Carly Newman had counselling at No5 age 15. In 2015 she became a Young Ambassador and then our Lead Young Ambassador in 2016. After completing her degree at Royal Holloway, University of London, she joined our staff team as our ‘Outreach and Social Media Assistant’ and in April 2019 was promoted to ‘Operations and Relationship Officer’ Below is her story in her own words.
Looking back, problems with my mental health probably started much earlier than I recognised, but I didn’t know what ‘mental health’ was, nor that the way I was feeling was because of my mental health or from the things I had experienced.
From the age of nine, I witnessed domestic violence at home, and despite knowing that it wasn’t right or normal, it became something that just happened at home in the evening, and I would go to school as normal each day not knowing whether it would happen again that night. I grew up very quickly, worrying about my Mum every day, especially when I was staying at my Dad’s over the weekends, not knowing what was happening to her while I was away. I felt responsible for looking after her and guilty for not being there every weekend. On one occasion my Mum’s partner told me that it was my fault that he had hurt my Mum and my response was to self-harm; to punish myself for being the reason why my Mum got hurt. Luckily, for me, self-harm has not been a regular part of my story, but a part nonetheless.
While this continued, my relationship with my Dad broke down when I was 12. I went from seeing him every weekend to having no contact at all. This made me unknowingly isolate myself from my friends; with one commenting that I was behaving like ‘someone had passed away’. I thought that I was good at pretending everything was fine.
I became very paranoid, being absolutely sure that events like ‘Own Clothes Day’ at school where set up to mock me; for me to turn up in own clothes, and everyone else to be in uniform. It was a regular occurrence that a friend would text me, the text would seem like they were ‘off’ with me, and I would
be awake all night going over and over what it was that I could have done to upset or annoy them and I would dread seeing them the next day at school as I was unsure how they would be with me. When I was 15, after this had gone on for about three years, with me being sure that no one had noticed or knew how I was feeling, my Head of Year recommended that I call No5.
That first call made a huge difference to me: There was someone who I didn’t know telling me that it would be alright, that I mattered and that someone would support me with what I was going through. They didn’t know anything about me, yet they cared. Despite the phone call making a massive difference, I was still scared of all the unknowns: I was worried that my counsellor would judge me and take notes as I was talking, all of which were proved wrong from the moment my first session started. My counselling journey lasted for the whole twenty sessions, with a counsellor who not only was calming, patient and encouraging, but one who also has completely changed my outlook. My counselling journey was so successful because my counsellor remembered things that I told her, and held them for me so I didn’t feel like I was carrying them on my own. No5 became a place of safety, where I could explore what was going on for me, cry if I needed to cry, and things would feel better once I walked out of the door.
Due to the success of my counselling story I can now cope with my anxiety and depression, and not feel out of my depth, but I also have gained a wealth of confidence with which I have been able to use to give back to No5 and spread awareness of mental health amongst the local community. I have been given so many incredible opportunities to raise awareness of mental health and de-stigmatise both mental health and counselling. I have delivered a presentation to Postgraduate Counselling Psychology students, presented at the No5 Annual General Meeting to our trustees and supporters, delivered many talks, presentations and workshops in Reading schools, colleges and other events such as Reading Pride, I have been filmed and interviewed by ITV Meridian, CBBC, That’s Thames Valley TV, and BBC Radio Berkshire.
In November 2017 I was awarded ‘Young Person of the Year’ in the Pride of Reading Awards for my volunteering work for No5 and have been asked to be the Guest Judge for the 2018 awards.
It is because of the counselling that I received at No5 that I have been able to do all these things, as well as achieve a First Class Honours in my English Literature and Philosophy degree, as I would not have been in a position to do so if it wasn’t for the support I received in those 20 sessions, and the skills that I learnt from them. It is also because of the opportunities that No5 have provided me as both a Young Ambassador and now as a member of staff that mean that I have not only been able to fulfil, but also to exceed, my potential.
It is no secret that Young people’s mental health is a massive issue both locally and nationally, and believe that through services like No5, with the input of passionate young people, we can destigmatise mental health and empower young people to help themselves, which I hope will aid the pressure on services and will encourage young people to seek help where needed rather than be embarrassed, ashamed or believe that other people need it more than they do, that their ‘problem’ isn’t bad enough, or that they will be judged.