16 Jan 2020
Please be aware this piece contains references to sexual assault and rape, which some people may find distressing.
On her experience of housing
At 15 when I hit puberty, everything went out the window. Me and my mum were arguing all the time, and she got stressed. We’ve both got mental health problems so it was just lots of arguments. I’ve got two younger siblings, so my mum said ‘you need to move out, because it’s not good them seeing us arguing all the time’.
I was sofa-surfing, between my friends and my Nan. Housing said I wasn’t old enough yet, the only thing they could offer was foster care, and I didn’t want to do that – I was too old for that. So I ended up just sofa-surfing between my Nan’s and a couple of places for two years.
Then I went back to the council because I couldn’t stay with my Nan – I was putting her tenancy at risk by living there. I was three months off being 18 then, so they said ‘come back when you’re 18’.
I got referred to a project that works with young people at risk of homelessness then, who referred me to a mixed hostel for anyone over 18. It’s in an area where there are all the drug dealers and sex workers and sexual exploitation.
I knew a few people there so I thought it would be ok at first. There were a few lads I got on with, but then I started getting in trouble. The lads would get a bit overexcited having a girl around, you know what lads are like.
The staff pulled me aside one day and said ‘maybe you should put more clothes on’, which I didn’t think was right because why weren’t the lads being told not to treat a woman like that?
One night there was one old man, about 42, in one of the communal areas who tried to kiss me. And he’d been telling me earlier he had a daughter about my age! So I hit him, and then security came in, and said I was being reckless and causing problems. I don’t understand how I can get abused and I’m the one being kicked out.
The project for young people I’d originally been referred to understood I was at risk, and that wasn’t a safe decision – they said, in the end, ‘we shouldn’t have put you there’.
So then I went to young people’s supported housing, for 16 to 25-year-olds, boys and girls. There are pros and cons to both. You’re allowed to have friends there, it’s nice – it felt more like a home and not like a prison.
I met a few people there. I had a good time, but there was a lot of drama. Always about men, I was always in the middle. Because there are loads of lads, they see a female – ‘you were a new fish in the pond’, that’s what they said. I said, ‘it’s wrong – you shouldn’t speak about women like that’.
In the hostel, it was bad because of the age gaps. One girl I knew there, she had inappropriate comments, inappropriate touching, had her arse slapped. She warned me, she said ‘don’t come in drunk, they’ll take advantage.’ The older women kept themselves to themselves, they knew what it was like. They felt violated every time they left their room.
Then I found out I got a letter from the council saying I could get a flat, so I moved out. I went and viewed a flat. I said there were areas where I couldn’t be, where ex-boyfriends were, and that I wanted to be near my mum. Even though this flat was about as far away from my mum as you could get, I decided to take it so I moved in and got the keys.
On her experience of mental health
At 15, I had an apprenticeship to do childcare. But then at 16 I was raped. After it happened, I went back to work, to try and just keep going and distract myself. But I just went downhill. My boss would talk to me and I couldn’t hear what she was saying, I started losing interest.
I got really bad depression. One day my boss pulled me into a room with my assessor, she’d come all the way from Manchester and I’d never met her before. She sat there and said, ‘we think you need a break from work and if you do, you can come back – we don’t think you’re in an emotionally right place to do it’. It was upsetting because being a teacher was all I’ve ever wanted.
The doctor signed me off for six months, then I wasn’t getting any better, so I went back and got referred to a mental health unit. I was in and out of there for a while. The doctor agreed I wasn’t ready to go back, which was sad, but I want to wait until I’m ready.
But I’m in a good place now, even though I moved on from childcare. I love makeup now and I want to do that instead.
The mental health team have been pretty rubbish. I’ve had three suicide attempts, and they just give you a piece of paper with numbers on it to call.
Mental health – they don’t do fuck all. I have no faith or trust in the mental health team.
I feel more mentally stable with my worker here as my mental health worker. I feel like they would do more for my mental health than mental health does. They’re supposed to be there to help, but they actually make you worse. My worker helps with lots of things. Like when I was on the phone to the mental health team, I had to hand the phone to Tianna because I got so angry.
They ask ‘how’s your day’, not ‘have you been suicidal?’
Mental health need to get better at sharing information. It’s just having to tell your story time and again, they don’t know enough about you when you see them.
The last time the ambulance came out when I said I was going to kill myself, the paramedic called the mental health nurse to ask ‘what are you going to do for her?’ The ambulance has better things to do than this, but he sat with us for three hours before he had to leave. I don’t want to call 999 in case someone else needs it in an emergency, but what else can you do? You don’t want to put people out of their way.
I was abused by my cousin at 8, and I was only ready to speak about it in secondary school. After I went to the group, and the girl in it broke my trust, after that there wasn’t much help. There wasn’t anything else they could offer.
They need to make services worthwhile. At the moment you’re not getting much from it. Otherwise, we’re just going round in a circle. Maybe if they’d tackled my mental health when I was younger, maybe it would be better now.