Enya is part of YMCA Cardiff’s Young Carer’s Programme. She looks after her father who has mental health difficulties and helps out with other members of the family. Enya is sharing her experiences of mental health difficulties for the #IAMWHOLE campaign to help raise awareness of the needs of young carers and to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health difficulties.

“When I came up to High School in Year 7, around five years ago, I started to experience bullying and it affected me a lot and I started seeing a counsellor at CAMHS [Children Adult Mental Health Services]. And it just built up from there a lot.

“It started off as verbal bullying, but then it would be like the push in PE and budges in the corridor. That went on until I moved schools which was the end of Year 8.

“But it still continued because a lot of people moved to my second school that I am in now, a few of them carried it on through that school and through social media.

“I still get the slight comments but it’s kind of like I don’t really care about it anymore, it’s not important to me.

“My mum noticed as soon as I started having these comments my mood dropped, I became very anti-social, I would stay in my room. I usually want to go out with my friends all the time and I completely stopped that. I cut everyone off and she was like, ‘you need to go and see someone about it’.

“At first CAMHS were pretty good, they put me on a suicide watch list, so I had counselling every week but we’ve just been told basically that I’m kicked out of CAMHS now because they can’t do anything more for me.

“I wasn’t given an actual counsellor, I was given a social worker to do counselling with me. But he was not very helpful at all, he kind of blamed being a young carer as the cause of my depression a lot. I didn’t think that was very fair because he only asked about one topic all the time.

“I was really angry, I started refusing to go to counselling sessions because he upset me a lot, saying my mum wasn’t doing what she needed to do to help me. And I am quite defensive when it comes to my parents so, I started refusing to go. And I went to see someone else then.

“My mum feels that because we have a lot of mental health difficulties in my family it’s kind of taken over my life now, so our next step is to go back to our GP and see someone else instead of CAMHS, but take it like further into the NHS.

“I want to see someone who will listen to me and not blame it on my parents. I want someone to see what’s going on in my life and just help me. I struggle a lot with talking to people because I find people don’t listen and I want someone to listen to me.

“I started getting support in school now. They’ve decided to give me five hours a fortnight, they’ve dropped one of my subjects so I can have that time to catch up with anything I need to do and speak to any teachers I need to speak to and then have counselling in school as well. I can think to myself and they are giving me extra time so I don’t have to like rush within exams and stuff, so I can just like focus properly, because I know with exams I will get so overwhelmed I will kind of have a meltdown.

“They’ve only just really come to terms with it. At first, they were like ‘no we can’t do anything for you’. They were like concentrating on my grades rather than my wellbeing. But as soon as like my Youth Worker’s got involved they kind of started listening more.

“Half way through year 7 I turned to self-harming. People saw my scars during PE and I got called an attention seeker and that I was doing it just so I could have something to talk about to people. But that’s not what it was.

“I started fighting back, but physically. And it did not go down the way I wanted it too.

“It made it a lot more difficult to talk to my parents about it because there is so much going on for them anyway. I was just like I don’t want to kind of disturb them with my kind of problems.

“It’s been coming a lot more from my mum. I still find it difficult talking to her, but she’s more aware of the signs when I’m feeling low, she’s recognised the signs and she’s always there now.

“I am quite happy to share my experiences now because I know that seeing the facts of it happening to others and them not talking it’s kind of shown me maybe I do need to talk.

“I want to travel but I really want to get a degree in business and A level maths, I want to do something with my life. I think for a couple of years I would want to stay here because I would want to improve the environment to make it better because I’ve seen how it affects kids now, I would want to improve it for the future generation. But then I think I’d also like to travel to do something for myself rather than other people.

“Through YMCA, I am now working on my youth achievement. It’s helped me to get involved in projects outside of school and it’s made me see the bigger picture of the whole of Cardiff and the whole of Wales. Whereas I would have just stayed at home and done nothing.”

Since joining YMCA Cardiff’s young carer group, Enya has been working to give other young carers a voice. In June 2017 she helped to organise an event in the Senedd which led to the first specific discussion on young carers in the Welsh Assembly. She continues to use her experiences to fight for more support for other young carers.