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'A mental health project changed my life'

A teenager shares his experience of struggling with depression and anxiety, and explains how he was helped by HeadStart, an initiative funded by the Big Lottery Fund

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A teenager shares his experience of struggling with depression and anxiety, and explains how he was helped by HeadStart, an initiative funded by the Big Lottery Fund

I have been battling depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and in May 2012 I became the worst I have been. I was primarily being supported by my high school counsellor, but when this low-level support didn’t seem to work, I began seeking other services.

I was referred to weekly counselling, but realised this wasn’t working because as soon as I created a bond with my counsellor, they left and I had to start from square one. After being through several counsellors and services, I felt that nothing was helping. I still felt lost, I was still self-harming, and ultimately I felt like there was no point in living.

This is when I was diagnosed with adolescent psychosis, which meant that while I had symptoms that suggested schizophrenia, I was too young to be officially diagnosed. I was placed on a medication called Quetiapine, which took me a while to learn how to say and to spell.

But then in June 2012 I took a substantial overdose and so was referred to an early intervention service. After that, a lot more happened: I was in an inpatient unit; I had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I was given Sertraline, an antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug – and yet I still self-harmed.

Supporting every young person

In January 2014, I began to feel better – so much so that my youth worker asked if I wanted to be a part of a project called HeadStart. I didn’t really know much about it, but I said yes. Little did I know that HeadStart would change my life.

HeadStart is a project funded by the Big Lottery Fund to support young people aged between 10 and 16 with their emotional health and wellbeing, and to build their resilience. I was involved in the pilot phase of HeadStart Blackpool, but we’ve now been awarded £10 million to officially begin a five-year project here.

Right now we need services that will help young people face the challenges in their lives. In the Blackpool area, 175 young people aged 10-16 were admitted to hospital in 2014-15 because they self-harmed and/or self-poisoned. This is triple the national average.

In five years’ time, I hope that HeadStart will still be here and be supporting every young person. More than anything, I hope it isn’t seen as just another project; I want it to be the way Blackpool is.

If you, or someone you know is struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or dreads going home, or prefers to stay inside, then the best thing I can suggest is to talk to someone, whether it’s a teacher, your parents, a youth worker, a social worker or a friend. Let them know what you’re feeling, because I know from experience that bottling your emotions up is never healthy.

Taylor Morrison-Eaves (pictured) is 18 and was involved in the pilot phase and development of HeadStart Blackpool

 Through the project, six areas in the UK, including Blackpool, will receive almost £54 million to improve the mental wellbeing of at-risk young people, aged between 10 and 16, through early intervention and a local approach that partners teachers, GPs, charities, health commissioners and local authorities. Find out more here 

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