My teacher got me through secondary school alive!

Hi, I'm Lauren, I'm 20 and currently in my second year at university. As well as studying English Language at university, I am also a mental health activist. I often participate in talks and workshops, help out at events and in the past year or so I have also started up my own charity - Youth Mental Health Matters.

All of this, I have done because I am one of the many people who struggle with mental
health issues daily. My mental health began to suffer when I was in secondary school. For me, at this time, mental health was the unknown; I didn’t know why I was feeling the way I was. Mental health was first mentioned to me when I started to support my cousin with her own mental health issues, during which time, I found the confidence to ask a teacher for some advice and this was when I first time heard about it. This teacher was the first person to talk to me about mental health and in such an open way, and because of this, when I finally was able to talk about my own struggles; it was her that I was able to open up to.

A lot of the work I now do is in schools, with both teachers and pupils, is work around the education of and the general way in which schools approach mental health. For me, without the teacher who became my lifeline, I would have felt unable to approach the subject. I would have continued to sink further into depression, anorexia and anxiety; but instead, I had someone who was there offering to help; and that is what got me through secondary school alive.

There's a quote I particularly like when it comes to helping those around you;

helping one person may not change the whole world, but it can change their world.

For someone suffering with there mental health, simply being there for them can make a massive difference. I often worry that I am not responsible enough, or educated enough to help many of my friends with their mental health. I am not a therapist, or a doctor but I can provide a helping hand in some very simple ways. this, is what the teacher in my story did.

I was once asked to think of my life as a fairy-tale and if there was a hero; who would that be? It took me a while, and then the answer became obvious. This person wasn't a hero because they could make everything better, instead they were a hero because they were simply there for me.

Miss Mitchell, is the hero of my story.

Miss Mitchell is the first person to ever talk to me about mental health. The person who let me sit and cry and seemed to know the right time to say something. She also knew when to push me and force me to talk, although sometimes I hated her for it. She took time out of her day to make sure I was OK; whether it was sitting with me while I
ate lunch, helping me through panic attacks or even going through tasks she had found me online to help.

She may not know it but what she did changed my world.
— Lauren Barclay

It made me the person I am today, and through all the sadness she helped me hang onto me and helped find who I am. There was nothing she did that any other compassionate human-being couldn't do, she didn’t have a magic wand, although she often told me that she wished that she did, yet in each situation I was in, she was a magic person to me.

I don’t think I will ever forget what she did for me, and how much it helped. It does and will always inspire me to keep improving mental health in schools, and letting
teachers know that helping someone doesn't have to be a scary responsibility or an extra work load. The littlest things, that you can do in a second, honestly make such a huge difference. Even a smile on the walk to your next lesson to let a pupil know your thinking about them, or asking if they ate there lunch. Yes, sometimes you might get an icy response but I promise that when this pupil gets to a point in recovery, what you did will never leave their mind.

So if there's one thing I can say, remember it doesn't take professional knowledge and it doesn't take a degree in medicine or psychology. For someone who's suffering from a mental illness, often all they want is:

  • Someone there holding there hand through it all.
  • Someone there to ask how their day is going. 
  • Someone who's not going to judge them for saying how they're feeling.
  • Someone who shows there are people who love them and cares for them.
  • Someone to remind them, it will be OK.

There are no superpowers that will fix a mental illness. But there are, for so many people superhero’s who make everyday that bit easier...

...and that superhero could be you.

You can hear more from Lauren here:

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