SNAPPING a picture and posting on Instagram is like a modern-day diary for many teenagers.
But for 19-year-old Tee, from Northamptonshire, the images weren’t arty shots of her breakfast or her feet in a warm mountain of sand.
Instead, the teen shared pictures of herself showing her stick thin legs and would write degrading comments underneath, such as: “Fat as f***”.
She would obsessively scroll through accounts showing girls with their ribs poking out or horrific self-harm injuries.
It would soon send her into a downward spiral with her mental health and fuel her negative thoughts about her own image.
Tee started battling with an eating disorder – starving herself to the point where she would faint daily – and self-harming.
Eventually, she was sectioned and sent to a mental health hospital in 2017 for her own safety.
She was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, complex PTSD and Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, following abuse she suffered in her childhood.
Now 22-years-old, Tee is starting to recover and is opening up about how social media impacted on her mental health as part of The Sun’s You’re Not Alone campaign.
This week, we are publishing a series of articles looking at the mental health time bomb facing Britain’s kids.
Campaigners warn young people are growing up in a pressure cooker, with school stress, social media and body image issues all playing a part.
Tee said: “I began struggling with my mental health from a very early age, but I started deteriorating quite rapidly when things related to my childhood trauma were being processed by the police.
“This was a painful experience and this was when I was first diagnosed with severe depression.
Throughout my life I have always had a love hate relationship with my body
“Throughout my life I have always had a love-hate relationship with my body.
“There are days were I see myself as fat and go to extreme lengths to try and look ‘perfect’ and ‘skinny’.
“I get into a mindset where I think those behaviours would make me happy, but it doesn’t, it makes me ill.”
Tee admits that at her lowest point, she set up a specific “mental health” Instagram account so she could look at “toxic” content.
She said: “I had an Instagram account specifically used for mental health updates and to communicate with people going through similar issues.
“This turned from being supportive to being detrimental within a very short period of time and I was oblivious to this until it was too late.
“I was obsessed with scrolling through these accounts of people struggling with severe self-harming and eating disorders and it became the norm to post photos and talk about such triggering subjects.”
I was obsessed with scrolling through these accounts of people struggling with severe self-harming and eating disorders
She added: “Because when I was ill I was telling myself that I was helping people and that people understood me too.
“But really it was the opposite because it was making my behaviours and thoughts about myself worse and more damaging to my recovery.
“A lot of these social media sites contributed to my mental health relapses and it something I wish I could tell every person out there to avoid.”
Tee’s mental state was quickly deteriorating and she was self-harming more frequently, and even made attempts to take her own life.
Around the same time she was transitioning between Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and adult mental health services.
She says that the lack of support added to her mental state and believes it’s something the government needs to change.
Hope for the future
Tee said: “I think it’s poor practice that from the morning of a persons 18th birthday they are either dropped from services due to not fitting a specific criteria anymore, or they are transitioned poorly with lack of knowledge, guidance and dignity.
“This is something that can really jeopardise someone’s recovery because they are already in a vulnerable place and it’s not fair that from one hour to the next their care is completely different.”
In 2017, she was admitted to St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton, where she received specialised Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).
“It really did give me hope for the future. I learnt to see myself for who I really was and not for the person my mind convinced me I was,” she said.
She started to limit her time scrolling on social media – and was eventually able to delete her account.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember, www.uk.movember.com
Tee said: “It’s not fair to put myself through the stress of seeing the images of these ‘perfect’ celebrities, and all these alternative fad diets that feed into my negative eating behaviours, all over my timeline.
“It took me a while, but after a lot of therapy and internal strength, I have also managed to delete the unhealthy Instagram account I had.
“It will be a year in October since I deleted it and it has made a massive difference.”
She added: “My main way of coping though is by living my life through my eyes and not through my phone screen.
“I’m not perfect and some days I do fall back into the obsessive scrolling, but it’s a process that will take time to fully conquer.
“I definitely feel like I’ve reached a good place with my mental health as I have a really good support network and have many exciting things happening for me at the moment.
“I still struggle at times with my body image and low self-esteem, and there are occasions where I feel like my emotions can get the better of me.
MORE ON YOU'RE NOT ALONE
“But mental health doesn’t have a day off so I continue to work hard in every situation and every frame of mind.
“I am now a healthy weight and rarely fall back into negative coping mechanisms like restricting my food intake and weighing myself 3-4 times a day and it is something I’m really proud of.
“I am also starting university this month to study Occupational Therapy which was once only a dream due to my struggles, but now I feel positive about my future for the first time in a very long time.”
The key signs your loved one is at risk of suicide
There are several warning signs that a person is at risk of suicide. But it’s vital to know that they won’t always be obvious.
While some people are quite visibly in pain and become withdrawn and depressed, others may continue their life as normal pretending everything is fine.
Look out for subtle personality changes in friends and family, especially if you know they have been going through a tough time, Lorna told The Sun Online.
These are the key signs to watch out for:
- A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating less than normal
- Struggling to sleep, lacking energy or appearing particularly tired
- Drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual
- Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
- Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
- Becoming withdrawn from friends and family – not wanting to talk or be with people
- Appearing more tearful
- Appearing restless, agitated, nervous, irritable
- Putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way, for example ‘Oh, no one loves me’, or ‘I’m a waste of space’
- Losing interest in their appearance, not liking or taking care of themselves or feeling they don’t matter
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