‘I felt imprisoned by my anxieties’ - teenager battles to rebuild life after mental health units
- Credit: MARIAM GHAEMI
A teenager is now back home and embarking on the “massive” undertaking of rebuilding her life following a year on mental health units.
Sasha Campbell, 18, from Barrow, near Bury St Edmunds, opened up earlier this year about her battles with her mind as part of her own campaign called Fine Not Fine to help other young people in a similar position.
As a teenager her mental health deteriorated to the point where she was self-harming and she made multiple suicide attempts.
READ MORE: 'I started thinking I would rather die than fail exams' - teenager speaks about mental healthSasha, a former student at County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds, was discharged from the Wedgewood Unit in Bury St Edmunds at the end of May and is now back home with her family.
She said she had been expecting to return to her past life, but "everything I knew had moved on".
"Everything had changed and it was hard to see all my friends finishing their A-levels and thinking 'it should have been me'.
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"I had been glorifying getting home, but it didn't live up to expectations.
"Once I was home it was like another form of imprisonment, but I wasn't being imprisoned by locked doors, instead it was by anxieties and low mood."
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She added: "I thought 'if this is my life, what is the point?'"
Her mum Jordanna, who has given up her job as a financial trainer to help Sasha, said: "Having to rebuild a life is exhausting. It's such a massive undertaking. It's obviously really hard to find the motivation when you are at your lowest point."
The family are "shocked" over how long aftercare is taking
The family have criticised what they say was a lack of early intervention with Sasha, but now she has come full circle through the system they say the aftercare has been "too slow" to come about.
"That was probably the most shocking thing really," Sasha said.
Her mum said there had been no visits by the home treatment team, but Sasha has met with her care co-ordinator and the mental health trust has been in contact so the family are hoping for some kind of support.
Jordanna, who also has two sons, added: "I thought someone would help her integrate back into the world somehow."
Diane Hull, chief nurse of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), said: "We are pleased that Sasha is making progress and is now back at home, but we are sorry that her family feel that we have let her down.
"The family last month contacted our Patient Advice and Liaison Service [PALS], as a result of which we have spoken to Sasha's mother and continue to work to address the concerns that were raised.
"In addition, Mark Pattison, our service director for West Suffolk, has this afternoon spoken to Mrs Campbell and will arrange to meet with her and Sasha later this month to go through the issues that have been raised. We will listen and ensure we take demonstrable action where mistakes have been made.
"In addition, he offered to actively support the Fine Not Fine campaign."
READ MORE: New chief executive appointed at failing mental health trustSasha speaks positively of the care she received on a CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health services) unit in Colchester, but on another out-of-county ward she says she endured bullying.
"Basically, all the other patients bullied me there and you are stuck in a room with them and I couldn't get away from it," she said.
It was during that particularly difficult time that her and her mum talked about "creating change," which led to the birth of Fine Not Fine.
Sasha's mental health campaign Fine Not Fine
The campaign, which is gaining momentum following its launch on May 18, 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/carers and teachers when they see signs in their peers and to push for the provision of health professionals in schools and colleges to support early intervention.
Sasha said Fine Not Fine was "definitely" helping her recovery.
"It's making me feel I'm achieving something positive that's actually helping people. I think September will be easier as I'm hoping to start college and will have something academic to focus on as well."
Since coming home, Sasha has taken up a job at Oakes Barn pub in Bury St Edmunds and is focusing on the campaign, including plans to go into schools to talk to young people about mental health and she hopes to create sensory boxes to help calm youngsters down when they are distressed.
The teenager also completed a Norfolk coastal walk of 50 miles in four days in June, helping to raise more than £2,000 for the campaign.
Sasha said "I think the good thing that came out of it is I have found new direction.
"If this hadn't happened I would have just carried on down the track already laid out. I would have done my A-Levels and not know what I want to do and it's because of this year I know I want to make change to help people's lives, and on a bigger scale.
"When you are going through something tricky it's hard to take a step back. You think A-Levels are the 'be all and end all', but now I find it laughable."
Sasha's advice for other young people is to "persevere"
If it wasn't for her parents, Sasha says she would still be on a secure unit and she says her friends have been "amazing" and have stopped her feeling lonely.
Exercise has always been an important part of her life and helps lift her mood, but following a knee injury at the age of 14 she stopped dancing and this was the start of her downward spiral.
Her advice to other young people who may be struggling with their mental health is to never think their experience is minor or not valid.
"They should always be confident in getting help or talking to people even if they think they are not deserving or it's not a big enough problem.
"And just persevere. Once you see that arrangement through or do spend time with someone you do end up feeling so much better - either you have overcome that anxiety or your mood is lifted. I have found that a lot recently.
"At first I was just lying on the couch, scared to go out or I didn't have the energy.
"Mum kept saying ' your life isn't going to rebuild itself, you need to make steps towards that'."
-For more information on the campaign Fine Not Fine see here or join the Facebook group 'Fine/Not Fine - Young People's Mental Health; It's Everybody's Job'
On Twitter use @FineNotFineBSE