‘I started to feel sick on a daily basis’ - Norfolk teenager talks about her experience of mental illness

Heidi Jackson

Heidi Jackson - Credit: Archant

Heidi Jackson is a 19-year-old student from Dereham currently studying media at the University of East Anglia. Here, she writes about her experience of mental illness - and her support for our Mental Health Watch campaign.

The new mental health campaign is absolutely brilliant and I am 100% behind it. Its exposure of mental illness experiences and what it aims to achieve is exactly what our region requires, especially at a time where our NHS service has been put into special measures.

After experiencing mental illness first hand, I know only too well this deserves people's support.

My mental health experience started at 11 or 12 years old, three months after starting secondary school.

It began with not wanting to go to school and with no explanation as to why, other than it made me feel sick. I was never diagnosed with a mental illness at this stage and I think those around me thought I was just being a troublesome young girl, wanting to play truant.

This made me feel absolutely awful because I knew that it wasn't my fault, that I couldn't physically go to school but I also had no explanation for how I felt either.

After finally receiving help from a psychologist and weeks of working through what made me so terrified of school, we had an action plan of weaning me back in slowly.

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This began with going in for only one lesson a day and so forth, however, eventually even that became too much and I was educated at home.

At around this point my psychologist no longer visited, whether this was due to lack of funding or what appeared to be my lack of cooperation I'm not entirely sure. I would say that things got a lot better at this point because the place that made me feel incredibly anxious was removed from my life.

A little while after this, when I was around 13 or 14, things got worse. I started to feel sick on a daily basis. To begin with it would be occasionally throughout the day but eventually it was all day every day and night.

I did not want to leave the house and had to be constantly busy as a way of distracting myself. We contacted my psychologist from before and she reassured us this was to be expected, as I had failed to properly overcome my anxiety surrounding school.

Eventually, after many doctors' appointments and a meeting at a children's mental health clinic, I was diagnosed with anxiety and put on medication.

Finally I had a sense of closure and gradually started to feel better. To this day I am still on that small dose of medication but I have never looked back. I think for a lot of people, medication seems to be the last resort but I would encourage anyone who is offered it to give it a try because it really did transform my life.

I ended up going to 6th form and getting my A-levels and have now been at university for two years; two achievements I don't think I ever saw myself being capable of.

As a society, we need to change our attitude towards mental health and become better educated on what the issues are and how we can help.

One in three people will suffer with a mental health problem in their lifetime; chances are that either you or somebody you love will.

I'm a firm believer that mental health should be taught in schools as part of the curriculum. This would lead to better recognition, less stigma and identify any issues early on.

Mental health is fast becoming one of the most common issues for young people who are possibly feeling the pressures placed on them by society.

For young males and females, not only are they facing the pressure to conform to certain ideals, they also feel under extreme pressure to succeed in school or college.

There really should be no difference whatsoever between a mental and a physical illness, both need to be treated as having the same significance.

Perhaps this would encourage people to speak out more openly about how they feel and help to fight the on-going stigma.

Let's come together and show that we are willing to learn about mental health and demand the services that this region rightfully deserves. Please get involved by sharing your own experience or sign the pledge to show your support.

? If you are prepared to write about your experience of mental health. Please send no more than 800 words, a brief biog and a photo to david.powles@archant.co.uk