“My name is Antonio, I am a 23-year-old student, from London. During my teenage years, I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. I am a media volunteer for Mind and Time to Change. A youth wellbeing facilitator for HeadsUp Harrow and a youth board member for Beyond.
Every day I wake up, I ask myself what else can I do to further change the narrative on mental health. Because I have a dream, a dream that one day, all mental health, including those of young and black males with mental health, will be treated equally without discrimination.
The challenges I faced with my mental health, made key moments in my life extremely difficult. From about the age of 15; I used to be impulsive and confrontational. Often getting into fights with my peers, teachers and strangers. This was nothing I could find an explanation for, to anyone or myself.
I remember becoming extremely stressed during my GCSEs. Being the youngest of five brothers I’ve always felt like I drew the short straw. I gave myself that pressure of everything being down to me. Therefore, I was constantly concerned about whether I would achieve these high expectations I gave myself.
I was also extremely paranoid. I could walk past a group of people and I would be convinced that the group were watching me, talking about me, and/or laughing at me. The worst part was the experience of my voices. The more I became paranoid and stressed, the more pressure I put on myself.
At some point, my voices started to take over my life and I no longer felt I had control over my actions and thoughts.
I struggled to find any happiness, anywhere. I tried using cannabis to minimise the pain from the battle I was going through. Hoping it would help.
I kept being told to challenge my voices, but the easier option felt to take my life. I was convinced that if I end my life, I won’t have to deal with any of it any longer. It was then, at the age of 16 I was admitted into a mental health ward.
I spent approximately two years in the hospital on section. During my admission I met ind
ividuals who I could never forget; they encouraged me to be stronger. The experience shaped my future, my ambition, and my goal in life.
After leaving the hospital, I told myself that I had to use my experience to shed hope on others who end up in a similar situation to mine. Especially, for those who remain hopeless. Therefore, I focused on becoming much stronger and resilient. It was difficult at first. But, I found that drive I lost during the worst part of my mental health. I became devoted to inspire and motivate others.
I pride myself on being a mental health and digital health ambassador. Plus, a lived experienced individual.
When I look back at those difficult times, I’m somewhat glad I went through those challenges. As I mentioned those challenges helped shape the direction I wanted to follow. A lot of my recovery came from the willingness to want to get better. I was tired of restricting myself and not doing anything to better myself.
Everyone has their trials and tribulations. I knew to keep patient throughout mine. Nonetheless, don’t take away from me that I am still human, I have imperfections, I make mistakes. I worked hard to develop resilience and endurance.
I lost many friends during the peak of my mental health. That only comes as part of the journey, and I learnt there are no rewards in complaining. You must remain hopeful, whatever the hardship entails.
Furthermore, our struggles are determined by our perspective. I’m happy with who I am and proud of how far I’ve come; 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”