World Mental Health Day | Borderline Personality Disorder – “I finally had an insight to my own behaviours”

Andy Caress resized.jpg

Andy Caress, from Bridgend, successfully completed his masters degree with distinction, overcoming significant mental health issues during his studies.

Andy, who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), studied on the MA CAMH (Child and Adolescent Mental Health) course at the University of South Wales (USW). He is passionate about raising awareness of mental illness and reducing the stigma. He said:

“I studied for the masters degree, part-time, alongside my employment. My day job is a freelance Mental Health Trainer with the Charlie Waller Trust, a mental health & suicide prevention charity who provide fully funded training for schools, colleges, workplaces, and universities.

When I was at university, studying for my undergraduate degree, I worked for PGL Travel as an outdoor activity instructor and group leader. I really enjoyed the experience, and this sparked my interest in working with young people.

I spent a number of years working as a youth worker and outdoor activity instructor, and then in 2010 I undertook my PGCE and started working at an FE college. During this period, my mental health declined.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2012, and then it was much later that I finally had the diagnosis for BPD. BPD is more commonly associated with females or those with childhood trauma, so it was a real fight to get the diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, I finally had an insight to my own behaviours, but I didn’t meet specific criteria for BPD treatment. I still struggle to get support to this day. However, during my time at USW, I made use of the support available from the Wellbeing Service, which helped me during a number of difficult moments.

In my current role, I educate people on what to look out for – how to spot signs in children who might be struggling mentally. I have worked with children of all ages from varied backgrounds but believe that, with all young people, early intervention by trusted adults is key.

I have also worked as a Theatre Chaperone for child actors, responsible for looking after their wellbeing whilst they are on tour. I have toured the UK and Europe with productions of The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and with the Welsh National Opera. In fact, my dissertation was about the about role of chaperones in supporting the mental wellbeing of child performers in professional UK theatre.

I really enjoyed the MA course at USW. We covered a wide range of topics and had guest speakers who shared their professional and academic insights. It gave me a much greater understanding that underpins my work. I also had the opportunity to research the different models of mental health strategies and intervention, as well as the freedom to explore new areas, such as the mental health of young Muslims who may be at risk of radicalisation.

Whilst I was studying, I had a difficult time with my BPD. The pandemic obviously didn’t help matters. However, I owe a great debt of gratitude to Rebecca Haycock, my Course Leader, for her academic and pastoral care. I felt comfortable to make her aware of my diagnosis. She regularly checked in with me and was always very understanding.”

 

Andy will be delivering mental health workshops, for USW students, on behalf of Charlie Waller Trust. Further information is available under Events on the USW Wellbeing pages.