Hear my voice | Guest blog, Zoe’s story

Zoe, a Healthwatch Essex Young Mental Health Ambassador, is our guest blogger this month, sharing her mental health story and experiences, in the hope that others will learn something from her story. Zoe particularly wants to emphasise the importance of supporting one another, especially during these challenging times…

When I became a teenager, my mental health was at its worst. I had decided that there was no other option than to seek help from a professional, but after waiting months on end before I could even speak to a school counsellor, I almost gave up. It was at this point that I realised how much pressure mental health services are under due to under-staffing and lack of funds; not just in Essex but across the country. Whilst this reassured me that I was not alone in my situation, I couldn’t believe that so many other people were also struggling and may not have had anyone to speak to.

As I waited and waited to receive the care I needed, my mental health declined until I felt like I was at breaking point; I needed to speak to someone. I reached out to friends, family members, teachers, online support groups, and mental health charities; all of which have continued to support me in my journey. Although it took quite a while until I was able to speak to a psychiatrist, the support I had received from others meant that the wait did not seem as long.

Coming to terms with openly talking about my mental health was an interesting journey to say the least. Although there are always ups and downs, I have gradually learnt the most comfortable ways for me to express that I need help or support, and in doing so, have learnt so much more about myself. After noticing the positive impact of being open and honest about how I feel in my own relationships, I realised something very important: whilst getting help from a professional can be extremely beneficial, you do not need to be a professional to be able to help someone.

It is never weak to express how you feel to other people. In fact, I believe it takes so much strength and courage for someone to not only acknowledge that they need some form of support, but to put themselves in a vulnerable situation in order to get it. This is one of the reasons why I decided to become a Young Mental Health Ambassador at Healthwatch Essex; to spread the message that mental illness does not make you weak and to encourage people to reach out for help if they need it.

I am lucky to have grown up in an environment where I feel safe in expressing how I feel, but I understand that not everyone has this privilege. Therefore, I wanted to attempt to be the voice of the people who may not have been able to openly express how they feel and to encourage others to create a society where people are more likely to feel comfortable in asking for support.

Our generation is incredibly fortunate to not live in a society where mental illness is frowned upon, however there are still many changes that need to be made in order to completely break the stigma surrounding mental health. I encourage everyone reading this to ask all your loved ones how they are. Don’t forget to ask the strongest and happiest people you know, as sometimes it is not what it seems. Instead of avoiding the subject due to not knowing how to approach it, ask how you can best support someone when things are difficult. And mean it. You never know, it could save a life.

Would you like to join Zoe and get involved in this exciting volunteering opportunity? To be a Young Mental Health Ambassador, you must be 25 or under, be passionate about children & young people’s mental health and have accessed mental health services in Essex. You would need to be willing to give a small amount of your time regularly to share your experiences and, in doing so, you could make a difference to how services are provided, both for your own generation and those that follow. 

For more information, click here or email our Volunteer & Engagement Officer, Cheryl at cheryl.huggins@healthwatchessex.org.uk 

Whilst the country continues to tackle the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis, we have drawn together a series of resources to help you keep up to date, know what support is available and understand how you can help. Click here to view.

Our Information & Signposting Team remains here to support you with all health and social care enquiries in Essex. Click here for details on how to contact us for support.