As a part of Our Minds Our Future Wales – Call to Action campaign, 17-year-old Abby took time out of her day to chat with us about her personal mental health experiences.
Tell us about yourself, your mental health experience, and any support you may have received from services.
ABBY: I’ve had both good and bad experiences. I’ve been with mental health services since I was around 14 and have struggled with Anorexia, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), severe depression and GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder).
I have experienced both inpatient and outpatient treatments with CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). I have also experienced the difference between the Welsh and English mental health system as I have spent time in inpatient units in England. I have a lot to say about my experiences and a lot of opinions on how things could change.
Looking back at your journey, what support would you put in place that would have made things better/easier, especially when transitioning from child to adult services?
ABBY: I wish there had been better inpatient care; I’ve been in units where there have been very limited resources. For example, one unit I was in only had one set of anti-ligature clothing, no spares for anyone else. I also believe that there should be more awareness around neurodiversity; I think there is a lack of understanding within mental health services and there should be better support provided for children who aren’t in school or can’t attend.
How do you feel about the transition from children to adult services?
ABBY: As I turn 18 in September it’s been quite difficult to find things out about adult services. I am quite scared to transition.
Have you found it easy to move between different services during your youth?
ABBY: No, I’ve found it difficult having to repeat my past and my traumas to different services all the time. I have found it really difficult coming out of inpatient care into community care as there is not enough understanding of the trauma you can get whilst an inpatient.
Have you had an experience where you felt unsafe, unwelcome and disrespected? What was it that made you feel like that?
ABBY: I have had lots of times that I have felt disrespected. One that sticks out the most was being in crisis and having the police called on me, or the time I was in A&E and I was called selfish by a nurse. On one ward, I had very little dignity as I had no access to clean clothing for days. I slept in the same top for 4 weeks as no one bothered to get me a clean one and my clothes were locked away from me.
Have you had the opportunity to speak to any key influencers and/or decision makers about your experience? If not, what would you like to ask them to do?
ABBY: No, I haven’t but I would really like to speak to them about the lack of inpatient beds in Wales.
Who are the key influencers and decision-makers that you’d like to talk to?
ABBY: I’d like to speak with Government Ministers and I’d like support with training and information on how best to do this.
Our Minds Our Future strives to provide support and a voice so that young people like Abby feel valued when trying to create change.
The Call to Action campaign aims to improve the support from Welsh mental health services for young people by advocating for the 5 demands to be met. The 5 demands were formed by young people that bravely shared their personal experiences and found solutions to problems that they faced whilst accessing mental health support in Wales.
It is vital that this message reaches anyone that can contribute to change and are willing to help in actioning these demands so that the support for young people’s mental health is improved.
You can read other OMOF young people’s stories here, or find out more about getting involved in the campaign here.