Mental health is something that will affect all of us at some point in life, whether LGBTQ+ or not. Personally, I had my own struggles for years and thankfully I was able to overcome it. It’s never easy to beat something that can take such a huge toll on your everyday life, but there comes a time when enough is enough.
But today we want to share Yasmine Summan’s story, a YouTuber who had her own battle with mental health and wants to use her experience to hopefully help others who are struggling. Whether we admit it or not, there is still a stigma around mental illness. But we want to normalise it, talk about it and make sure no one feels alone. So, we’ve asked Yasmine about her own journey with her mental health, stick around to find out what she faced and how she overcame it all!
When did you first realise you were suffering with your mental health?
I think the signs had always been there, it was more just about finally realising it. For me it was when I reached Year 9, I’d just had a huge falling out with all of my friends, as well as getting beaten up and harassed by girls in my school which further humiliated me in front of my whole school year.
At the same time, I’d been dealing with severe social anxiety at a young age and terrible cystic acne that only further lowered my confidence and made it harder for me to make friends. Going into Year 9 with little to no friends, being the laughing stock of my whole year and already not feeling too confident about myself just made me hit rock bottom.
Suddenly it all came into perspective, I began to realise that everything around me was just depressing, negative or sad and I remember one day when my mom picked me up from school I just blurted it out, “mom I think I might be depressed.” I’d practiced it all day in my head, relaying all of her reactions, what she might think or feel, whether she’d even take me seriously or not and worried about it so much. Luckily my mom’s an NHS nurse and an amazing mom so she completely understood and took me to the GP to get help that week.
How did it affect your social life with your friends?
Honestly, it was a real strain on the few friendships I had. I immediately became reclusive toward my friendship group and hardly came into school. Whilst they did try to reach out and help me I was so knee deep in my own self-hatred that anyone who got close would just be dragged under with me.
Upon reflection, I wish I’d have just taken my friends help but also given them space when they were upset and helped them through their problems rather than constantly worrying them with my own problems. It’s about giving and taking. Obviously, you’re in a delicate place right now and your friends are going to try their hardest to help you so be understanding and patient with them as they might also be going through something and vice versa.
Did you get the help you needed once you reached out?
Yes and no. The NHS mental health system at the time was a complete failure, I was recommended to their “CAHMS” facility that had me jumping from consultant to consultant, with cancellations happening regularly because they were too busy and I was never actually given coping mechanisms or a diagnosis of my problem.
However, I did reach out to the people around me and with the strength of my family and friends, I was able to power through my depression and suicidal episodes.
Do you think there is enough support out there for young people struggling with their mental health?
Nope, nope, straight-up no. The support system in place that the government promotes completely failed me and so many others. I never received any help or understanding of my problems, and if anything it only upset me more because I felt like I couldn’t be saved. The NHS needs to step up their game and really sort out better facilities for young people dealing with mental health problems.
How does it feel to be able to say you recovered and overcame your struggles?
Really relieving because being depressed is just so emotionally draining. Now I’ve got the energy, ambition and self-belief to achieve my goals the world is my oyster. I feel so liberated like I’ve finally broken free from the shackles that held me down for so many years and stopped me from understanding who I really am. Truly what summarises it for me is; I’ve become the role model that my depressed, suicidal 14-year-old self needed.
However in saying that, I do still have the odd episode where I feel low in mood and unaware of my own self-worth now and again. I don’t really think depression just “goes away” for some people, sometimes it will still randomly spot throughout your life when you’re at a low point.
But as you grow into a stronger and more emotionally stable person you begin to build a system of how to cope with mental health issues. So anytime I feel low or depressed now, I always use my specific techniques and methods of coping that help me immediately get out of that dark place and get me back on track.
What advice would you give to your younger self to deal with mental health?
Don’t. Care. What. People. Think. EVER.
Most of my teenage years were consumed with worrying about what other people thought of me. If they liked me, if I was good enough. I was such an anxious worried child who just wanted to be loved and validated but was only met with the harsh reality of life and mean kids in high school.
I wish I just didn’t care when I was younger, I wish I didn’t listen to all the rumours, that I didn’t feed into the drama, that I just kept my head down and minded my own business because it would have benefited my mental health so much. Now I literally never see or hear from these people that made my life hell, most are doing worse off if anything, which just re-iterates that I shouldn’t have cared for these people to begin with because now they mean nothing to me.
Is there anything you wish you did differently while coping with your mental health, such as using other coping mechanisms or asking for help earlier?
I wish I’d have listened to my friends and family earlier who tried to help me as soon as I began to struggle but I pushed them all away. Now I realise that if I’d of just swallowed my pride and anxieties and admitted to my truths, being that I was severely depressed, self-harming and on the brink of suicide, I could have got the help I needed earlier and avoided a lot of pain and self-destruction.
But I think what people forget is it’s just not that easy. It’s not as simple as telling your friends and family “hey so I really really want to die…. Like for real.” You feel this huge weight of guilt and shame leering over you for fear of disappointing your family members or being outcasted by your friends.
People tend to feel almost ashamed of their issues which only makes things worse and most of the time family members and friends are more than understanding of your issues than you think. Bottling things up and not telling someone is much more damaging, sometimes you have to bare through your anxieties and just be honest with yourself. There’s no reason to be ashamed because trust me, everyone struggles.
Of course we all have our bad days; do you feel like you can now cope better with setbacks in life now that you’ve overcome the worst of your mental health struggles?
As dark as it sounds my whole life motto is “well you survived killing yourself and almost drowning by accident when you were 4, clearly whatever omnipotent force in the world wants you here so you can do anything.” I’ll always have my off days where I feel really low and sometimes depressed, but over the years I’ve created a battle armour of coping mechanisms that have helped me along the way, some of which are: talking to my boyfriend/friends/family and going through my problems step by step to work out what the issue is and how I can resolve it, doing youtube or art as a way to distract myself from my issues and let my creativity flourish, getting out of the house and doing things that I enjoy to lift my spirits etc.
Once you’ve really hit rock bottom and seen yourself at your truly lowest points it can only get better i.e. the saying “it has to get worse before it gets better.” Nothing can compare to how I used to feel, anytime I ever feel sad I just think back to how truly unhappy I used to be and realise that I’m getting upset over minuscule things that really don’t matter.
Now more than ever, my depression has shaped me into becoming a strong, powerful, dominating female force ready to take over the world and I’m oddly grateful for that. Yes, my depression was the worst years of my life but it moulded me into the beautiful woman I am today who can take on the worst storms.
Did you face any judgement towards your struggles and do you think there is still a lot of stigma towards mental health in today’s society?
In high school, they really put me through it. Constantly people would question the validity of my mental health, most thought that I was just lying and making it up for attention and would go out of their way to tell me that, or I’d even be the butt of cruel jokes because I had mental health issues. I don’t think the educational system did me any favours either and I’d go as far to say that it does discriminate against people with mental health issues.
Whilst I was seeing a counsellor at school and had registered doctor visits every single week that the school knew about, my attendance would still be noted as absent when I went for doctors visits because the current system wouldn’t acknowledge that going to see a doctor or specialist for mental health issues was actually a valid reason for time off.
Any day I was having a severe suicidal episode I was still forced to go into school and teachers would even make me feel bad for skipping days off school because I genuinely felt too depressed to come in and they couldn’t acknowledge that. The same stands for many people in high school’s across the UK and I think more needs to be done toward acknowledging and understanding mental health in young teenagers.
Edited by Ash O'Keeffe
Message from the editor: Mental health is something a huge amount of us struggle with daily and having people such as Yasmine talk about their own experience is so important as it shows that you are not alone and things will get better. Don’t struggle alone, there are so many people who want to help you.