for better mental health

Christmas Appeal 2019: Emily's story

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 Emily

In support of our Christmas appeal, 13 year old Emily blogs about her experience of mental health at school.

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A lot of my anxiety comes from things like how I look that day, how does my outfit look. I experience social anxiety, especially if I’m having a conversation with a stranger. I worry about how I’m coming across and if I’m making sense. I do a lot of worrying about really small things and I also feel guilty a lot too.

I’m 13 years old, and I live with my mum, dad, and my sister who is 17 and my brother who’s 21. In my spare time I like to draw, play video games, I cook a bit and I like to read.

I’ve been experiencing anxiety for about four years. I think it all started when I went on a residential trip in year 4 with my friends, without my parents. I was really worried about it and when I came back my anxiety got worse and worse. I also experience depression, which is usually worse in the winter than the summer, although I can also experience depression as a reaction to certain situations, such as if I think that somebody has judged me.

"The school didn’t celebrate success, they just focused on the negatives - my attendance record. It made me feel terrible, like the teachers are staring down my neck and judging me all the time."

I started being late to school because of sleeping problems. If I’m worrying about something then often I have trouble sleeping. I was in the highest sets for most of my subjects and coming in late wasn’t actually affecting my performance. But this wasn’t reflected in the way the school tackled it. The school told us to go to my GP and get a letter with a diagnosis of insomnia just so they can allow me to come in later on certain days. The GP said that I shouldn’t need a letter to get reasonable adjustments for my mental health. My mum had to speak to the school about it and they said they could take her and my dad to court because of my attendance record. It was so scary for me.

The school didn’t celebrate success, they just focused on the negatives - my attendance record. It made me feel terrible, like the teachers are staring down my neck and judging me all the time.

I think the school needs to accept that some pupils have these problems and not confront the parents about it in such an aggressive way. Mum really had to argue with them to give me some leeway. In the end they did let me come in later but I was initially told that in the new school year this wouldn’t apply any more. They didn’t explain why they made this decision. It didn’t make sense to me and it made me feel very angry towards them. It also caused me extra anxiety in the summer every time I thought about it. They have now extended the flexible arrangement for this academic year, so I am happy about that.

"There are other pupils with mental health problems at my school and the school doesn’t provide an environment where they feel safe or cared for."

There are other pupils with mental health problems at my school and the school doesn’t provide an environment where they feel safe or cared for. One girl in my year was being bullied and felt suicidal because of it. The school took far too long to do anything to support her. It didn’t need to take as long as it did.

 Schools should be responsible for their students’ wellbeing, and not brush their mental health problems aside. It feels like the teachers don’t really understand mental health. They might have their own problems, or have too much going on – they might feel it’s just another thing they have to deal with. They don’t have the right words to help. They can signpost to Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHs) and so on but when it comes to dealing with situations at school, they have no idea what to do. It would be great if there was better mental health education for teachers.

CAMHs have been fairly supportive. They’ve helped me to manage my mental health and take care of myself. But with this too my mum had to fight very hard for me to be accepted into CAMHs in year 7, when she realised I’d been more upset than usual and noticed signs of my self-harm. They rejected my application twice and only after a major episode and at the intervention of my GP did they accept me.

"Teachers might have their own problems or have too much going on… it would be great if there was better mental health education for teachers."

Mind’s work could help the lives of so many students. A donation could really help and support people, and provide more resources for schools.  I think that Mind’s work can also help parents to better understand what their child is going through.

 It’s not always easy as a teenager to talk to your parents because they’re an authority figure (like teachers), and parents can sometimes be a bit aggressive or defensive. It’s hard for older people to help children with their mental health if they don’t understand mental health themselves. They need to be educated before they can provide proper support.

I think providing more information to parents about mental health could really help. By being better informed about mental health, hopefully it will make it easier for their child to open up to them.

"Mind’s work could help the lives of so many students. A donation could really help and support people and provide more resources for schools."

If a mental health charity is helping a school, hopefully it will be a kinder environment where teachers will know what to say and do, and students won’t make fun of each other.

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