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Posted on May 5 2023 by Fiona Bailey

A young woman who has been in psychiatric hospitals for six years has spoken to national publication the Independent about her health and that St Andrew's "ultimately saved my life".

Speaking ahead of part of Mental Health Awareness Week, which starts from Monday, May 15, Sedona has chosen to speak out about her complex mental health problems which she has suffered from since the age of 15. 

In addition to being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anorexia, Sedona also self-harmed, endured episodes of psychosis and attempted to end her life on several occasions.

She was sectioned at 15 and over they years has been admitted to multiple psychiatric wards as well as wards within general hospitals. At the age of 17 she was even admitted to an adult forensic ward, despite never having committed a crime.

Sedona said: "My mental health problems began when I was 15. I started experiencing severe panic attacks and hallucinations. However, when my parents took me to see the GP and local mental health team, I was told that my mental health wasn’t bad enough to warrant help. 

"It wasn’t until I became actively suicidal that they intervened, but even then, and for the many years that followed, I didn’t get the correct help. Because of this, my mental health became so bad that I nearly died through suicide and self-harm many times."

However, over the next few years Sedona was admitted and discharged to multiple hospitals and services, and due to the nature of her complex health conditions, which also included an eating disorder, health staff were unable to help her. 

During this time, Sedona's mental health continued to decline and her self-harm and suicide attempts increased. 

She said: "Things got so bad that I required a major surgery, and I also spent time in a coma in the intensive care unit. During all of this, I had no access to consistent therapeutic care. I was abused and violated by some of the staff on the mental health wards, and I felt like I was just getting worse and worse. I had no hope that things could ever change.

"Eventually, I was referred to St Andrew's Healthcare, a charity that provides specialist mental healthcare. It's ultimately what saved my life."

It was at St Andrew's where she received regular therapy, including DBT (Dialectical behavioural therapy) which is a specialist form of therapy for patients with BPD and EMDR – a therapy for patients struggling with trauma. 

She said: "Staff plaited my hair, played games with me, and actually spoke to me like a normal human being, which was unbelievably refreshing after all the trauma previous professionals had inflicted on me. They refused to give up on me and, eventually, for the first time since I was 15, things stabilised for me.

"I was at St Andrew’s for just under three years, and I began to see that life was worth living. I even self-taught and passed my biology A-Level while there."

Sedona is now living in a community placement and has started college. To read Sedona's full piece in the Independent, click here.