We welcome Naomi, a new Healthwatch Essex volunteer, as a guest blogger this month. Below, Naomi shares her mental health story and what becoming a Young Mental Health Ambassador means to her.
Since the age of 14, I really noticed myself begin to struggle mentally- having anxiety began to affect the way I lived my life; from school grades/exams to social gatherings, I felt overwhelmed and prevented from doing certain things. These difficulties got progressively worse until I was given access to Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services (EWMHS), who put me through to group cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I was given no choice to have one-to-one support but decided group therapy could be beneficial. From the ages of 15-presently, I suffered mentally to a great extent, and have felt failed by many services. I believe that both my age and seemingly bubbly and chatty personality led to professionals not taking my struggles seriously. I was told multiple hurtful things by professionals that dismissed and demeaned the way I was feeling, as well as these people not taking their typical plan of action and acting in the manner that they should, given the information that I was telling them. My experiences with some services have been (as an overview) unprofessional, dismissive and ineffective.
So how does this link to my ambassador work? Whilst I was experiencing such negativity in these services, I had a strong passion to raise an awareness to this. There were multiple things that stuck out to me regarding a change in the way that professionals dealt with young people, especially those seeking help under 18. Some of the immediate things that I was desperate to bring to light included the inappropriate and ineffective age gap in group CBT sessions, the pill being used as a means of ‘brushing off’ female depressive symptoms and the relationship between professionals and young people; the way they approached situations, as some of my experiences were confrontational and included accusations to an extent.
Being a mental health ambassador has helped me express some of the elements that took a toll on my mental health – being able to speak in a safe environment, alongside people equally as passionate as yourself about mental health, has made my negative experiences seem worthwhile in a sense. I feel empowered to be able to share my story as a means of aiding others, bringing to light situations and issues that are hardly uncommon, with the hopes that there can be reform and development of services for young people to prevent others experiencing similar negativity to me. It has given me a platform, to a degree, that allows me to speak freely and be as open as I want, sharing the things that I once felt helpless about.
My experiences of being a mental health ambassador for the youth of Essex have been nothing but positive- all ideas are welcome here, and it has encouraged me to share more on my social medias and create mental health positivity, which has led to multiple conversations with new people, so I can help others on a larger scale. The role is something that I am very grateful for!
Would you like to join Naomi and get involved in this exciting volunteering opportunity? For more information on how to become a Young Mental Health Ambassador, click here.
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