'The best thing that happened was that my teacher listened to me'


Gershon, 22, from Edgware in north London, had performed well at school and was studying at a yeshiva in New Jersey. He also had an undiagnosed mental illness.

He says: "I'm bipolar. I've had manic episodes and depression, had times where I've been suicidal, and I've done some self-harm.

"I started self-harming three years ago, when I was in yeshiva, and I had the first stage of a suicide plan. I'd bought enough pills to overdose.

"Thankfully my room-mate noticed, and he pushed me to talk to a teacher.

"The best thing that happened to me was that my teacher listened to what I had to say. He spoke to me for three and a half hours and realised I had come for help and wasn't in a position to make decisions for myself.

"Imagine a manic episode being like Tigger bouncing all over the place, and a depressed episode being like Eeyore. Then sometimes you have something in between called a mixed episode, where you're depressed but with loads of energy. That's the most likely point of self-harm, where you're most likely to commit suicide. You start making plans to actually do something.

"When my parents brought me home from America - my family has been amazing - I tried to get on to the NHS's mental health services. It took about five months, and even then I wasn't considered acute enough for counselling.

"Then someone suggested Jami. They found me a counsellor, gave me a coping strategy for depression and socialising opportunities, and encouraged me to go back and study. I'm now learning computing at college.

"People have very stereotypical views about what mental illness is, and that makes it difficult for people to ask for help because they feel like they're going to be ostracised.

"At the beginning of my journey I was petrified of people in the community finding out what I'd been through.The best advice I could give is that things can change. Find someone you feel you can trust, and talk to them."

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