Better Mental Health Conversations
Having the confidence to talk openly about mental health.
Poem written by Angel Ryan, aged 16 years.
When they ask me what I am afraid of, I lie.
I can never expose you, never tell the truth about you for fear of speaking you into existence. You are my punisher and my captor, my tormentor, my torturer.
You are the little voice inside of my head telling me bad, bad things to do to myself, things I can't talk about for fear I'll forget who I am and turn into you.
You tell me we are one and the same, but I am not you. I would never hurt a child the way you have hurt me. I would never tell a young girl she is unlovable, or fat, or ugly, or crazy, or worthless.
But I am not afraid of them. I am afraid of the shadows of my mind of the twisted and warped reality I am living in. And I scream, because it is all in my head. I scream because none of it is real. I scream because you are clawing your way up my throat, stealing my voice, gouging out my eyes, eating away at the lining of my stomach, turning my bones to jello and my hair to dust, destroying, destroying, destroying, destroying, destroying, destroying.
I have had ENOUGH. I am not you.
I never was. I never will be.
This is only a body, and you are only a feeling, and I will rise above. I am above this, above you, above my thoughts, above it all.
And I will survive.
And I will love me.
And I will not let go.
Mental Health: How to talk to us
Poem written and photograph taken by Jacob Latham, 19 years.
Could you imagine being in a room full of people, yet feeling completely alone? I can, a lot of us can, and yet it's rare that anyone even notices. So what do you say and what do you do when you know, if you see or if you're told.
Don't ask us "are you okay?" We all tend to lie, to always reply "I'm fine", don't check in with us in front of others, that's not the way to help.
You can ask us if we'd like to talk or even just to listen. Tell us only the truth, no lies. Don't pretend, if you don't understand then tell us that. Don't say you understand when you have no idea what it's like to feel this way.
Tell us that you'll listen if we want to talk. Show us that you're safe. Show that we can trust. And please, just please don't judge us.
Don't pressure, don't push, and please believe us.
Our mental health is out of our control, so if we've spoken to you it's taken more than you can know. So show that we made the right decision in letting you in and letting you see.
Advice to teachers talking to teenagers
Developed by young people in the H.O.P.E (Helping Other People Evolve) Group
This resource was created by a group of young people who expressed the challenges they had faced during school regarding their mental health and wanted to develop tips on how they would've liked teachers to approach them in school.
Don't put pressure on yourself
Written by a young person, 14 years.
I started feeling anxious when I was in Year 8. There was a lot of pressure from teachers at school to get work done. I started to feel really tired and overwhelmed.
Teachers at school didn't seem to notice I was acting different but my parents did. They spoke to me about it and contacted school, which was good.
School then gave me an early pass to leave class earlier so I wasn't in the crowd with everyone. That helped.
My friends helped because school work & pressure wasn't something I needed to think or worry about when I was with them.
Now I'm in year 9, I feel a lot better than I was. I still get worried about things, like passing my mock exams.
I still get tired and overwhelmed sometimes but I have learned how to control it. I go out with my friends more to distract myself.
If I could tell someone what to do in that situation I would say don't put so much pressure on YOURSELF because that's what I used to do and I try not to now.
I should have died - By Linda M
18 - didn't see it coming as I crossed the road - BANG. I didn't feel anything, I thought I was dead and so was my baby. suddenly I heard the voices and sounds and felt the pain. I was alive and so was my baby. People stare at me, my face is damaged, cuts, bruises, stitches. Comments - you make me feel sick, you're ugly. I stopped going out. I lost all my friends. The panic attacks are getting worse, if I hear a siren or a loud noise. 19 stuck in the house or the garden, if I go out I feel sick. I cover my face.
Someone came to help me look better. Looking better is okay, but I still want to die. 20 my partner left me he's fed up with it all. I've started to go out, the tablets help but I still want to die. 24 I live for my children, my life revolves around them. My family are my friends. I've a few friends that are like me, we support each other. 30 The children are grown up and I have a new love in my life. Plenty of make-up covers the scars, I have a great job, I can afford nice holidays. I still have panic attacks, should have died. 60 I should have retired instead I'm still working.
Since the accident, I have constant pain in my neck and lower spine, but I keep moving. Every morning I still paint a smile on my face, help others, speak at conferences, stand up for our rights. I'm still taking the pills and even a small thing can make me slide. But I'll get up and paint that smile on my face and tell myself that life is wonderful and I have a purpose.
65 In my head I'm still 16 and enjoying life. I am loved, people care, I care and I'm still working. When that dreaded feeling of death or anxiety comes over me I tell myself 'all is well in my world' I breathe deeply and let it all out, paint that smile on my face and see others smiling back. I'm glad I didn't die.
Artwork by young person, 17years
Sometimes young people struggle to communicate through words, instead they share what is important to them in the ways that they can.