teens

'I wanted the pain to end.' Bella attempted suicide age 17. Then her teacher stepped in.

CONTENT WARNING: This post deals with mentions of depression and suicide ideation and may be triggering for some readers. Please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 if you’re struggling with symptoms of mental illness.

I first felt the depredations of depression at 14. I had no idea what I was feeling, why I was feeling it and how to make it stop. All I knew was that I was in pain, I was hurting. It was a kind of pain that encompassed every part of my being, leaving me feeling weak and unable to fight against it.

I was extremely unhappy with many aspects of my life. I felt as though I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. My lack of self-worth contributed heavily to me not seeking help or telling anyone about how I was struggling with these feelings of depression. Along with depression came anxiety. I had become too afraid of being put in situations I would be uncomfortable in that I barely left the house, unless it was for school. I hated that anxiety hindered me from living a normal teenage life.

During this period of time, my sister was struggling with her own mental health issues. I believed my sister’s illness was more important than any feeling of depression I was having. I believed she was worth the help of my parents and doctors more than I. This meant I stayed silent about my struggles, bottling everything up, pretending that everything was fine and hoping that these feelings would disappear on their own.

I had begun performing acts of self-harm, at around the age of 15. These destructive acts increased feelings of depression, heightened anxiety. I felt like I did not matter, I didn’t feel important to anyone despite realistically knowing that I was. Feelings of depression altered the way I thought about myself and my relationships with others.

Bella shares her struggles with her mental health on SBS’ Insight.

Video by SBS

This way of feeling became the ‘norm’ for me, I was so insistent on not having my parents find out about my struggles. I felt ashamed; scared that I would be nothing but an embarrassment to them, thinking that they would be ashamed of me. I didn’t want to be perceived as weak for feeling this way.

The next few years passed like a blur, I was stuck in this spot of helplessness and sadness. Getting up every day was a struggle, something I began to dread.

Around the same time, my parents went through a difficult divorce. My dad had left my family and disappeared from my life completely.

This was an enormous struggle for me. I was at a complete loss and did not know how to grieve the father-daughter relationship I had. I had lost a central figure in my life within a day and my feelings of worthlessness increased. The feelings of depression I had magnified to an extent I did not think possible. My relationship with trust, and my ability to trust the people around me was damaged. How could I trust other people to support me and my mental health if my own dad couldn’t even stick around?

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I was struggling with ideations of suicide, I was under the impression my life was not worth living, I wanted the sadness and all the pain to end. I thought taking my own life was the only option I had. After my attempt when I was 17, I broke down at school one day, unable to control any of my emotions any longer. I felt myself fall apart and confided in a teacher about my struggles.

She aided me in receiving help, and I began undertaking regular psychologist appointments and was put on medication.

Fast forward three years, I am no longer in therapy, I no longer take anti-depressants. I can honestly say I am happy. I have grown into an optimistic, positive and motivated person.

teen depression help
Bella at 17 years old. Image: SBS / Supplied.

My experience with mental ill health has allowed me to appreciate my life in a whole new light. Time and time again I am thankful for the struggles that I faced and the qualities it gave me - resilience, confidence, and a newfound sense of empathy. Attributes, which I make an effort to implement in my everyday life.

I am so incredibly thankful for the huge outpouring of support I received. Although I wish my experience with mental health did not reach the extent that it did, my experience shaped me into the person I am today. I was so afraid of reaching out for help due to fear of judgement, to the stigma surrounding mental ill health that it took a suicide attempt to realise that struggling in silence was the worst possible thing I could have done.

These days, I spend my time giving back with the help of an organisation called batyr, I am able to share my mental health story, proving that it’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to reach out for help and life really does get better.

I am proud of myself, my mental ill health experience and all. I love my life and all the challenges that come my way, and wouldn’t change a single thing about it.

Tonight on Insight, why is teen suicide on the rise? And what can we all do to help young people who are experiencing distress. Tune in to SBS on Tuesday, 7 May at 8:30 pm

If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14. Kid's Helpline is also available on 1800 551 800.

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