The power of listening is often overlooked

20th October 2017

Earlier this month we took the Going To Be campaign to the SNP Conference. SAMH media volunteer Caitlin-Jay spoke alongside Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald MSP; and SAMH Chief Executive, Billy Watson.

Here is her story.


“I started having problems with my mental health when I was at secondary school. I was being bullied by a bunch of girls, which caused me to become isolated, alone and struggling to cope. When I finally told my guidance teacher, I was told I was ‘too sensitive’ and this was why I was being bullied.

“This complete disregard for my feelings and opinions really took it’s toll on me and made me feel like the bullying was my fault. So it continued, and I began to feel like I had no one and that no one cared about what happened to me.

“The school were doing nothing about the bullying, so it continued until the bullies finally gave up – around two years later.

“By this point I was pretty much broken. I was in desperate need of help.

“I had some support from the school counsellor, however this was sparse and because I saw them so infrequently, it felt pointless. By the time I left school, there was no counsellor at all.

“During my time in early secondary school, I was under the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) system and was receiving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but personally I felt like it made no positive impact on my life – I was basically given worksheets to fill in that were fit for an 8 year old.

“I was discharged from CAMHS and within six months, had to get a referral back to the services. I waited about a year for my assessment. I hoped this would finally mean getting actual support and help.

“However, when I got there, the assessment only lasted 20 minutes. I knew at that point things weren’t going to go well. The assessor didn’t seem to care about me or what I had to say. After a few months I heard through my school counsellor that my referral had been declined.

“I was told I wasn’t a ‘serious enough case’ – because I wasn’t suicidal or self-harming. I felt let down and worthless. I wasn’t ‘serious’ or ‘ill’ enough for them to help me.

“The sad thing about this is that if the assessor had asked me if I was suicidal or self-harming, the answer was yes to both questions.

“I was driven further down into the black hole I was in.

“Luckily I did find support in an unlikely avenue. I was in sixth year and had formed a bond with my English teacher. She just seemed to get me, and actually listened to what I had to say. For me, she didn’t do anything that anyone else can’t. All she did was listen and let me say what I needed to say and reassured me that she was there for me.

“The power of listening is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most important skills someone can use when trying to support someone struggling with their mental health.

“Looking back at that time in my life, if it wasn’t for having really supportive and amazing parents and my English teacher there to help me through this time, I don’t know where I’d be now.

“I’m happy to say that I’m now out of that dark hole I was in. I’m in my third year of university studying Forensic and Analytical Chemistry at Strathclyde University. I am a Youth Champion Mentor for See Me, and a media volunteer for SAMH.

“I may still have a mental health condition and I know that I will have it for the rest of my life, but I do not let that stop me from getting where I want to do."


Find out more about our work on young people's mental health and join our Going To Be campaign here.