#useyourvoice: ‘Accessing therapy should not be a middle-class privilege’ says mental health activist Grace Victory

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  • At a time when we're more open than ever before about discussing mental health, Grace argues we still have a long way to go until vital help is immediately accessible for all - not just for those who can afford it

    ‘Over the last four years I’ve had two incredible therapists who have completely and utterly changed my life. The list of positive changes is ever growing, from recognising triggers to learning how to self regulate and nurture the wounded parts of myself. Nevertheless, the biggest most empowering thing so far is being able to hear my individual voices; inner child, adult self and ego. Identifying these has been paramount in living a more complete life.

    I am the biggest advocate for getting well and embarking on a journey of self compassion, kindness and full embodiment healing. I talk tirelessly on social media, as well as in real life with friends and family about the benefits of real mental health support.

    However my life hasn’t always been this way. There was a point where I was a hyper-vigilant, inner critical and super depressed. I had little self awareness of why I struggled with intimacy and my relationships were deeply affected by this. Including the relationship I had with myself.

    There were so many parts of my internal core that I didn’t recognise, understand or even like. I was in a downward spiral of unhappiness and at the time, I couldn’t see a way out.

    Back in 2015, discussing mental health – especially poor mental health, was still pretty taboo. It had yet to reach everyday conversation and the talk of healing just wasn’t within my circle. In fact, psychological trauma was a phrase my 25-year-old self hadn’t come across. I remember my first therapist asking me what I did for ‘self care and to self soothe’ and I had to ask her to elaborate on the question because I was confused. I just didn’t know. I didn’t have the knowledge and I certainly didn’t have the education or access.

    You see, having therapy and getting well is a privilege. For many (including my former self), we are just not thought about. The first time I stepped into an eating disorders clinic every single person there was a middle-class white person, whilst I am brown and grew up poor. It perpetuated the notion that people like me can’t possibly have issues with food and if they did, they definitely can’t afford the suitable and holistic approach to healing it. Fat people can have eating disorders and so can people of colour, yet within so many documentaries and films that focus on disordered eating, the marginalised are erased. What message does that send to those suffering who do not look like the poster girl of what that suffering looks like?

    Mental health within working-class communities is high. I’ve watched family members go in and out of psychiatric wards, and I’ve lived with poor mental health for most of my life. PTSD, anxiety and depression impacts a person’s life in many many ways and yet the access to any support is few and far between.

    The CAMHS waiting list (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) can be over six months long at any given time, and the NHS is bursting at the seams and can usually only offer six weeks of counselling which just isn’t enough. The fees for private care start at roughly £350 per month. Much more urgently needs to be done to allow access for more people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. I’m not passing blame or speaking negatively about the treatments available, I’m simply trying to shed light on an issue I feel passionately.

    We can scream ‘good mental health’ all we like but what about tangible help that penetrates people at their core. Holistic healing that centres the individual has been proven time and time again to be the most beneficial, yet it is the hardest to obtain.

    * Follow Grace on Instagram @gracefvictory

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