'I was sectioned - now I'm working for change'

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Image caption,
Sasha Campbell is going back to her former mental health unit to help with staff training

A teenager who felt punished after being discharged from a mental health unit has said she is "excited" to work with an NHS trust to improve systems.

Sasha Campbell, 18, was sectioned after several attempts on her own life and spent time in psychiatric units.

She has become involved in recruitment at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, and will be helping with staff training at her former unit.

The trust said it was "very grateful for her contribution" to its work.

"I'm quite excited to see it from the other side," said Miss Campbell.

"It is quite bizarre to think I was a patient there, and it's crazy to think how far I've come."

Image source, Family photo
Image caption,
Sasha Campbell believes her problems started after a knee injury stopped her playing sport and dancing

Miss Campbell, a student from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, described herself as a "perfectionist" and achieved 11A* grades at GCSE.

She tried to take her own life on several occasions during her studies, citing the pressure of "fulfilling her potential".

She was detained under the Mental Health Act but, after a period of time in specialist care, she was discharged. At first, she struggled to cope.

"I'd glorified discharge - I thought it means I'm better, I'm free," she said. "But when it came to it, I felt completely empty."

She said a "huge caseload" meant at one point she did not receive any contact for three months and felt "punished" for having a supportive family.

Image caption,
Miss Campbell has set up a mental health campaign with her mother Jordanna (pictured) and father Donald

"The aftercare is amazing now," her mother Jordanna Campbell said. "But for the first few months of being discharged the support was non-existent.

"We're still fighting the system... but it's best to work with people to get change."

Miss Campbell said her voluntary work with the trust had included talking to senior staff about her "chaotic" move from child to adult mental health care, and interviewing candidates as part of recruitment processes.

But she said her most difficult task would be visiting her former unit in Suffolk to help with training and the "positive impact staff can have on patients and their recovery".

"I am quite comfortable there but it still feels a bit nerve-wracking.

"I wouldn't have thought a year ago when I was ill that I'd have been doing all this."

Miss Campbell and her parents have also set up a campaign called Fine Not Fine, which works in schools and other organisations to raise awareness of mental health problems in young people and encourage earlier intervention.

She has returned to college and plans to start studying to be a psychologist in September and said her treatment had given her "perspective".

"I can't be perfect, and if I strive for perfection it will cost me my life."

Amy Eagle, deputy chief operating officer at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said it was "delighted" with Miss Campbell's progress.

"We are very grateful for her contribution to the work of the trust and to raising awareness of mental health issues.

"We are grateful to Sasha for sharing her experience so that we are able to learn from it.

"We have been making great efforts in improving the process and ensuring that the people who use our services have the support they need to help them in their recovery."

If you have been affected by any issues raised in this story, help is available via the BBC Action Line.

Image source, Family photo
Image caption,
The Campbells say they hope their campaign will "open up" discussions about mental health

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