The Government has announced plans to help schools and colleges provide dedicated support to children and young people struggling with mental health problems. 22 year old Jodie Goodacre knew something wasn’t right from the age of eight. She wonders how these plans might have helped her get the help she needed sooner.
Jodie says: My issues began when I was very young. I remember, aged 8, being on a family holiday, sitting in the living room whilst everyone else played board games and thinking “I don’t belong here. I’m not needed or wanted.” I didn’t really understand what was going on and put it down to being a phase.
Three years later, when I was 11, I suffered a sports injury. I skipped school for weeks and was finally dragged to the doctors because I was so crippled with anxiety I couldn’t leave the house. Teachers and school friends thought I was bunking off. I found it difficult to explain how I was feeling and felt incredibly isolated.
The pain got so bad I gave up exercise and team sports for good. The idea of not being able to play sports again really took its toll on my mental health. My self-confidence plummeted.
When I turned 16 and started sixth form, I began to self-harm. My attendance dropped, I missed A-level exams and the ones I did turn up for, I just cried and left half way through. At the time, I felt my classmates were judging me, as if they thought I was doing it for attention.
Meanwhile, family members tip-toed around the topic and my teachers were none the wiser. Looking back, if someone in my school had been trained to spot my symptoms and got me on a waiting list for treatment, it might have changed my life.
At 18, I hit rock bottom, tried to take my own life and ended up in hospital. It was here I first heard my symptoms described as ‘borderline personality disorder’ and ‘bipolar type 2’. It explained the intense highs and lows I’d been feeling and why I felt like a human yo-yo.
Anyway, I did finally get help. I retook my A levels and got my education back on track. I’ve since learnt to be okay with not being okay. The thing I’m doing now is fighting stigma. I can cope with my illness but not with other people’s ignorance or prejudice. That’s why I campaign for mental health charity Time to Change - going into schools and universities to talk to children and tell them my story.
When I was told the Government wanted to find better ways to help young people living with mental illness, especially in schools, I was filled with new hope. It would have been wonderful to know there was someone trained in mental health I could turn to - someone dedicated to supporting me and others like me. You can watch this series of short films by young people to find out more.
So I really hope the Government’s ideas will help school staff, students and parents become more understanding of mental health problems in young people. Together, we can make it easier for everyone to open up about mental health and get the help they need, sooner rather than later.
Have your say now on these new proposed Government measures around children and young people’s mental health.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt explains his commitment to improving young people’s mental health:
"Around half of all mental illness starts before the age of 14 so it is vital children get support as soon as they need it - in the classroom. If we catch mental ill health early we can treat it and stop it turning into something more serious.
"These ambitious new plans will work with schools to make sure this happens, as well as reducing waiting times for the most severe cases."
Tagged in Mental Health