Birmingham young person speaks about impact of bullying on her mental health.
A 23-year-old woman from Birmingham is speaking out in advance of Anti-Bullying Week (16th-20th November) about how her own experience of being bullied at school led to a massive decline in her mental health.
Louna Walker (pictured) is backing a new mental health fundraising campaign by Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity – Fight For All The Feels – which is aiming to raise awareness of the youth mental health challenge we are facing in Birmingham and with it, help tackle the stigma which still surrounds it. The campaign is in aid of Forward Thinking Birmingham, the city’s innovative youth mental health partnership for 0 to 25-year-olds, which is a part of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, and where Louna was once a service user.
Louna’s mental health journey began at an extremely young age. When she was six-years-old she was diagnosed with trichotillomania, a stress disorder which makes you pull out your own hair out. Her mother didn’t know what was causing it, but Louna had a secret – she was being bullied at school. She would be teased, harassed and intimidated by her fellow pupils. But it wasn’t just verbal abuse, at one point she had an earring ripped out of her ear.
Things got much worse in secondary school. She was followed to and from school, with food and drink thrown at her. Her classmates would push and shove her, and kick her in the shins when walking down the school corridor. Louna and her friends were even chased across a field, where she was put in a headlock by a boy and ended up getting whiplash. The boy was only suspended for one day – a clear sign to Louna that her bullying wasn’t being taken seriously by the school.
The bullying had a massive impact on Louna’s mental health. She began self-harming, was suffering from extreme anxiety and it caused her eating disorders. She would be off school for months at a time, and her relationships with her friends and family suffered.
Louna said: “I don’t know why I was bullied – maybe for being a bit different. The truth is there’s no ‘reason’ for being bullied. Nothing justifies it. I completely lost my identity. My bullies made be feel worthless, like I was nothing. Although it was a few years ago, I am still haunted by it. I frequently have nightmares about my experience at school.”
It all came to a head when Louna had a breakdown in the middle of class. She begged for help and was eventually referred for assessment, where she was diagnosed with diagnosed with high-functioning autism, extreme anxiety, reactive depression and Tic Disorder.
With the help of her psychologists, she explored her past struggles and started ‘mental health sessions’ where they spoke about her feelings and tried to understand her triggers, discuss preventative methods and also self-help and self-care. They also suggested she be home-schooled, ending her bullying nightmare.
The support Louna received from mental health services is what is driving her to back the new fundraising campaign by Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, Fight For All The Feels. Initially, money raised by the campaign will look to fund a number of young people across the city – all with lived experience of mental health conditions – to be peer support workers, who will be available at every stage of a young person’s mental health journey – whether that is an initial conversation about the struggles they are facing, as part of the care provided through Forward Thinking Birmingham, or as part of their discharge package.
Louna said: “I have no doubt that it was due to the guidance and validity from my psychologists and mental health nurse that I was able to turn a corner. I learned I could only be my best self, once I helped myself. That epiphany meant eventually led to my discharge.
“I want other children and young people in Birmingham to have the same access to mental health care as I did, which is why I’m fully behind the Fight For All The Feels campaign. The vital funds raised will go towards improving their lives and preventing mental health issues from being a barrier to achieving their dreams.”
The public can join the fight for youth mental health by visiting fightforallthefeels.org, where they can learn more about the campaign, register their fundraising, or make a donation. Follow @Bham_YouthMH on Instagram and Twitter for updates.