Helen describes how difficult she found it to move from child to adult mental health services.
My name is Helen, and I suffer from Complex PTSD.
Being eighteen is supposed to be a benchmark of freedom and agency, yet I was dreading it.
"Change has always made me want to bury my head in the sand."
Throughout our lives, we and the world around us are constantly changing. Change, however, can be difficult for anyone, regardless as to whether you have a mental illness or not. Due to the unpredictability of my early years, change has always made me want to bury my head in the sand and go to great lengths to pretend it’s not happening.
This is one of the reasons why transitioning from child to adult mental health services was definitely a very difficult moment in my life.
I spent a large part of my teens in and out of psychiatric wards. The longest admission lasted the majority of the time I spent being seventeen, and beginning of me being eighteen.
"I spent a large part of my teens in and out of psychiatric wards."
In the lead up to turning eighteen, people started asking questions regarding what happens when I turn eighteen. Would I be moved to an unfamiliar adult ward? Would I be able to find a suitable place to live once I left hospital?
Many meetings were held with professionals who either knew nothing about me, and were just there to tick boxes, or were from teams that would not be equipped to take me on the second I turned eighteen.
I was passed from professional to professional, as my birthday got closer and closer.
"In a strange sort of way, I was lucky."
It wasn’t until after I actually turned eighteen that I was allocated an appropriate social worker, and the legal obligation for section 117 aftercare was recognised, and accepted by the council. This meant I would be taken on by a team, and given suitable treatment in the community, after discharge.
In a strange sort of way, I was lucky. I had a legal right to treatment with adult services, and a team of professionals fighting my corner.
"There are many people who aren’t as lucky as me."
Unfortunately, there are many people who aren’t as lucky as me, and end up slipping through the cracks.
No two people going through this, or any other change will have the exact same experience. Hopefully, most people have a better experience than I did.
What is vital is to be as prepared as you can be. This is why things like the Mind's guide on moving from child to adult mental health services is so important, to give you an oversight into what to expect, and even who to turn to if things don’t go so well.
"You’ve survived one hundred percent of bad days thus far."
I can’t say I am able to deal with change perfectly now, whenever it arises. Often, it still knocks me off centre, and I end up wondering why I ever thought it was a good idea to leave my comfort zone, and venture out into the world of change. However, over time, I have learnt how to bounce back faster. If I could say one thing to you, it’s that you’ve survived one hundred percent of bad days thus far, and you will get through this too.
Whenever I am faced with change now, rather than worry about the things that are out of my control, I try to focus on the things within my control. Think ‘boring’ self-care, like brushing your teeth, or going for a walk; the little things add up! It’s natural to be anxious about new things, but there are always people to talk to, whether it’s a friend, family member, neighbour, or even a support line.
Never forget it’s okay to ask for help, and you do deserve it.
Read about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.