Our Voices

Along with getting Matthews Voice heard, we invite anyone who is dealing with Mental Health to have their voices heard and share their stories. Speaking out and being heard is so important. If you would like to share your story please email info@matthewsvoice.org.uk.

Zoe's story

“I’m 41 and have had mental illness for years but was only diagnosed in 2010.

At first it was just depression but after a while I became worse. I was let down by the system and took an overdose 2012. I woke up on an elderly ward with no clothes on under the bed covers and a doctor (not mental health doctor) asking me why I did what I did and that it wasn’t fair on my children. Totally agree in a sense but believe it or not I was thinking of my children and how much I couldn’t cope with them seeing me unwell. Crying feeling lost and hopeless every day. I was sent home that day. I saw someone todays later a CPN and he was so brilliant.

I was eventually diagnosed with borderline personality disorder anxiety and severe depression. But was soon discarded from the services after my diagnoses I am on medication, quite a lot I have had therapy (CBT) but it hasn’t really helped I self harmed regularly and unfortunately I still do which I’m ashamed to admit.

The mental health system has changed a lot and I have been let down quite a few times now. There is only one Charity that is based in Colchester that supports people with BPD but it constantly receiving referrals made by the Mental health teams because they don’t know what to do with people suffering from this horrible illness. This charity is under threat of closing down now due to “lack of funding”. Which is all I seem to hear in regards to ALL the mental health services. If there was more funding given then perhaps more people run less risk of slipping through the net and down a slippery slope.

Mental health is an illness and I’m still personally having to deal with it on a daily basis. I just wish there was more understanding and support for people like myself but also for friends and families who try to understand and are unsure how to help. If people were to be made aware of some of the signs and symptoms then they could support someone and infact could be life saving.”

Abbey's story

“For my daughter Georgie, her father, Joe Emmons sadly committed suicide In November 2014. I want to help raise mental health awareness and help anyone I can. Suicide shatters those left behind. Although at times life can be tough it is also precious… Hard times pass! I know… I have been there…
In memory of you Joe xx”

You can view Abbey’s Facebook support group on our support page, or by clicking this link directly.

John's story

“John, 38 from Clacton-on-sea.

Husband and Dad of 5 and suffering from depression and anxiety.

Currently on medication but still I revert to binge drinking on occasions to try and cope….it doesn’t work

However I am speaking out and talking, and trying to move forward and get the right help.

I’m open to any help / organisation that is available and urge anyone to speak out…get the courage and use #matthewsvoice

I just want to put myself in the position of someone who is fighting all of this alone and doesn’t have the strength to speak out various I’m starting to eventually the more people hear about the charity and looks at the website and maybe just relates to one small thing to get strength to speak out and get help.


John x”

Millie's story

“My name is Millie Twells and I was caught up in the Tunisia terrorist attack in June 2015, I was 15 years old at the time and I have struggled since with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I was staying at the Rio Imperial Marhaba resort, set on the beach, it was beautiful. I’d arrived with my mum and step dad Paul on Wednesday 24th June, we had never been to Tunisia before. Thursday, we spent by the pool and walking along the beach. Friday morning, we got sun beds on a grass area between the pool and beach. At around 10 am we walked along the beach, came back to the pool, did water aerobics and then at 11.30am I played darts with other holiday makers by the pool, mum and Paul were watching. After a while mum said she was going to get her bag from the sun beds, she hadn’t been gone long when there were very loud bangs that sounded like fireworks or something like that, coming from the beach, we all looked towards the beach, but the animation team didn’t seem worried. Then machine gunfire, no mistaking that sound, I realised what was happening and without thinking I just ran in the direction of the hotel, I hit a dead end and had to double back, I remember standing on the steps leading from the pool to the hotel crying and shouting for Paul for a moment and then I ran again.

People were being shot, bullets whizzing by. I reached the hotel and there was an explosion so loud, I ducked covering my head. There was a man in a suit in the lobby, telling me to go through a door behind the reception desk, I went up some stairs, and was in a corridor, there was an elderly lady who was very upset saying she had lost her husband so I put my arms around her and told her it would be okay, there were a few people up there. The gunfire was so loud inside the hotel, the gunman then came up the stairs, we ran, he was shooting and threw a grenade, I made it into a room with a few people, some weren’t so lucky and were shot and killed, the explosions made me deaf for a while, noises were muffled, I couldn’t think. He killed 3 people where I was and injured many more.

I was alone, I didn’t know where my mum or Paul was, I was in a room and a maniac was killing people, it was surreal. I knew he was going to come into the room and kill me, I just prepared myself to die, telling myself it wouldn’t hurt, that it would be quick. Weird thoughts went through my head, I was going to die wearing nothing but a bikini. But, he didn’t come in, there was still shooting but it was getting further away.

Eventually we were told it was safe to come out, I remember someone saying cover the children’s eyes, there was nobody to cover my eyes, and what I saw will live with me forever, it hit me how serious it was seeing those poor people there on the floor, so much blood, no way of walking around them in such a small space, it was devastating. I then thought, my mum and Paul could be dead, I asked a lady if I could stay with her until I found my mum. We walked back down the corridor towards reception, as soon as I entered the lobby my mum was there, she grabbed me, checking me all over, she was concerned about the blood on my feet but we explained where it was from, that it wasn’t mine. I was in shock, my mum says now that my face had no expression, I didn’t even hug her back apparently when she grabbed me. Mum and Paul hadn’t been together whilst it was happening either, they found each other eventually whilst looking for me and each other, then started searching bodies looking for me.

We sat around in the lobby for a while not knowing what to do, I was very jumpy so mum said we should go back to our room to pack to be ready to leave as soon as possible, nobody was saying anything, we weren’t being told anything, so went up to pack. We just finished packing, when there was loud shouting in foreign voices outside our room, my mum took me into the toilet, Paul was in the bathroom opposite, we were looking through a crack in the door, our room door burst open, then we just saw Paul drop to his knees with his hands in the air, a voice then said, English and Paul replied English and he stood up when he knew it was safe, we came out too. It was the police doing a sweep of the hotel, they took us down to the main restaurant where they wanted everyone to stay until they’d checked the hotel to make sure it was safe. We weren’t told anything until 10pm, then a meeting took place and our rep said coaches would come around midnight to take anyone who wanted to leave to the airport to get on 1 of 3 flights available.

And so, we went to the airport at 1am on a coach, thinking the whole time we would get hijacked. We made it to the airport and flew back to the UK. We arrived back home at 11.30am around 24 hours after the attack happened. To start with, I wanted to carry on as normal, I went to school that week, but only managed to stay a couple of hours. I began having flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, was very scared of everything. I had so much time off school due to the trauma, and after several months, even when I went back, I was having to leave early, mum would have to come get me and take me home. Everything suffered, I couldn’t go out or do anything.

My mum tried so hard to get help for me, but we were refused by so many people, not old enough for the therapy, had nobody specialised enough for something so traumatic, the CAMHS in our area wouldn’t see me. My mum eventually got me some private therapy, then CAMHS took over my care, but they didn’t know what they were doing. I was missing education but nothing was done to help even though it was my GCSE year. My mum ended up getting me a tutor for Maths and English for a few weeks just before the exams and I managed to pass, I couldn’t concentrate properly, I’d get flashbacks when I tried to concentrate, if there was any sort of bang, I would freak out. I didn’t get the grades I was capable of but at least I’d passed and was able to go on and do A Levels which is what I am doing now, I’m in my second year.

Last year CAMHS finally said they had someone specialised enough and we were advised I needed trauma focused CBT, which meant reliving the attack, I had to write everything down in detail over many sessions, everything, what I felt, saw, heard, did, and then she was going to help me get the power back from that day. What she wanted me to do was think about what I should have done that day, explained it in a way that was making my guilt worse, said I should imagine myself jumping out at the terrorist and taking his gun off him, shooting him and saving people, but my mum was in there with me and she put a stop to me seeing her immediately, I already had so much guilt about those that didn’t make it. This therapist obviously had no idea what she was doing, which is worrying because I know CAMHS are who people caught up in other attacks are told to go to.

There are only 2 kinds of therapy available on the NHS, CBT and EMDR, apparently no others are on the NICE guidelines so I cannot get them on the NHS. I had some private arts and drama based therapy but it is very expensive, and can’t get it now due to money, but the government won’t help out and fund it. Since CAMHS and the atrocious treatment we cannot get help with funding from The Foreign Office, we have had nothing from the government, no help from anywhere.

The help I have had that has been good for me is from America. My mum contacted so many people, organisations, charities, therapists and eventually was talking to a charity in Ireland that took me to stay with a charity in New York. This was set up by a lady caught up in an attack herself, each year she does many retreats, events and programs that help victims of terrorism. Each April they do a Young Ambassadors Program for 14-20-year olds affected by terrorism, I met others caught up in attacks and some that had lost loved ones in attacks. It was a real help to me, to finally have people around me, my age that understood and wanted to let me talk, to actually listen to me, and I also helped others, we did many group activities, I was unaware I even needed to grieve for those who sadly died that day, these new friends helped me do that and I came away a different person. I was able to start talking to my mum about my future, something I couldn’t really do before, I was too messed up.

I am not fully better, I have a way to go but at least I was able to go out, go to school more than I was, concentrate a bit better and not be scared of everything. I knew I wanted to go to university so I discussed this with mum. She is my only support here, I rely on her for everything, I want to stay away to get the full university experience but nowhere in this country was an option for me because of lack of support so we discussed maybe New York, it fit, I’d have support, others who were on the program were going to be going to other universities in New York, I’d be very close to the charity that helped me, I will be helping others myself who are suffering from terrorism when I am there and the therapy available there is everything I’d need. Mum would feel at ease with me having so much support so we decided I would apply to some universities and I have had 5 acceptances so far starting Autumn 2018. But then we found out I cannot get student loans from our government unless I study within the UK, so another disappointment, no funding for therapy and now none for studies.

My family have struggled so much from this attack, I’m helping others, my mum is speaking at events, has been to different places with foundations to try and get things changed so others don’t suffer like we have, she’s helped many survivors from our attack over these past couple of years too. I went to an event in Sweden to help the RAN (Radicalisation Awareness Network) in March 2018 helping with bringing awareness to the problems we face with radicalisation and extremism, I believe we all have a part to play in this, we must all come together and try to prevent any of it happening. Just as things started to look up and I got accepted into university, it’s taken away by lack of support from anywhere. I’ll probably not get any international scholarships as they’re merit based and I just didn’t get the grades in my GCSE’s I know I could have gotten had I not been caught up the attack, I did well with B & C grades, but not A* grade. I’ve been working so hard since September to catch up on work I missed during my first year of A Levels and I have sat my mock exams recently and I am doing really well. There are scholarships for so many things, but none for survivors of terrorist attacks. Scholarships are so widely available in America for citizens, but we just don’t have them here as much.

I have set up a Go Fund Me, and I am doing some fund raising locally, I know it’s not much but every little helps. My mum went to an event in Berlin last year and she met many wonderful people from EU countries, victims of terrorism from Spain, France and Norway have great assistance from their governments, any therapy is funded, studies through university are funded, it’s a way of acknowledging what they’ve been though, society’s way of giving them the helping hand they’ll need because of the struggles they will face in their life now due to terrorism. Because it’s really difficult to deal with and cope with, people don’t understand what PTSD does to you, they don’t understand what it takes to force yourself to go to busy places like school, the panic it causes, the attack was almost 3 years ago, but it doesn’t go away.

I am learning how to live with this, I know I have to carry on and not give up, that’s what terrorists want and I will not give them that. I will go on to fulfil my dream of studying in New York, help other survivors and thrive!”