Not a girl, not yet a woman

Don’t be fooled by the Britney Spears inspired title of this post (for some reason the song came into my head as soon as I decided to write – it must be the 90s child in me trying to escape!); this is about being a teenager and getting the help within the mental health service that’s needed.

Now I’m aware that the NHS can’t cater and design their service around everybody. There are way too many people with differing needs and they do the best they can; whether or not that’s good enough. But yesterday, I came across a drawing of a dinosaur whilst researching anxiety, and it made me remember how much I struggled as a teenager with the NHS’s services.

When I was fourteen, panic attacks came out of nowhere. I was sat on a plane and lost it, and from then on they came into my life every single day. For no obvious reason. I’d walk into a room and there it was. It was awful and it meant that I was missing a lot of class as I spent the majority of my time down in the school’s medical room with a plastic cup of water trying to calm down – so I went to the doctor and tried to get some help.

As I previously said, I’m aware that the NHS can’t cater to everybody, and I’m also aware that there has to be a cut-off point and a line drawn as to who classifies for one service or another, but as a fourteen/fifteen year old girl was the children’s service the best for me?

I’m not saying I was an adult and I’m not saying that I had the mentality of an adult, but if you think back to being that age I bet you think you did at the time. You don’t want to be patronised, and you don’t want to be spoken to like a child. But that’s how I was treated, because there was no in-between service for teenagers.

The methods used on me in my treatment were not altered in any way considering my age; I was still spoken to in a way that the psychologist could have spoken to a seven-year old. I was still shown cartoons and pictures of dinosaurs (much friendlier and less horrifying than the ones I could find!) and I just remember being sat there in that same room every week thinking ‘why am I here?’.

dini

My panic attacks did eventually go away for a good few years, but I still think they just went by themselves. I grew out of whatever was making me have them at the time and that was that. I didn’t feel less anxious by the services that were provided for me and they didn’t make me determined and positive that I could overcome them, and this was only around seven/eight years ago so I’m sure they haven’t changed much in that time.

So my question to you is simple – are these services good enough for our teenagers and can anything be done about it if they’re not?

If mental illnesses can’t be managed effectively in childhood and as teenagers, the problems manifest into much bigger issues and full blown disorders in adulthood where they’re then harder to treat – so I think it’s incredibly important that healthcare systems are good enough for people of this age. Yes, the issue is in-part surrounding the individual therapists and how they tailor the system to each individual, but the fact remains that regardless of this, teenagers are put into the category of children and so a standard of care surely cannot be met across the board when the pyschologists are only presented with material for a young child. The NHS (at that time anyway), wasn’t necissarily helping teenagers form in to healthy young adults; but instead teenagers were just the in-between that got forgotten about.

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11 thoughts on “Not a girl, not yet a woman

  1. lolabipola says:

    This may sound a bit harsh, but that sounds to me more like the problem was a crap psychologist or councillor than a problem with the NHS per se. Although, having said that, there would be many factors that contributed to said “crap psychologist or councillors” methods. Perhaps they were not trained specifically to deal with teenagers, which is ridiculous. Perhaps they were limited in their resources (hence the dinosaur diagrams). Perhaps they were trained in this particular manner and didn’t have the forethought or motivation to research how best to talk to teenagers (or better yet, to get a teenager to talk to you!). But at the end of the day, that psychologist (or councillor) did not meet their ethical obligations to help you (in my humble opinion).

    Another thing to be considered I suppose, is that maybe they weren’t feeling fulfilled in their job? Its no excuse to deliver substandard therapy. I guess some people are motivated by money, and perhaps they didn’t think they were being paid enough to go the extra mile – I think that attitude stinks, and I certainly hope that I will not succumb to that attitude when I start practicing. Right now, I’m happy to earn minimum wage as long as I help to make a difference in someone’s life.

    I really hope that (if you ever need it again) you find an awesome therapist. They are out there. But sometimes it takes a while to find one that you can relate to, trust, and be yourself around.

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  2. Leslie says:

    I agree that this is probably more of a therapist problem. The therapist that I had before I moved out of state did a lot of work with teens. I took my step-son to her and she worked wonders for him. This would have been right around the same time that you were having your problems.

    I think it’s a shame that you were left to feel abandoned by the mental health community. And I’m absolutely not saying that there isn’t an issue within the NHS regarding how to treat teens. But, I think any therapist worth going to could do better then cartoon dinosaurs if they wanted to.

    Peace

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  3. KatieComeBack says:

    You often have to “try on” a few therapists before you find a good fit. And teenagers are tough – there’s an age where they eschew all things that could remotely be babyish, and then a few months later it’s all cool and they embrace it again. I’ve seen this in my daughter and Disney cartoons. At age 12-13 they were for kids and NO WAY would she watch; by age 15 Disney princesses were very popular in her peer group.

    Throw in fickle tastes with hormones and it’s just a tough audience! That’s why the right fit is key.

    I sort of wish my therapist would use cartoons. LOL

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    • bylaurenhayley says:

      I think the reason Disney comes back into a teenager’s life though is because they then feel that they’re at a grown up enough stage where it’s OK to have childish interests because it’s common knowledge that they’re too old for it so there’s no chance of an adult thinking it’s sweet and that they haven’t yet grown up. Whereas at 12-13 they think it will make them look like a child in the eyes of adults and their friends – for me that was how it was anyway. I think that’s why older teenagers find it much easier to be honest with what they like and don’t like; but all the while still wanting to be treated like an adult in normal day to day life.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Styled2z says:

    Growing up I felt like there was no proper method for helping adolescence to really cope. That’s why it is so great that you are open about this because there needs to be more awareness. I am all about advocating for mental health awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. searchingforthegoldenticket says:

    I agree that services should be broadly aligned with developmental stages and think the transition between them should be facilitated.
    In our area we have a service provider that offers support up to age 25 elsewhere, with a 16-25 approach but they are not commissioned to do so in our County.
    I can’t comment about the quality comparison between adolescent and adult services as such but the transition between the two has been more like changing rather than a continuum. The adult service covers 18 – 65. Given that the brain is still developing at age 18, I’m not sure that works either.

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  6. bp7o9 says:

    I dislike how small and young people are treated in general. I dislike using the word “children” or “child”. Both have too much subtext. So does “teen”. I agree that the developmental differences of the brain, due largely to age and experience, need to be addressed separately. But we cannot make assumptions about a person because of their age; maybe I’m wrong but it seems to me that young people growing up in trauma situations – whether that be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse from the outside OR an inner struggle like bipolar or anxiety – generally have a higher level (or maybe just a different level) of maturity and cognitive development than children who don’t experience this. Individuals need to be addressed as individuals. And yes, this stems back to the therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists. They need to use their knowledge of baseline development and cognitive recognition stages as guidance, not fact.

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