Each year 1 in 4 people will experience some sort of mental health issues in the UK. The most common forms of mental health problems include mixed anxiety and depression. In 2017, it was found that 12.5% of 5 to 19-year olds had at least one mental disorder, showing that it is not just adults who suffer with depression and anxiety.
The NHS spent £12.2 billion on mental health in 2018/19, which is one pound in every ten they receive. Many of those in the NHS believe the government is not taking mental health issues seriously, while others feel the NHS is underfunded to support those with mental health issues. The Government claim they are spending more than any other Government on mental health, but with more than 6,507 suicides each year due to mental health issues, is the money spend on mental health enough?
One person who knows all about mental health issues is John Junior, 31. who is also known as John and Charlies Journey. They is genderfluid and uses the pronouns they/them has Klinefelter syndrome, which means they were born with an extra X female chromosome. John and Charlies Journey who can wake up feeling like a boy or wake up feeling like a girl has gone through battles that some of us could only dream of, but those battles have made John Junior the person they are today.
“I’ve been confused about my gender identity since I was eleven,” John and Charlies Journey explained.
“I wanted a sex change when I was an early teenager. I felt like I was living in the wrong body, and I still to this day feel more female than male inside.”
Three in five school children have been bullied and sadly John and Charlies Journey was one of those victims. They were bullied and suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse since a young age. Imagine having to go through that as a child when children should be enjoying life and having fun. Fun is not something that John really experienced.
John and Charlies Journey shared an experience they went through, an experience that sickens me and an experience that cannot leave my mind.
“On one occasion, I had boiling hot kettle poured on me when I came home late,” explained John and Charlies Journey
John and Charlies Journey went through childhood with so many mixed emotions including believe that nobody cared. They also had to put up with constantly being put down and being told that everyone hated them.”
“I was told everyone hated me, and I was punched and kicked about a lot. I kept that to myself for a very long time.
“I found it was just easier to lock up how I really felt and pretend my life was fine, but I eventually realised that locking up how I felt only added more stress and made my mental health worse.”
Having to go through so many problems in their life, John Junior had another battle to face and that was the loss of they dad. John’s dad passed away in March 2018, which meant John Junior did not just lose someone they were close to, but lost their support network.
In March 2018, John and Charlies Journey dad passed away. John attempted to take their own life three days later after feeling they no longer had anyone to turn to.
After admitting life got so bad they considered committed suicide, you would not be wrong thinking that John Junior could not come out the other end a stronger person. However, John and Charlies Journey has come out the other end stronger and now they are on a mission to make more people aware of mental health issues, all thanks to a cuddly duck called Charlie.
Since November John Junior has been taking Charlie the duck around the country to talk about mental health issues and make more people aware. They want to remove the stigma of talking about feelings and mental health issues and want more people to be more comfortable to talk about problems in their life.
They recently joined an abuse survivor to deliver a powerful message on domestic violence during the lockdown.
“Charlie sparks curiosity for people to come and talk to me,” they say.
“We take photos and do funny videos to lighten the mood, it’s a great feeling to be able to lift someone’s spirits when they’re feeling low or alone.
“I don’t want others to experience what I did where I had nobody to turn to, felt all alone, scared and worried.
“People have hope because me and Charlie are going to move mountains, we are bringing change to end the stigma.
John and Charlies Journey has received support all over the country and has even received support from celebrities.
Keith Duffy from Boyzone and Brian Mcfadden from Westlife invited John and Charlies Journey on their recent tour to make more people aware of mental health issues.
“It’s going to be a challenge but I have passion and nothing beats that.”
John and Charlies Journey wants to help as many people as possible, and wants everyone to be there for one another and for no one to feel they are alone. So, I wanted to sit down with John and Charlies Journey and learn more about their mission and their life.
- You are genderfluid, for people who do not understand what that means can you please explain? It means a person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender.
- You say, just like Sam Smith said, you like to use the they/there pronouns are you are genderfluid, can you explain why, and why this is so important to you and Sam Smith? Because we are not just not one gender, feel more comfortable to use they/there pronouns as we feel are in the middle.
- When did you know you were genderfluid? I was born with an extra X female chromosone, and since the age of 11 years old I knew I wasnt like the rest of my friends, my mum knew about how I felt and I did want a sex change as I didnt feel right in a mans body. But I felt in between both genders for over 20 years, I soon did reasearch on genders and found that how I feel is genderfluid.
- How did you have the conversation with your mum and dad and how supportive were they? They have been supportive, but didnt understand which was frustrating, but they tried to understand best they could.
- How has being genderfluid affected your mental health? It has affected me since the age of 11 years old, due to being born with an extra X female chromosone, my diagnosis is Klienfelters Syndrome, and having that comes with alot of complications, like my body doesnt make testostrone naturally, so I have to have testostrone replacement therapy and thats daily. I was also born with depression with the klienfelters syndrome, along with anxiety and mild learning difficulties.
- You said that you wanted a sex change when you were an early teenager and I felt like you were living in the wrong body, do you still feel that way? Yes I am living in the wrong body and I do still feel this way.
- What stopped you from having a sex change? Few things my dad wouldnt of been happen about it, he wouldnt of understood, my body inside have been having testorone replacement for a number of years and just switching would have its own complications.
- You have experienced symptoms of borderline personality disorder for more than 20 years but was only diagnosed last year in Aug 2019, was it a relief to finally have a diagnosis? It was such a massive relief it was closure and it felt great for years I thought it was just down to the klienfelters syndrome but everything just made sense when was diagnosed with EUPD which is another name for BPD.
- Can you explain what your daily life is like suffering from borderline personality disorder? Its an emotional rollercoaster and its hell everyday, everything is stressful, frustrating, irratiting, and thats the smallest thing, triggered my stress and that turns into an uncontrollable rage, then leads to upset and you slip into a very deep depression, with feeling shame and guilt, that happens every day for me, you fear rejection and your senses are highted more than someone with out bpd, constant suicidal thoughts, self harm daily, its like a devil controls you, its hard some days because the urges creep in and take over, you dissociate which means you dont know who you are, feel so numb and spaced out, as well as you dont know your surroundings.
- There have been a lot of complaints about the government not putting enough money into mental health and allowing more people to receive help, what is your opinion on that? Yes I agree with that, the NHS says every mind matters, yet so many mental health conditions go without with therapy as there is certain therapises that arent avalible to everyone in the UK, you just get palmed off with medications.
- I know someone who suffers from mental health issues and they have been waiting two months to receive support, do you think that is acceptable, and what timescale would you like to see people receive help? I understand the NHS dont have the resources themselves and can only do what the top tell them, but I think waiting two months is not good enough, people need support asap not in months times, by then if people are suicidal they wont hesistate they will complete that.
- More men than women die from mental health issues, why do you think that is? Because men suffer in silence and pretend they are fine, when in reality there suffering, its this judgement, men lock up how they feel because there worried of judgement and in denial they dont want to look weak.
- Do you believe enough is being done to help people with mental health issues? I dont think enough is being done, for example I need a type of therapy which is called DBT and in my area Cheshire East it is not avalible because its not commissioned, so I have to either pay privately for DBT or go without, and I cant afford private so I go with out when people in other areas can get it. I do believe its a postcode lottery!, so wrong, I have a petition for this on change.org/dbt4everyone. Also I have spoken to 1000s of people who need DBT therapy and other mental health therpy is not avalible for them its a joke and aswell as other mental health issues the gov could do alot more!.
- Your dad a major source of support for you, but sadly he passed away in 2018. You said you attempted to take your own life three days later after feeling you no longer had anyone to turn to, are you glad that you did not succeed? Yes, I am glad I didnt succeed because the things I am doing now are amazing, I am changing the world and I am so passionate about helping others, even though its hell daily.
- What would you say to those people who feel alone, and have those same thoughts, and who would you recommend they call for help? If you feel alone, your not alone, I always thought I was all alone and I was wrong, its okay not to be okay, its okay to ask for help it isnt weak or anything, reach out to samaritians free call them on 116123, chairties, ring helplines there all amazing, even contact me I am here for everyone no matter where you are in the world, having reassurance is the key to remind yourself your not alone, having a vision board is great!, i used a reassurance mug that i have with my all the time.
- A topic I would like to talk to you about is bullying. Have you suffered from bullying for being genderfluid? Yes I have, not from the word genderfluid, but in high school always with the girls and trying make up etc, I was bullied from people I used to tell people I wanted a sex change and got bullied for that.
- Being bullied is one of the most horrible things a person can go through, how did you cope? Its hell on earth being bullied, it makes you feel awful, feel horrible about yourself, low self esteem, feel depressed about the names your called… I used to pretend I was poorly and not go to school or used to avoid school as much as possible, I have been punched, hit, slapped at school, people fighting with me, even the way I walked because I was born with a clubbed foot, short leg syndrome and knocked knees, I got bullied so much about that and that made me feel like my life wasnt worth living, its horrible, just tying now is bringing it back. I have arthritis in feet and leg and pain is horrible everyday.
- You are on a mission to combat bullying and raise awareness about mental health issues, can you tell me more about it? Nov 2019 I started John and Charlies Journey, Charlie is a stuffed toy duck who accompanies me (John) and we raise awareness and travel around the UK to end the stigma of mental health. The reason why we started this was I suffered in silence for 20 years about how I felt, I was worried and scared to talk because of judgement and stigma and I dont want anyone else to feel like I was, including having no support. Charlie travels in a luggage trolley with his head popping out and people love it, Charlie sparks curtiousty for people to spark a convo with me, and people have selfies with him and me and share on social media, instagram, facebook, twitter, snapchat to get it out there what we are doing, we ended up on stage with Boyzlife keith duffy (boyzone) and brian mcfadden (westlife) to share our story with their fans which is get having there support. We use social media to do daily videos, I run a podcast show that we share to help and give advice, 1000s of people reach out weekly to us and tell us they wouldnt know what they would do without John and Charlies Journey.
- You are travelling around the UK to raise awareness, what type of things do you do to raise awareness and where is your favourite place you have visited? We make videos, podcasts, interviews with celebrities such as Terry Dunnage – burns victim from London and talk about mental health, because people find it hard to understand if they dont have the mental health illness themselves, also making music and writting songs that are mental health based, recently I used released a song called – John and Charlies Journey – Inside a Bpd Mind that is about my day to day life with borderline personality disorder which can also be found on soundcloud. Skinny Foods co in Nottingham they were fantastic made us feel so welcome!!
- How important is your stuffed toy friend Charlie to get the message across about mental health issues? He helps me everyday, he comes everywhere with me, he stays in my room, he chills with me watching telly, when we went out before lockdown we came to the cinema with me, for example. He helps with my flashbacks, stressful situations and panic attacks, he makes me feel safe. But he also sparks curtisoy for people to come and talk to me, sort of an ice breaker as people find it funny and thats fine, laugh more is what I say, then I can help you or someone you know. Charlie is famous in his own right which is pretty cool actually.
- What would Charlie say to someone who thought it was good to bullying someone for being different? He wouldnt be happy about it, he would say just be you and dont change for anyone. Because being you is so important, he would also say if you have issues going on sort them before upsetting someone else.
- And what would you say to someone of school age who was being bullied, and what should they do to get help? Talk about how you feel to the teacher, friend, parents, carer, its important you tell someone, because if you dont it wont be fixed and will make your mental health worse, please from my own experience please talk.
- What changes would you like the government to introduce so more people are being helped with their mental health issues, and how should schools deal with school bullying? Cut long waiting times for therapy it should be within a few weeks max!, more funding to all areas to make all therapises avalible to everyone!. Longer you live the time for people to get help the more people will resent doctors and they wont turn to them for help!. Change that the way you need crisis help, if your feeling suicidal you get help asap not in fews to come, there should be a team of emercency services that are dedicated to mental health only that come to your house just like when you ring 999 for a non ambulance service. Bullying there should be an idpendant person at all schools who they school pupil can talk to about how they feel and because they are a third party wont be bisas.. also anyone who is being bullied the person/persons in question need to be addressed and have some sort of system where the parents and teachers have a meeting to resolve it, not sending letters out, most people who are bullied wont talk because there scared, but having a relaxing comfortable approach would help so much..
- So, what does the future hold for you and Charlie? We are going beyond the UK, we get messages asking when we coming to American and Australia, we are most definatly going world-wide with what we are doing, mental health effects the world, so we will go where humans are!.
You can follow John and Charlie’s Journey on their website here https://www.johnandcharlie.co.uk/