Workshops with young people

Today, as part of my volunteering, I went along to a secondary school to do some workshops on mental health and the service I volunteer for, at some point in every session we asked the students (ages 12-13) what they knew about mental health and mental health issues. Some of the answers we got back were really interesting and I wanted to share a few recurring ones.

1)      Although students were not clear on what Schizophrenia was, no one suggested it to be multiple personalities! (During college, this is what the majority of people I knew believe it to be). So I was very pleased with that! The most given answers were “paranoia” and “hearing voices”.

2)      A large number of students asked if dyslexia was a mental illness, this is something that was asked across all of the sessions. The students, however, did seem to understand the difference between learning issues and mental health issues when it was explained.

3)      When asked what beneficial stress busting tips they could come up with, a lot struggled to come up with ideas of what they could do when they were stressed. Punching things and throwing things seemed to come up a lot!

The workshops were really great and it looked like the young people took a lot away from it, so that was fab! We put across that anyone can suffer from mental health issues, and that they can lead a normal life and recover from those issues. There were no negative comments about mental illnesses and a lot of really interesting questions- was great to see them really engaging.


Anyway, I’m off to eat chocolate, watch a movie and think about how much work I’ve got to do…!


🙂 x


What makes a positive experience in Mental Health?

Hi again!

I realised that when talking to people about my experience in mental health, I usually focus on the negative when it came to treatment- this may be because there were quite a few! I think a lot of us do have a lot of negative experiences, for example, an admin error once meant that my confidential notes from counselling were sent to my mum; another time I was paired with a counsellor who, on week 4, said “by the way, I was only on placement so you will have someone new next week”, oh, thanks for the warning!… 

Anyway, I thought it was about time I focussed on the positives, because there were some of them too 🙂 We can’t just focus on what didn’t work without discussing things that do work.

So, what does make a positive experience in mental health treatment/ professionals?

As mentioned in my previous post, i think it definitely makes a difference when someone tries to get to know other aspects of your life, not only does it create an ice breaker at the beginning of every session (starting with “so what happened in the programme you were telling me about last week?” as opposed to “how is your mood?”) it also helps the young person feel that this session is specific to them, not just a list of questions asked to everyone. When a MH professional really puts the effort in to get to know you, it really shows, and can make the sessions so much more sucessful, and can really build TRUST- this is so important!! 
My counsellor last year made such an effort to get to know me, every week he asked me about events he knew I had that week- I have no idea how he managed to remember so much! But I really felt like a person, not just a number on a list. 

Another positive that was actually mentioned by a Mental Health professional was empowerment. I have had experiences on both ends of this, I have heard the phrase “I am worried about you” far too often, but when I finally heard that someone believed in me, it was quite encouraging! I did not feel under any pressure to do what my therapist said, but it helped knowing that he wasn’t looking at me like I was a lost cause!! 

I could go on, but I really want to hear what other people have to say! Does anyone else have any positive aspects, sharing them could really help others. Or have you had any negatives you think others can learn from, or you need to rant about?!


🙂 x 


Psychosis and OCD- My Story

I thought the best way to start my blog was an introduction to myself, and my story (sorry it’s a bit long!). I recently graduated with a degree in Psychology, now debating my next career steps. The reason I created MaisySmiles is because, in my own experience, I felt that I didn’t have enough support from people who had shared my experience, or that I could talk to as a young person. I felt like I was alone as a mental health sufferer, I now know that this is not true and I would like for other people to know that they too, are not alone.

From a young age I was always a bit superstitious, however, during my final year of primary school it became more than just superstition. I would have to do the same things the same way every day, and if for some reason I didn’t, I would become very anxious and try to get out of going to school. This was the start of my 10 year battle with OCD. I never tried to challenge my OCD, but when I reached 14 I realised that my anxiety had grown to full blown paranoia; I excluded myself from my friends and family; stopped going to school and was constantly convinced something bad was going to happen, and I started self-harming. Over the next few months this worsened dramatically and I was diagnosed with Psychosis.

It was all very confusing; I was young and had never even heard the word before. I was constantly passed from professional to professional; prescribed medication and people were constantly bombarding me with questions. I was treated like a young child and wasn’t involved in any decisions made about me, which made me not want to cooperate. I felt not many people wanted to know anything about myself, just my illness. However, I remember one counsellor, who I didn’t particularly want to see, started the session getting to know me and we found out we both had Jack Russell’s. We spent at least 10 minutes joking about the silly things they do (mine tends to run head first into walls quite often!) and I instantly started to warm to her. It felt such a relief just for one second to talk about something other than my Psychosis!

After recovering from a second episode of psychosis aged 15, I began to regain my confidence and my enjoyment in life, however, my OCD remained. It was not until last year, aged 20, that I was encouraged to try again and I spoke to the doctor about CBT. I was placed on the waiting list, and I was quite pessimistic about it, after all it didn’t work the first time, why should it work now? But I was very wrong. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

For the first time, I felt that this therapist believed that I could overcome my problems, as opposed to waiting for the next bad thing to happen and worrying about me rather than believing in me. My counsellor taught me about my emotions- how to understand my own feelings and we worked together in overcoming my OCD. I achieved the goals we set and so much more. I have come so far and have my counsellor, friends and family to thank for that.

During these years, there were many external obstacles I had to overcome, which is why I have created MaisySmiles. I felt that I didn’t have contact with people who had recovered; I did not have a role model; I heard more upsetting stories than I did positive ones, and I did not know anyone who was suffering any of the emotions I was.

It is so important for mental health to stop being a taboo subject, my friends and family did not know how to react when I was diagnosed with a mental illness, because they had no previous knowledge of what Psychosis or OCD are. If mental health can become something easier to talk about, people will be more likely to seek help and understand that they are not alone.

I hope that you will find MaisySmiles informative, but also, fun!

Thank you for taking the time to read this,
Follow me on twitter @MaisySmiles

🙂 x