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Posted on Mar 28 2024 by Adam King

Sedona Jamieson, who is now studying biomedicine, was in psychiatric care for 6 years, both at St Andrew's and in other hospitals. Since being discharged she has started at University and is working hard on her recovery. She recently shared her story with the i newspaper.

I had a pretty good upbringing. A loving mum and dad. Two sisters and a brother and we all got on fine. We had plenty of love and stability.

When I was eight, our family home was burgled, which I found really unsettling. In secondary school, I was bullied quite badly: taunted over my appearance and sexually harrassed by boys.

I became a perfectionist and put a lot of pressure on myself, both in terms of academic and athletic achievement. It all started becoming too much and at age 15, I started having panic attacks.

Mum took me to the GP who referred me to mental health services. They refused to see me at first. I was told things had to get worse before intervention was warranted.

The fact that young people have to reach crisis point before they can get any basic help is scandalous. How many children could be saved from killing themselves or going through trauma if they got the support they needed earlier? Our mental health services wouldn’t so overstretched if we didn’t wait until youngsters are at breaking point. Prevention is better than cure.

In my case, it wasn’t very long before I fell into a deep hole of depression, developed an eating disorder and then began having psychotic episodes. I was in and out of hospital with my self-harming and suicide attempts.

I was 15 when I was sectioned for the first time. Some of the staff on wards were very co-ercive, even bullying. Many were not fully trained in restraining and physically hurt me.

Despite my history of self-harming, I wasn’t checked for sharps properly and could easily find them on the ward.

In many places I was drugged up (sedated) and not offered access to talking therapies. In fact there was often no treatment plan at all.

It was shocking how I was sent home even though I had self harmed on the ward and I had said I felt suicidal. the staff didn’t know how to manage me because my issues were so complex. And of course they’re always under pressure to free up beds.

Sent home before I was well enough, I would either run away – and the police would go looking for me – or I’d try to kill myself again. I’d end up back on the ward, the cycle repeating. I’d feel traumatised from each hospital stay, never better.

I was in the grips of anorexia and it was getting worse and worse, to the point where I was eating nothing. I was sent to an eating disorder unit around 100 miles away, which doesn’t help being so far away from your family. Many wards left it so late to tube feed me, when my weight had dropped drastically and my body was in starvation mode.

When I was 17, I was placed on a psychiatric ward for offenders which was not legal. It was a really unsafe place and the patients were violent. One woman flew at me and attacked me. The place was completely bare; no bedding, no belongings and no cutlery, you eat with your fingers. It was my lowest point; there was no therapy and literally nothing to do, except stare at the wall.

I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder. The latter meant I suffered with emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking or perception and impulsive behaviour.

My self-harming escalated over the years and I needed over 50 operations, such was the extent of my illness. It became a kind of an obsession that I felt I needed to do. I felt totally invincible due to the manic aspect of my illness. I had to have a massive open, abdominal surgery and everyone was telling me how close to death I was. I was adamant that I wasn’t.


Thousands of children waiting years for mental health support

Almost a quarter of a million children are waiting for mental health support, analysis of NHS figures by the Children’s Commissioner for England reveals.

In 2022/23, 949,200 children and young people were referred to children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS), also known as child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). This equates to 8 per cent of the 11.9 million children in England.

The Children’s Mental Health Services 2022-23 report by Dame Rachel de Souza found that 32 per cent of youngsters referred to mental health services received support but 28 per cent – nearly 270,300 – were still waiting.

A further 39 per cent had their referral closed before accessing help.

The report shows that waiting times for mental health support continue to vary significantly.

For the 305,000 children and young people who accessed support, the average waiting time was 35 days. However, in the last year nearly 40,000 children experienced a wait of over two years.

The analysis also uncovered geographical variations in waiting times across the country, from an average of 147 days in Sunderland to just four days in Southend.

The most common reason for referrals was cited as anxiety followed by reaching crisis – demonstrating the severity of need many children are presenting with.

De Souza said: “For children and young people two years can be a significant portion of their young lives, so the long waiting times experienced by some children in this report can feel agonisingly long.

“Children are still waiting far too long to access the support they need, and for too many children the speed at which they can access support is still down to the luck of where they live. With the right early support, many children would not need access to mental health services.”


On the path to recovery

It wasn’t until I went to St Andrew’s Healthcare’s specialist rehabilitation service in Northampton that I began to make progress. There was a completely different approach to patient care I’d not experienced anywhere else.

I had access to the therapy I needed, including dialectical behaviour therapy, a type of talking therapy, and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing, for treating trauma.

The staff made me feel like they really cared, and that we were a team working together to help get me better. I felt really involved in my treatment plan and it was clearly communicated. That was hugely motivating to me.

They also have a policy of using sedation medication only when really necessary. I needed it, I was able to ask for it myself. They worked wonders helping me to find the right combination of drugs to keep me stable that didn’t give me adverse effects.

There was no quick fix of course. My journey to getting better was a gradual one and I spent three years there as an inpatient. St Andrews really supported me to integrate back into the community and when I was first discharged I lived in supported accommodation, so there was always someone available if I needed them.

The team helped me develop the skills to manage my feelings which massively helped when I returned to “reality” in the outside world. I had a clear plan for managing risks.

I can’t believe how much I have achieved in the past 15 months. I went back to college and completed a triple science access course. Last summer, I did a work experience placement at a hospital in Sri Lanka.

Now I’m studying biomedicine at Bath University. I hope to do research relating to the neurological affects of psychological trauma.

Recently I did a TEDx talk about mental health. When I was in hospital, I always used to say that was my ultimate life goal. I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.

A key part of my recovery has been having things to do to give me a focus and developing new support networks.

I still struggle, and I’ve been to A&E a few times over the past year for my self-harming. But that’s greatly reduced compared to the often daily episodes.

I still have issues with my body image and eating. I’m a healthy weight, which sometimes means it’s more difficult for people to understand that I have an eating disorder. But tennis has given me a big boost; playing is a good release from what’s going on in my head.

I have a lot of scars on my body. It can be difficult when people notice, I feel they do then treat my differently. But I am now looking forward to focussing on my studies and I hope by sharing my story I can help others.