“I didn’t speak up, and I didn’t seek help. That is my biggest regret.” These are the words of 19 year old Emma Norris who suffered from depression as a teenager.
To mark the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week, Emma documented her own personal journey with depression and the effect it had on her education and personal life. Emma suffered from depression in her teens when she was a year 14 student at Aquinas School in Belfast. Her depression was so severe that she was forced to withdraw form school for 6 weeks to aide her recovery.
Emma is a volunteer for AWARE – the national depression charity for Northern Ireland and campaigns to ensure that people know AWARE is there to help and support them. As a trainee teacher at St Mary’s University College in Belfast, Emma is particularly keen to use her passion for teaching to help educate other young people that may be suffering from depression.
Describing her depression as a ‘war inside your head,’ Emma hopes that by sharing her story, she can encourage at least one other person to seek help if they are suffering from a mental illness.
“I had learnt nothing in my first five months of upper sixth, simply because my depression could not let me. My concentration had reduced to nothing, along with my motivation. I was so behind and had no desire to catch up.
“Despite being a stereotypical model student, I went from being a highly motivated and enthusiastic student to one that didn’t care about exams. That was only one of the many impacts that depression had on my life.
“My school were a huge support to me and I cannot thank them enough for everything they did. If it had not been for them, I would not be where I am today – a trainee teacher with 3 A Levels under my belt. I would hope that all schools would be able and willing to provide the care and support that I needed.
“During CMHW, I hope that at least one parent, child or teacher, will learn about the importance of mental health and in acknowledging this, I hope that the message will sink in that every child and every adult needs to be educated in how to look after their own mental health."
AWARE Chief Executive Siobhan Doherty said more than 6,000 young people under the age of 19 in Northern Ireland are receiving anti-depressants.
"A lot of these young people will be studying for their GCSE and A-level exams just like Emma was," Ms Doherty said.
"I hope that Emma’s story will inspire other young people and comfort them with the fact that just because you have depression, does not mean you can't do well in your exams.
"We deliver the AWARE Mood Matters Young People's programme in to post-primary schools to 14-18 year olds across Northern Ireland and we hear first-hand the stress and pressures young people are under. The Mood Matters programme provides them with the knowledge and skills to maintain good mental health and build resilience in order to better deal with problems and challenges."
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