Bailey’s story

From the age of eight, Bailey has had several experiences with CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services) and struggled to get the support he needed, eventually being referred to adult support services at 16. Despite a promising start, he feels let down by the support he has received from psychiatrists and transgender support services, and has learned to self-manage many aspects of his mental health instead.

“It started when I was about eight,” said Bailey. “I struggled really badly with anxiety and had an absolute fear of foxgloves [the poisonous plant]. I was also struggling to eat, which was why I was initially referred to CAMHS and had multiple sessions with them. My mum was convinced I had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and told CAMHS that I did, but CAMHS pretty much just said I was a difficult child and didn’t offer much in the way of support.”

As Bailey got a bit older, his anxiety calmed slightly and he began to feel better. But in the first year of high school his mental health deteriorated again. Bailey said: “When I was 11 and 12 I got quite badly bullied and started struggling with schoolwork. I ended up self-harming. I went to CAMHS again and it was awful really. It was pretty much the same thing as before, with them saying these were normal teenage experiences. I got a psychiatrist when I was 14, who diagnosed me with an emotional disorder and, again, I was told what I was going through was normal and that I'd grow out of it.

“Around this age things got quite bad, and I was hospitalised a few times due to self-harming. I also started having my first serious relationships, and that didn’t help at all. I was in touch with CAMHS several times and put in hospital a few times over those years. There was one time when CAMHS didn’t get back to me at all and I was left with absolutely zero support, which felt awful.”

Bailey was hospitalised again a few days before his 16th birthday. When a worker from CAMHS came to visit, Bailey refused to speak to them because his previous experiences with the service had been so bad. He was then referred to adult support services. He said: “I met with a psychiatrist there and I was diagnosed with emerging emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) and ADHD on my second meeting with him. I had sessions with him every few months and we tried a few different medications but none of them worked. I was getting bad side effects from all of them. I was also passed onto community psychiatric nurse, but the meetings were quite irregular and I’d started college by that point so it was difficult to find times to meet for support.”

Even after his diagnosis, Bailey has still found there is a lack of support in psychological services. His original psychiatrist recently left and, apart from an initial meeting with his new psychiatrist six months ago, he hasn’t received support since, despite calling for more information. He said: “I don't know what’s happening or when my next appointment’s going to be. It’s difficult because although I've got my diagnosis, I still need support and I am being left in the dark.”

Bailey is transgender and came out when he was 13, while still using CAMHS services, and has found the road to getting support with his transition difficult too. He said: “The psychologist I was with at 13 still referred to me by my old names and kept using my old pronouns, so it wasn’t a great feeling. I was referred to a specialist gender and sexual health service and after a long wait had a number of appointments with them when I was 14 and 15. I got back in touch when I turned 16, because they can't give you hormones until that age. But the doctor told me they couldn’t put me on hormones until I was three months hospital-free and completely mentally stable. This was while I wasn’t getting much support at all from other services, just the meeting every three months with my psychiatrist. So I was struggling to stay mentally stable and I told the doctors that.”

Bailey’s psychiatrist changed while he was waiting for his next meeting with the specialist service and he thinks this change led to him being removed from the clinic’s waitlist. He has since paid for private transgender support services. Bailey said: "That’s obviously coming out of my pocket and it is really expensive, but it’s such a necessity. I’ve been completely let down by the clinic because when I was in contact with them they didn’t do much at all. Then I was assured I wouldn’t be taken off their waitlist when my psychiatrist changed but they took me off it anyway.

“I have now been on testosterone for about a year and half, and I’ve felt a lot better. I think that’s definitely contributed to my mental health improving. I’m feeling better with my mental health right now, but it feels like that’s more my own doing than because of support from psychiatric services through the NHS, as I’ve had nothing recently.”

Bailey has been in a stable relationship for a year and a half, and has found that’s helped too. “Having someone to rely on, and stable relationships with my family as well, is one of the most helpful things I’ve got. And I have two rabbits and taking care of them really gives me purpose, so having those two has really helped. Music and reading also really help. It's relaxing and a great distraction. Even if I'm doing well, I still have bad days and having something that can distract you is so useful.”

Bailey found college difficult last year and struggled to attend. He realised he wasn’t enjoying the course, and has since switched to study health and social care, with the goal of being a mental health nurse.

“I’m really enjoying it. I want to give people the support I didn’t get,” Bailey said.