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University student Jessica Kwamin of Gravesend becomes face of Time to Change campaign to tackle stigma around mental health

By KentOnline reporter

A university student from Gravesend is the face behind a campaign to tackle the stigma felt by mental health sufferers after she tried to kill herself while at school.

Jessica Kwamin, 20, suffered from depression soon after joining a sixth-form college where she was subjected to intense bullying.

Reaching breaking point, she attempted suicide at school and left soon after as she still suffered vicious abuse both online and face-to-face.

But after seeking help from Gravesham youth workers Jessica turned her life around when she received counselling and help from Time to Change.

Jessica with Time for Change campaigners
Jessica with Time for Change campaigners

The charity campaigns to end stigma and discrimination associated with mental health and is backed by celebrities such as Frank Bruno, Stephen Fry and Davina McCall.

Their latest drive, in which Jessica is involved, is calling on the media to stop using pictures of people clutching their heads to portray mental health illnesses after a survey found it was unhelpful.

Jessica told the Messenger she hopes her story will help others with their battles against depression.

Her troubles began soon after she joined a separate sixth-form college from her friends, which led her to becoming isolated and then bullied.

Jessica said: "I was spending most of my time in the toilets or going home at lunch. Because my mum and dad both work long hours I was going through it by myself.

Jessica pictured with her sister Victoria
Jessica pictured with her sister Victoria

"The bullying was getting more intense both to my face and online. I told the teachers but it was like they didn’t want to know.

"One day I took some prescription medicine with me to school and attempted suicide by an overdose.

"I sat at the back of the class and for ages nothing happened but then I passed out. I didn’t even realise it.

"The school had to call an ambulance and everyone had to be evacuated, it was more embarrassing than anything.

"People were talking about it on social media and some comments said they wished I had killed myself. In the end I got kicked out of sixth-form."

Jessica has visited schools to talk about mental health
Jessica has visited schools to talk about mental health

Jessica’s parents sent her to New York to see relatives in the hope of helping her to recover but problems still surfaced when she returned. Months later, she attempted suicide again.

Walking in Gravesend town centre, her life began to change when she was handed a leaflet for The Gr@nd youth group.

Through youth workers she was referred to a counsellor who helped her regain her confidence.

From there, she also signed up to become a champion for Time to Change.

Jessica added: "It was mainly having someone to talk to, no one wanted to listen to or help me and I just needed an ear so that I could be myself. My self-esteem was so low.

"Time to Change has really helped me speak to people. Although I went through a rubbish time, I hope my story can help others struggling with depression.

"I’ve been to schools and there are so many out there who have spoken to me afterwards about their situations."

For information on the charity's campaign visit www.time-to-change.org.uk.

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