Mair is a student and active mental health campaigner. She’s also an NCMH Research Champion, helping to spread the word about our research. This is her story:
Hi, my name is Mair and I’m 18 years old. I am currently finishing my Biology A-level, I hope to go back to college to finish my Chemistry and Maths A-levels in the future too.
Before then though I am planning to go travelling. In my free time I love to go riding, (I have a pony called Tommy), going on walks (especially along the Pembrokeshire coast line), and I probably spend way too much time watching Netflix series back to back whilst eating way too much chocolate – but I am a teenager, so I have an excuse! And don’t worry, the chocolate gets burnt off when I am in the gym, which is something else I love doing.
In the rest of my spare time I campaign for better mental health services for children and young people, and raise awareness of mental health and mental illness through the media (I did two TV programmes, one for S4C and another for ITV Wales) and speaking out about my experiences.
I became ill when I was 14, and I started seeing CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services) when I was 15. If I remember correctly, I was given a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, and I also discovered that I had ASD (autism spectrum disorder). I believe it was a combination of school stress (I am a perfectionist) and my ASD that were the main causes of my illness.
My ASD was discovered really late (I was 15); I had always known I was different but I never knew why, which lead to low self-esteem. I received Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and I’ve tried many different medications. Because of my mental health problems I’ve spent several months in hospital and more than a few evenings in A+E due to self-harm. I also developed disordered eating, and all together it was the worst couple of years of my life.
But now I am receiving a talking treatment called Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (which is a bit like CBT), which is really helpful, and has helped me to stop self-harming. I can regulate my emotion a bit better, and I am a pro at mindfulness! I am in a much better place now, and feeling a lot more positive about life.
I first heard about NCMH from my mum actually, and we decided we would volunteer together. It was super simple to get involved – all we did was register online, which only requires a few details to be entered, then someone from NCMH got in contact with us and arranged to come meet us at home when it suited us.
I wanted to volunteer because, as someone who loves science, I know that the only way forward in terms of discovering the causes and the risk factors behind mental illness and developing better treatments is through scientific research.
I also have a bit of an issue when it comes to diagnosis, because currently psychiatric diagnoses are best guesses, because there is no other way to assess someone’s mental state than to use tick boxes and judgement, whereas a more effective way to diagnose an illness would be to have hard biological/scientific evidence, which research could help to develop.
The volunteering involved doing a few simple questionnaires, meeting with a very lovely NCMH trained researcher, and giving a small amount of blood (which was really quick and not scary at all!). The process was very simple, and took no longer than 60 minutes including filling the questionnaires, meeting the researcher and giving blood.
I seriously urge anyone who’s is capable of taking part to do so. For the research to be credible and useful, a large number of volunteers are needed. It was so easy and simple, the people are really kind, and you are making an invaluable contribution to a nation-wide project designed to make a difference, which will make you feel good about yourself!