"Imagine a world in which even cartoons for children tell boys they can’t feel upset; they must be superheroes. That was my world."

Last published 21 December 2020

My name is Antonio Ferreira, I am a 22-year-old student. My peers would describe me as, a ‘hard-working and driven individual’ but the challenges I faced with my mental health made things difficult at key moments in my life. From about the age of 15; I used to be impulsive and confrontational. Often getting into fights with my peers, teachers and strangers.

I remember becoming extremely stressed during my GCSEs. I am the youngest out of five brothers, so I’ve always felt like I drew the short straw. I made myself feel that everything was down to me. Therefore, I was always concerned I would not achieve the standards I had put upon myself. I became so stressed that I had suffered seizures.

I was also paranoid. I would walk past a group of people and I would convince myself that the group were watching me, talking about me or laughing at me. The worst part was the experience of my voices. I became more and more paranoid, stressed and I put unhealthy pressure on myself. My voices started to take control over my life and I no longer felt I had control of my own actions and thoughts.

I couldn’t find any happiness, anywhere. I was using cannabis to self-medicate, thinking it could help me. I kept being told to challenge my voices, but my option became to take the easy way out. I told myself “If I end my life, I won’t have to deal with this any longer”.

At that point, it was inevitable I was seen by a Doctor. I was referred to a child adolescent mental health service and my therapist saved my life. It was not clear to me in the moment. Until, I learnt with any hardship follows ease.

The day, I attempted to take my life, I remember my brother in the room crying to me “if you want to hurt yourself, you’re going to have to hurt me first”.

On that day, the police were forced to take me into custody for affray. Although it was very clear I was mentally unwell, they treated it as a crime before anything else.

It was also then; I would be admitted into a mental health. Arriving at the mental health hospital, I was always aware of what was happening. However, I was not aware what it would be like nor how long I would end up being there.

I spent approximately two years in and out of hospital. I met individuals who I will never forget; they encouraged me to be stronger. The experience shaped my future, my ambition, and my goal in life.

Today I am much stronger and wiser individual. While it was difficult adjusting to these changes, I found the drive I had lost throughout the worst part of my mental health. I became so willing to help the people in a similar situation who believe, there is no hope or inspiration.

I pride myself in being a mental health and digital health ambassador. Along with being, a lived experienced individual.

Now I look back at those difficult times and I am glad I was put through those challenges. lot of my recovery came from the willingness to want to get better. I was tired of restricting myself and not do anything about the difficulty I was facing.

Everyone has their tribulations. I just had to be patient.

Of course, I lost many friends during the peak of my mental health. That only comes as part of the journey, and I quickly learnt there is no reward in complaining. I kept hopeful, reminding myself “It could be worse”.

All our struggles are determined by our perspective. I am happy and proud; I am a superhero with a duty because “that person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero”

So, I do what I can, the best that I can.

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