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Waiting games
A mental health struggle
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Waiting games

A mental health struggle

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**Nikki Mattocks has struggled with her mental health her whole life, owing to experiences such as bullying, trauma and abuse.** **She has struggled to find the care and help she needed, including access to talking therapies.**

 

Teenage trauma

When I was 14, I experienced some trauma. I was on a downward spiral of, like, self\-harming, taking overdoses, and hearing voices. They say that Im useless, that Im worthless. They pick up on things that have happened in the past, where Ive been bullied, they can repeat the same things.

"When they asked me to wash up, Id leave my sleeves down."

Right now, theyre saying, you shouldnt tell people what youve been through, no wants to hear it. Ive got to constantly challenge it. The way I see it, my brain kind of just broke. I tried to hide it as much as I could. But then, I was put on the spot by my dad or sisters. When they asked me to wash up, Id leave my sleeves down. Theyd be like, why dont you pull them up because youre getting wet. Imagine youre in a concrete basement. You cant get out. Theres no doors. Theres no windows. Youre in a room with 20 people. They all hate you but you just cant get out.

 

**"****Imagine youre in a concrete basement.** **You cant get out. Theres no doors.** **Theres no windows.** **Youre in a room with 20 people.** **They all hate you but you just cant get out."**

It was really my dad pushing me to get help. I wasnt too bothered because the main thing I wanted really was to die. A school counsellor referred me to CAMHS \(child and adolescent mental health services\). But they said: No, youre not quite severe enough.

 

I was referred to CAMHS again and then they took me and they saw me. But the whole process took months and in that time I was still self\-harming, I was still taking overdoses, I was still distressed.

"The way that they classify bad enough is when youre in absolute crisis."

If youre not bad enough, you dont really get much help. The way that they classify bad enough is when youre in absolute crisis. For me, I didnt really get the help I needed until I was in crisis. Ive no idea how many times I went to A&E. There were so many. I went all the time because I didnt feel safe in myself.

 

Red for danger

I had this system where Id text my dad, saying red, green or yellow, to let him know how I was. When I text him red, it meant I was really bad and that I was wanting to hurt myself, so he would take me to A&E because thats what he was told to do. Either that or Id taken an overdose or something of that sort. Id self\-harm or something. Wed go to A&E and wed just wait around for ages. Id be told: No, its not quite bad enough, go home, and it was awful.

 

I remember one time my dad thought I was asleep. I was just resting. A doctor came and talked to him and he said, please can you help her because Im worried Ill wake up and shell be dead.

"Youre told thats where you go if you need help. But in reality, you dont get any help there."

The whole process of going in and out of A&E is just exhausting. Youre told thats where you go if you need help. But in reality, you dont get any help there. So I was put off from even going there. When I had taken an overdose, I just wouldnt tell anyone. I just let it damage or do whatever it did. It got to the stage where I was not safe to be on my own any more so I had a lot of inpatient admissions. I was a day patient at a hospital for about six months.

 

From when I first got referred to CAMHS, to when I got DBT \(dialectical behavioural therapy\), which was what I needed, was about a year and a half. Something like that.

"I dont think they ever really told me there was a list. I knew I was waiting for something but I didnt know what was going to happen or if it was going to help."

In the meantime, I did have a psychologist but it was just like chatting, trying to keep me safe. But it wasnt the specialist therapy I needed. They did think about DBT early on. But it takes a while to get through the waiting lists and stuff. I dont think they ever really told me there was a list. I knew I was waiting for something but I didnt know what was going to happen or if it was going to help.

 

Desperate waiting

Waiting for something youre so desperate to have is really painful. It can make everything else seem worse. I didnt want to wait. I wanted to have it now or I wanted to be dead. I just wanted something to happen. Because I was depressed at the time, I kind of felt like I didnt deserve it any way.

"I hadnt had the chance to learn how to deal with my emotions healthily. I always had to suppress them."

The dialectical behavioural therapy was really helpful. The whole point of it is to help people with borderline personality disorder, to relearn healthy ways of doing things and learn to accept your emotions rather than always acting on them, learning to let things pass. It gives you the skills that youve never had, so you can deal with how you feel.

 

I learnt so much that I made like a book of things I can do if Im feeling a certain way. Its so useful to have like an instruction manual. If I feel sad I go to my book and I know I could watch a movie or I could call a friend. Things that I can do when Im angry: I can break up sticks, or I can crush recycling or I can do some exercise. I know thats going to help because its helped me before. I hadnt had the chance to learn how to deal with my emotions healthily. I always had to suppress them. The way I knew how to deal with them was to lash out or do something that would make myself in pain. My way of coping was to self\-harm or to take overdoses.

"A few days after my 18th birthday, I took another overdose, then I was referred to the services again."

I was discharged from CAMHS when I was about 17. Then, two months before I turned 18, I was finding things difficult again. But because Id been discharged for six months, I couldnt skip the waiting list. I heard nothing. A few days after my 18th birthday, I took another overdose, then I was referred to the services again. In the past few months my mental health kind of dipped a bit because my nan was quite unwell and she passed away. A team came and saw me every day. I had a couple of assessments for therapy appointments. After Ive had one more, Ill be on another waiting list. I wonder whether its worth being on it.

 

Ticking boxes

You have to tick boxes for mental health services. Its really weird. Theres like a level where you have maybe mild depression and anxiety and you get the help you need.

"It shouldnt be that way. It should be easy to get help because it takes so much for someone to go to someone and say, look Im struggling'."

Then theres another level where you just jumped in front of a train and survived, you get really intensive help. Everything in the middle, youre not bad enough or too bad for cognitive behavioural therapy. And then youre kind of left. Youre either not bad enough or too bad or the correct amount of bad. If youre like me and you move around a lot or youre not quite 18 or if youre struggling but you dont tick their boxes then it can be an absolute nightmare trying to get help. It shouldnt be that way. It should be easy to get help because it takes so much for someone to go to someone and say, look Im struggling. If you do that you shouldnt have to face more challenges.

"Im 20 now. Ive had ups and downs in my mental health but overall its been OK."

I do feel like I missed out on quite a lot of stuff. When I got to high school, I did have a couple of friends but a lot of the time, all of my time, was consumed by I was just consumed by anxiety and depression, this uphill battle that I just couldnt win.

 

A lot of people enjoy their teenage years, even though theres struggles, a lot of people still enjoy it in retrospect. I absolutely hated it. My friends were all going to parties and having fun, and Im in A&E just desperate to get help. Its hard and it affected my GCSEs. Id always been academic and before the age of 14 I was doing really well at school.

 

Time to make a difference

Theres all these people that are desperate and while people are waiting, people die in that time.

"People in that time lose friendships and lose relationships with their families because theres a lack of understanding."

People in that time commit suicide, people in that time self\-harm to the point where theres a change that theyve made to themselves that they cant change back. People in that time lose friendships and lose relationships with their families because theres a lack of understanding. And its all because theres not enough crisis services, enough therapies, theres not enough awareness or prevention.

 

It would have been amazing if I had got access to DBT sooner. I wouldnt have tried to kill myself so many times. I wouldnt have self\-harmed so much. I wouldve got better GCSEs. I wouldve been able to actually enjoy part of my childhood without feeling so nervous and on edge and suicidal. So much wouldve been different. [Read the BMA News feature on talking therapy services](https://www.bma.org.uk/news/2018/february/the\-devastating\-cost\-of\-treatment\-delays)

 

**Credits**

**Reporter:** Keith Cooper **Sub editor:** Chris Patterson **Designer:** Tim Grant **Video production:** Mary\-Lane Friday, Matthew Saywell **Additional video:** Practical, iStock video **Photography:** Matthew Saywell, iStock Images