A year later, my own mental health has improved massively and I am still fully engaged in campaigning.
After being neglected by CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services) and sent away from GPs with a multitude of unhelpful medications, I had been given a traumatic insight into the failings of the UK's mental health services. I almost lost a year of my life to crippling depression, suicidal thoughts and extreme health anxiety.
Despite this, I spent months on waiting lists, only to be passed onto new (and equally inefficient) services after a dismissive needs assessment. These were the services I was relying on to give me my life back and they made me feel like I wasn't worth their time. I am not alone in my struggle and there are so many young people who are being overlooked and denied the support they need to take on mental illness.
Since I made All My Strength public at the Mental Health Awareness Week event at Grassroots last year, I have worked on mental health projects with Cardiff Youth Council, contributed to discussions with Join the Dots and made my voice heard at an MHPB (Mental Health Partnership Board) conference. I am thankful to the people and organisations who supported the campaign at the beginning and gave me a platform to share my experiences and voice my desperate concerns for young people's mental health services.
Going to university in Bristol has allowed me to deliver my campaign to a new audience and find new people who want to listen and help while continuing to raise awareness in Cardiff. Through sharing my story, I have become involved in an amazing young people's social action group called The Mentality Project. This has given me the opportunity to meet other young people with inspiring stories who are determined to make a difference to the way mental illness is addressed. I was invited to spread my message at events such as the Mayoral Youth Hustings and a thought-provoking discussion about how mental health is represented in film.
All My Strength now has a significant sticker campaigning in both Cardiff and Bristol and a following on social media and on our website that is constantly growing. This is still just the beginning and I have ambitions to take the campaign much further and make the biggest impact possible. It is hugely encouraging to have my work around mental health recognised and supported and the positive encouragement I receive has helped me reconstruct my confidence.
It feels great to be making a difference, no matter how small that difference might be.
As I continue to channel my negative feelings into campaigning and supporting others, my mental health is become more and more positive. I want to reassure others who are struggling with mental illness that things do get easier and there are people fighting for our access to a recovery.
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Images: All My Strength