Emi tells us about her experiences as a student with a mental health problem, and why she's taking part in 27 27.
Emi is a second year Social Anthropology student at the University of London. She writes poetry, likes alternative fashion and is a mental health advocate on Instagram.
Becoming an adult is difficult for everyone. There’s university, finding a job, moving out, bills to pay, food to buy, appointments to make, and no one to make your bed for you. But we get used to it. It’s a stumble, but we find our feet eventually.
Though for those of us who suffer from mental illness, it’s a bit harder to keep our balance.
I’m still vulnerable, yes, but I’m no longer a child.
As a young adult, it’s expected that I’m now able to do a lot more “adult” things. I think professionals feel less of a need to intervene, unless I’m in a crisis, because I’m no longer a vulnerable minor - I’m still vulnerable, yes, but I’m no longer a child. It feels as if I’m meant to just get on with it.
Having spent a year and a half in psychiatric inpatient from ages 14 to 16, I feel as if I missed a lot of milestones. I never learnt to cook for myself, or how to manage my feelings on my own, or how to navigate becoming a “grown up”. I was stuck in a bubble, and when I left the bubble I was still young enough to be free from the stresses of adult life but now I’m turning 21 and I have to function like an adult yet I can barely boil a pot of pasta.
I wish there was more understanding of this. I wish there was more focus on the terrifying process that is becoming - becoming an adult, becoming independent, becoming a person who is no longer a teenager battling hormones and mental health problems but an adult with a chronic mental illness that now has to function on their own.
I still need help.
Our mental health is addressed, yes, but not in the context of this new stage of life. I may have the same illnesses I had as a child, but I have an adult brain now, and that makes things a whole lot different. It’s different that ‘self-harm’ doesn’t mean hurting myself anymore, for me it now means not looking after myself properly or fulfilling my obligations. As a teenager, I was forced into staying alive, but that means I’ve never learnt how to keep surviving.
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"27 per cent of Uni students suffer from mental illness"
I’m a young woman now and it feels like I have a responsibility to grow up and to take care of myself.
Except, I can’t, not just like that. I’m still sick, and I still need help. I can do even less because I’m expected to do even more, but I can’t. Who can understand that?
The world sure doesn’t seem to, but I know those of you like me can, and we need to combine our voices to let it be known that getting to adulthood does not mean being ‘better’ - and the very assumption of being ‘better’ can make us even worse.
The cheers we hear at the finish line will be the loudest words of all.
There are so many of us. 27 per cent, in fact. 27 per cent of Uni students suffer from mental illness and I can guarantee that all of these 27 per cent feel hopeless because they ‘should’ be able to do it all, do life, but can’t. Money doesn’t solve our problems (except for 3:00am online clothes shopping that is a perk of having money) but fundraising helps them when the money raised goes towards these very problems. That’s why Mind launches 27 27, a campaign for Uni students to support these young people who suffer their illness in a place that can be so fulfilling, but so unbearably lonely. We’ll watch runners sweat tears not of sadness, but of perseverance, of achievement, of hope. There is no help until it’s known we need help, and this is one of the many ways we shout this. I’m privileged to have taken part in shaping 27 27, whilst I don’t have running experience in the slightest and the only ‘trainers’ I own are Buffalos, to be a part of the community and can only thank Mind for engaging with those of us who need them most.
Things will change for us, for me, no matter how long it takes. We’re becoming more than adults, we are becoming people, and the journey is a treacherous one, but I will baby step until the end. We’re not alone, we’re not forgotten, and we’re not invisible. Actions speak louder than words, and the cheers we hear at the finish line will be the loudest words of all.
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.