‘One evening I found myself on a bridge staring at the railway tracks below’

Norfolk Youth Council members Rachel Bird, Mark Brown, Meghan Teviotdale and Jordan Morris who are f

Norfolk Youth Council members Rachel Bird, Mark Brown, Meghan Teviotdale and Jordan Morris who are fundraising to go on a trip to Canada for a mental health conference. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Two young Norwich patients who have suffered from depression and psychotic episodes as teenagers are calling for more education to be provided in schools to help people better understand mental health.

Katie Davis, 21, and Jordan Morris, 22, both of Norwich, are members of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) youth council, which gives feedback to the trust and helps shape the way support is provided to ill young people in the region.

They say many young people still suffer from stigma of their condition, and are calling on education and health authorities to work together to enable schools help pupils learn and understand about the effects of mental health.

Yesterday, the EDP revealed the number of under-18s referred to the mental-health trust has risen by 84pc in the last three years.

Experts say increased pressures on young people, services being cut elsewhere, and a reduced stigma attached to admitting mental health problems are among reasons for the rise.

Mr Morris has spent four years as a patient of the trust - after his mental-health problems left him standing on a bridge one evening contemplating whether or not to jump, only for a passer-by to save him.

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The 22-year-old was in his first year of studying mechanical engineering at Bristol-based University of the West of England when his mental health rapidly deteriorated.

He approached a doctor at the students' union but said he was 'turned away', and he then began to drink more alcohol.

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'My flat-mates didn't understand what was happening and no one seemed to know how to help me,' Mr Morris said.

'One evening I found myself on a bridge staring at the railway tracks below. Fortunately a road-worker saw me and began talking to me.

'He took me back to university and told some reception staff to look after me until I could get more help.

'If he hadn't come over to me that evening I don't know what would have happened.'

Mr Morris had experienced what is known as a 'psychotic episode' and went back to Norwich, where he was treated by NSFT.

He said his goal was to get back to university, and now – after having treatment and building up his confidence through his time at the youth council – Mr Morris is ready to embark on an IT degree at the University of East Anglia.

He hopes to become a website designer.

'During treatment you have to keep pushing yourself to do things because when you're feeling down you have no motivation,' he said.

For Miss Davis, her mental-health problems started in her mid-teens and, like many others in her situation, she didn't know where to turn.

'I didn't really know what mental health problems were but it got bad quite quickly,' she said.

'I started to think horrible things and I didn't want to go to the GP to talk about it.

'No one teaches you what depression is, or what the symptoms are, so I didn't know how to explain how I was feeling.'

Miss Davis then became a patient with the trust and was diagnosed with depression.

She said she is 'in a good place now' and is working as an apprentice at Hellesdon Hospital.

But both she and Mr Morris believe more must be done to normalise mental-health problems to help others understand what sufferers are going through.

'If you have a mental-health problem people don't really know what to say or do to help you,' Miss Davis said.

'But I just wanted to be treated as though I had a physical illness like diabetes or asthma.

'If I was upset, my class-mates didn't really want to know and it's not their fault because they haven't been educated on how to help people with mental-health problems.'

Mr Morris added: 'If schools taught pupils more about mental-health problems then the younger generation would understand it much better and would help solve the problem of stigma.'

For day one of our investigation visit our website.

•Have you experienced mental health problems and are willing to talk about your experiences? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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