‘No child should have to endure the same hell’

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Moira teenager Megan Haste has been sharing her experience of mental health issues on her blog for the last two years but now she has decided to become even more pro-active and has written an open letter to the new Health Minister Michelle O’Neill.

Megan wanted to share her own views about the treatment available for those suffering with mental health issues in Northern Ireland and has called on the Minister to work with sufferers to make sure that others do not have to go through the same experience.

The teenager has suffered with anxiety and depression for many years and she is determined that “no child has to endure the same hell”.

Writing to the Health Minister, Megan said: “I am a daughter, a sister, an auntie, and a friend. I am 19 years old, and for six years I have been living with mental illness.

“This year, just before my birthday, I started seeing a cognitive behavioural therapist. She is the first therapist that I’ve clicked with, and my mental health has finally started to improve significantly.

“For six years, I have been unable to take advantage of support offered by charities due to the fact that travelling to Belfast from Moira in a crisis is impractical at best, impossible at worst.

“There are days when I can’t find the energy or motivation to leave my bedroom, and sometimes I deactivate my social media accounts because the idea of interaction with anyone makes me feel nauseous.

“This is the life I live. I am living with anxiety and depression.

“I am a survivor of suicide attempts, and my left arm and thighs are home to permanent reminders of my time as a self-harmer. I was a patient in Northern Ireland’s only child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit for a grand total of 27 days at the age of 16.

“I have been a victim of relentless bullying in school due to my self harm.

“Yet my most impressive feat is probably surviving CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). A week before my 17th birthday I was told by a “professional” that I really ought to be “growing out” of self-harm.

“And despite the fact that Christmas is evidently the worst time of year for my personal mental health, it was around that time that my therapist decided to see me only once every three months despite my illness showing little to no improvement.

“After three of my then quarterly appointments, I discharged myself from CAMHS due to the fact that it was a waste of my time and NHS funding.

“Today I am standing up and speaking out. I am sick of seeing people burying their heads in the sand over youth mental health. There are hundreds of young people out there with stories just like mine, and hundreds more with stories worse than mine. The services available to us are simply under-resourced and therapists are all too often ill-suited to their jobs.

“I have a challenge for our new Minister of Health. Work with young adults to shape a service that is better than barely adequate.”