Hello, my name is Alex.

Like tens of thousands of young people in Scotland, I’ve struggled with my mental health. Whilst much of my story talks about the difficult experiences I’ve had with major depression, anxiety, and undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I would also like to reflect on my many positive experiences with counselling and CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), which has truly changed my life.

I first remember struggling with anxiety when I was six, as I would be shuffled between my mum and dad’s house due to an, at times, difficult home life. These early mental health struggles would later develop into major depression during my teenage years, exasperated by what I would later discover to be undiagnosed ASD, commonly known as autism. I regularly self-harmed to cope, which would later culminate in a near suicide attempt due to a build-up of all my thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Soon after this, I spent six months with a one-to-one counselling service, Rookie Minds. However, it was at CAMHS when I was officially diagnosed with ASD. I had a good experience with CAMHS, and without it I wouldn’t be here today. My counsellor was kind, helpful and caring, and gave me the safe spaces I needed to explore and heal, especially as I had trouble trusting organisations due to high school experiences. I wish everyone could have had the CAMHS experience I did, but I understand that mental health services are extremely underfunded.

Since being discharged from CAMHS in late 2019, and experiencing frequent highs and lows, I haven’t let my mental health or ASD hold me back. I previously served as a mental health ambassador for my school, giving talks to packed rooms of S2 pupils on stress, anxiety, depression and self-harm. I’ve built a good relationship with the pupils there, and public speaking has improved my confidence and ability to answer tough questions during these discussions.

My long-term goal is to prevent what I went through from happening again. To achieve this, I’m currently studying psychology with hopes of becoming a fully qualified psychologist. I’m also supporting my studies by working as a part-time carer helping the elderly and vulnerable. In my remaining time, I’m also an officer at my Boy’s Brigade Company, where I provide a safe space for young men in my community. Overall, I like to stay busy!

I know that my mental health issues and ASD will live with me for the rest of my life. I’ve come to accept that. However, I now embrace my unique experiences and strive to use it to help others around me.

The way I see it is, mental health is like a pot of boiling water. If you don’t give it enough heat or attention, you’ll have cold water and feel down. Take on too much at once, and stress can boil over without you realising. Take small, consistent steps forward.