Mental health: the students who helped themselves when help was too slow coming

Mental health: the students who helped themselves when help was too slow coming

Last year, Molly Robinson, 15, was struggling to cope with the symptoms caused by an undiagnosed health condition. The unexplained pain, plus the worry about what was wrong, caused her to feel increasingly anxious and distressed. She plucked up the courage to seek help. And what happened? “I was put on a waiting list.”

Over the next three months things just got worse until she began to feel “completely overwhelmed”. “Everything snowballed,” says Molly. At crisis point, she couldn’t cope with going to school. “It took that for anyone to take things seriously,” she adds.

Frustrated by the waiting times for mental health services, Robinson talked to some friends she had met while local people were protesting to save beds at their cottage hospital. They decided to form a group, We Will, to campaign for more understanding and skilled support for young people suffering mental ill health.

In a community centre on the Ewanrigg estate in Maryport one Thursday afternoon, seven well-informed young people explain why they have worked so hard over the past year to improve their own and their community’s skills in supporting people with mental health problems.

The causes sound familiar. All cite the seemingly constant requirement to do well in exams, and the intense, addictive buzz of social media as pressures that older generations never had to deal with. “It’s very different being a teenager now,” says Chloe Wilson, 17. “Especially parents; they want their child to be fine. They’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s just hormones’.”

Hanah Pantling, 18, agrees. “The older generation say ‘suck it up’. We’re told to just get on with it. Especially lads round here – they’ve got that rugby attitude: can’t shed a tear, just man up.”

Jasmine Dean, 17, tells of the shock of hearing a friend talk about suicide. Saying she’s “angry” at the delays some young people have to endure when trying to get support for mental health problems, Dean asks: “How is being in crisis with a mental health issue any different from being in crisis with a physical issue?”

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