‘I started thinking I would rather die than fail exams’ - teenager speaks about mental health
- Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY
An 18-year-old girl whose mental health deteriorated to the point she tried to end her life has said trying to help others has been an “integral” part of her recovery.
Sasha Campbell, from Barrow, near Bury St Edmunds, has bravely opened up about her mental health as part of a desire for a positive to come out of a negative.
The teenager has had a turbulent year and is currently a patient of the mental health unit on the the site of West Suffolk Hospital.
As a result her A-level studies at County Upper School are on hold but Sasha says she is making strides forward after focusing her energies on setting up a campaign to help other teenagers in her situation.
Together with her mother Jordanna, she is launching the Fine Not Fine campaign at Charter Square in the Arc shopping centre on May 18, which coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week.
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Fine Not Fine aims to educate teachers, parents and carers to recognise the early signs of failing mental health, to empower young people to act by telling parents, teachers and carers when they see signs in their peers and to campaign for the provision of health professionals in schools and colleges to support teachers, parents and pupils by providing early intervention.
Sasha said: "I'm going in the right direction now. The campaign has been integral to my recovery - having something to focus on and trying to help other people out of a negative experience."
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The teenager can pinpoint the start of her downward spiral to a knee injury when she was 14 that left her unable to play sport or dance - which were massive parts of her life - and cut her off from her friends. And then the exam pressure became just too much.
The exam stress seemed to her family "like normal teenage stuff", but it was the start of Sasha's mental health struggle and the battle by her parents to get her the help she needed.
She ended up in hospital in March 2017, just before she sat her GCSE exams and she made several attempts to self-harm in the months that followed.
"I'm a perfectionist," she said. "I started thinking that I would rather die than fail exams. I thought I was going to fail."
The teenager, who does not have a formal mental health diagnosis, also ended up at West Suffolk Hospital following overdoses in March, May and June last year.
After the fourth suicide attempt Sasha managed to leave what was supposed to be a secure ward at the hospital, which led to a police search.
By "complete good fortune" she was spotted by someone who knew her, dad Donald said. Sasha was sectioned and in the July she was admitted to a mental health unit in Colchester.
Jordanna, 48, who is also mum to two boys, said: "It's vital that when a young person's mental health begins to fail, it is spotted quickly and treated quickly. Once Sasha became really ill, the treatment and care she got from mental health professionals and nurses has been amazing.
"But it's a shame she had to become really ill first. I'm certain that earlier intervention would have stopped her getting so ill in the first place."
Donald, 60, spoke of the frustration of not knowing where to go for help or even what help there is.
He added: "If your child breaks a leg you take them to A&E. You know they are going to get an X-ray, plaster.
"There's a very clear treatment pathway and clear follow-up, but if your daughter tries to kill herself they just say 'try not to do it again' and 'go home'."
Diane Hull, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Chief Nurse, said: "I contacted Jordanna this afternoon and spoke about Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's commitment to support the Fine Not Fine campaign.
"This was a positive conversation about how we can work together and support not only her family but the campaign too. We will be led by the family on the best way to do this.
"We welcome any campaign to raise awareness and increase understanding of young people's mental health and wellbeing. We fully support the need for earlier detection, earlier intervention and for all young people to get help when they need it the most.
"That's why one of our clinical psychologists, Dr Beth Mosley, who has worked full-time at Thurston Community College for more than two years to support students, is leading a project to roll out the initiative to other schools in west Suffolk.
"We know there is so much more to do and it's only by working with the communities we serve that we can make the improvements we're so focused on achieving."
As part of the campaign there will be a day of events and activities at the Arc on May 18 from 10am to 5pm, with performances from Sasha herself.
The programme of events will include interactive crafts for everyone to join in, such as writing supportive messages to hang on a 'positivity tree' sculpture created by local artists, and writing postcards to local MPs with reasons why they should continue to promote young people's mental health.
Throughout the day there will be live poetry, storytelling from local people, street theatre, and musical performances.
There will also be display boards with information about local mental health services, and an information point staffed by local mental health professionals who people can talk to on the day.
For more information see here.
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