A WOMAN who survived an attempt to take her own life five years ago has spoken out to try and break down some of the stigma around mental health issues and encourage others to reach out.

Demi-Leigh Robinson, from Darlington, decided to share her story to raise awareness about the issue after losing two close friends to suicide in eight months.

The 21-year-old is raising money for mental health charity Tyneside Mind in memory of her friends Emily Moore, who died this month at Lanchester Road Hospital, near Durham, and Christie Harnett, who died at the now-closed West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough, last year.

The Northern Echo: Emily MooreEmily Moore

The Northern Echo: Christie Harnett Christie Harnett

She said: “After losing two of my closest friends in the space of eight months I realised I didn’t want anyone to be in the position where they can’t reach out.

"Five years after my attempt, I can see I did have people I could have spoken to, but I didn’t want to put it on other people.

"It’s still hard but I’ve had times since then when things have happened and it has been easier to reach out.”

“Looking back I had quite a lot of support. People do, but when you’re in that place it’s hard to see any kind of positives."

The Northern Echo: Demi-Leigh Robinson is raising money for Tyneside MindDemi-Leigh Robinson is raising money for Tyneside Mind

She added: "I want to educate people and make people realise it’s more common that they realise. It’s not as much of a stigma now, but there’s still a lot about.

"I can’t get rid of mental health stigma but I don’t want to be defined by it. I don’t want to be known as the girl who nearly died.

"When I’ve been open about it, I’ve had more people message me and thank me for speaking up which I didn’t expect.

"Five years ago I didn’t think I would still be alive to do college exams or go to university. I didn’t see a future for myself. I still have points where I question it but it helps me to be open about it, and people have said it helps them as well."

Miss Robinson was aged 16 when she attempted suicide in 2015, which left her with serious injuries, including a broken back, and she spent months recovering at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough,

After self-harming from the age of 11, she also spent years struggling with an eating disorder and depression, which has seen her spend time in and out of hospital, and survived a second suicide attempt about 18 months ago.

She has spoken candidly about some of the problems she has encountered, and is urging people to be kinder and more mindful about mental health issues.

She said: "People are quick to label you if you have mental health.

"I was in denial for a long time about having severe depression. It took me a while to admit I was struggling. It’s quite invisible.

"There are times when I was going to school and I knew something wasn’t right but my closest friends would never have known. That’s the danger. People can be ashamed.

"I spent years fighting with myself and fighting with my thoughts and feelings.

"I didn’t think there was any hope. I thought the best thing was if I wasn’t around. I know now that I do deserve help but at the age of 15 or 16 I didn’t think I was worth giving help to.

"I want to do anything I can to reach out to people and make them realise that it’s ok to not feel ok. It doesn’t make them less of a person if they’re struggling. I spent a lot of years blaming myself. It wasn’t until I had a physical injury that made me realise you wouldn’t question somebody with a broken arm or leg so I shouldn’t be doing that with someone’s mental health.

"It takes 30 seconds to send a text to see if someone is ok."

She added: "Please be kind and mindful when possible. Mental illnesses are often invisible but that doesn't warrant stigma or mean a person battling such illnesses isn't as worthy of help and support as someone battling more seemingly obvious symptoms.

"Mental health is just as prevalent and important as physical health and should be treated as such.

"I am living proof that no matter how dark things seem there is always a light at the end of the tunnel."

Miss Robinson, who attended Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form in Darlington after leaving St John's School in Bishop Auckland, is hoping to go on to study psychology in the future, because of the care she received, and in particular from the clinical psychologist who looked after her after her first suicide attempt.

She said: "Services are massively underfunded and there's a lot more that need to be done.

"But I've met some of the loveliest people. If it wasn't for certain people I wouldn't be here. Five years on I still think about what she said to me to help."

  • The Samaritans can be contacted for support, all day, every day, on 116123.