Psychosis (young people)

Nikki

Female
Age at interview: 19

Brief outline: Nikki had a difficult childhood and felt different from others. Her experience of psychosis worsened after a traumatic event when she was 14. She now manages her voices well and actively supports others with mental health experiences.

Background: Nikki’s ethnic background is White, English.

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When Nikki was very young, she felt that other people were very different to her. When she was 5 or 6 she thought people around her were aliens posing as humans. She remembers her family watching ‘Haunted House’ on TV and feeling very uncomfortable with that. Her mother was unwell a lot and Nikki was a young carer and helped out in the home. Her dad was there for her but he worked hard and he didn’t know how best to help her. She was continually bullied through her childhood and other children treated her as “different, not in a good way”. When she was 14, after a traumatic experience, she started hearing voices all the time, which were very negative. She told a friend, but then discovered the friend had spread rumours about her. She had a very difficult period when she was self-harming regularly and tried to take her own life. She went to A &E many times because she couldn’t keep herself safe. She was “intensely unwell”, and felt confused and terrified by the experiences she was having. 

Two weeks after the traumatic event, her GP referred her to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Initially they didn’t think her experiences were severe enough, but within 6 months she had gone downhill and her school counsellor referred her again. This time she was seen and given some support. She has been given several diagnosis at different times including personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, and once saw someone had ticked the box for ‘schizophrenia’ on her hospital records. She doesn’t necessarily find these labels helpful. She thinks that the NHS system has helped her but it is difficult to access help and she experienced stigma within the NHS. 

Nikki has received support from CAMHS and adult services. She found CAMHS could be patronising. Everything she told them was reported back to her father, and that made it difficult to trust them. Adult services were better in that respect, but had their own flaws. Nikki has had 5 hospital admissions over the years, the last time was 3 years ago, and she has been in private and public hospitals. She found that private hospitals were very strict about safety and tended to want to keep her there. She never felt comfortable there and hated it. Although the hospital had kept her safe while she was there, being there didn’t help her to get better. She was discharged from CAMHS aged 17 and when she needed support six months later adult Services refused to help her because she wasn’t yet 18. 

Charities have been most helpful to her, and telephone services run by charities are good because they are quicker to support her and less judgmental. She did also try talking therapies and found dialectical behaviour therapy good. Nikki is training to be a mental health nurse and currently volunteers for a number of charities as well as setting up her own mental health peer support group for young people.

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