Warning: This article is about self-harm and may be distressing for some readers.

Mental illness is a subject many teenagers keep quiet about.

But for Maddy, who didn't want to use her last name, mental health is a subject she's all too familiar with and she's urging others to seek help.

"It needs to be talked about in schools, and people need to know about it. And kids need to know that what they're saying and doing isn't okay, and that it's affecting other people negatively," Maddy says.



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The teenager is slowly coming to terms with her own journey, which started at the age of 12 when she was self-harming and depressed.

"It just really wasn't fair," she says. "And it took me a long time to realise that it wasn't me that was at fault. It was people that were being horrible and saying horrible things."

But Maddy's own reactions to the bullies was affecting others, particularly her mother Frankie.


"For her to be doing that to me was like, you know a punch in the guts because I felt like I'd failed her," Frankie says. "I just couldn't believe she had done it. I was horrified it was terrible. She just really downplayed, like 'it's nothing, it's nothing', but it was."

Maddy says her mum first saw her cuts one afternoon when she was being picked up after school.

"She lost her shit. Fair enough I guess, and then I just knew I had to stop. I stopped because Mum was extremely upset, she was crying, she was angry not just like when she found out, but constantly, all the time. I didn't stop because I didn't want to stop, I stopped because if I didn't, things were just ten thousand times worse."

Frankie says it was hard knowing that her daughter was self-harming, but a relief when she stopped cutting.

"I knew she was doing it for me but in a way, I felt that she cared about me enough that she didn't want to keep doing something that upset me that much."

It was a year later, in Maddy's final year at intermediate school when she faced fresh mental health challenges, again from peers at school, and this time some of her closest friends.

Maddy says she had only just come to terms with her own sexuality when she decided to tell her best friend.

"At the time I was really figuring out my sexuality and then I kind of did the coming out thing, which just backfired completely. I got a lot of shit from that. He said 'Aww you're such homo' and I was like 'Well actually yeah'. And then he told everyone else and then I didn't know who knew and who didn't."

A change of school brought a new social circle, and over the years Maddy's learned to cope, with close support from Mum.

"I didn't want to go to a doctor or a psychologist and open up and talk and share about what I was feeling and going through, just for them to say 'well you're being dramatic' and just completely invalidate anything I was feeling," Maddy says.

Maddy recently made the decision to leave college and is now home-schooling herself.

She's also a regular face at Waikato Queer Youth - a volunteer organisation supporting young gays.

Waikato Queer Youth Senior Youth Mentor, Logan Cotter says sexuality discrimination is still common.

"NZ is a very inclusive society and we are very progressive but it's still sitting there, like certain comments that are made, like kids will say 'oh that's gay'. Yes it sounds like a non-issue but it can really play on people's minds because it's associated with a negative thing," Mr Cotter says.

And finally, four years on from when the depression started, Maddy is seeking professional help. But there were a few months waiting for a referral.

General Manager for Pinnacle Midlands Health, Andrew Swanson-Dobbs says they have had more than thirteen thousand appointments, but were only funded for ten thousand. "

"We've had more referrals and delivered more last year than we were funded for," he says. "So sometimes our waiting time to see us is a lot longer. So that's how we experience pressure. But we are primary mental health for mild to moderate (services) and so those (people) theoretically can wait a little bit.

"But we'd like to be quicker we'd like to be more efficient but the demand is quite large at the moment," Mr Swanson-Dobbs says.

Talking with a psychologist is helping Maddy understand herself better. But naturally, she's doing things her way as well which she says is helping.

"I write a lot," she says. "None of it's any good, but I like doing it. It's therapeutic I guess. I don't know, I'm not good talking about my feelings or my emotions or whatever so I write it in some really obscure way, and hope it makes sense to someone else."


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
RAINBOW YOUTH: 09 376 4155
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.