A COUNCILLOR is on a mission to change the stigmas attached to mental health and support the community by campaigning and opening up about his own experiences.

Andrew Gordon, councillor for Lee Chapel on Basildon Council, revealed he spent years in and out of psychiatric services as a teenager, stemming from a psychotic episode he went through at the age of 14.

But now he has opened up about his mental health struggles in a bit to help others.

The 26-year-old was elected as Labour councillor for Basildon when he was just 18 years old, making him one of the youngest ever to represent a ward on the authority.

Hailing from Basildon himself, the young councillor takes pride in where he lives and the people of his community.

Speaking out about his journey with mental health, he said: “Having spent six or seven years in and out of psychiatric services and one year in a Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit, I developed a passion for mental health and an in-depth insight into the psychiatric system in the UK.

“If you go through my patient records, you will find I have been diagnosed with psychosis, adjustment disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bi-polar, adjustment disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression.

“It is not clinically possible to have all these, which is why I am a huge advocate for treating people with mental health conditions primarily as individuals before conditions.

“Psychiatric and mental well-being services in the UK need a revolution, often they can be focused on the containment of an individual as opposed to providing someone with the self-management tools to recover.

“My work primarily focuses on recovery-focused interventions and the empowerment of patient leaders.

“I am also a huge supporter of the Mental Health Challenge.”

Diagnosed with bipolar, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia, Mr Gordon has gone from being a recluse  - being too afraid to go out in public  - to becoming a public personality, appearing on live television.

The campaigner endured his first psychotic episode when he was just 14 years old.

As part of a series of traumatic symptoms during his mid-teens, he says he started hearing voices, and would even “whip myself with a belt” and “punch myself in the head” as he grappled with a complex mix of thoughts and emotions.

He describes one evening when he was picked up by the police after experiencing auditory hallucinations.

The councillor explained: “I thought that someone was going to come and kill me. My voices said that someone was going to come along and kill me. To me it wasn’t irrational, there was a logic in that.

“I don’t feel that I was taken seriously and early intervention was practically non-existent.

“It was only when I quit school that people started to react. While my classmates were preparing for their exams, I ended up spending the remainder of my formal education in an in-patient psychiatric unit and experienced a new all-time low.”

Mr Gordon was prescribed a large amount of medication, which resulted in heavy side effects.

He gained a considerable amount of wait and started dribbling, as well as a twitch in his right leg.

He added: “It was only at this point were my needs were recognised and I commend the Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) services. I was treated as a complete individual with highly personal and complex needs that can’t be boiled down to one nice, little treatment path.

“The care didn’t last though as when I turned 18, it was removed altogether and I faced another serious relapse.

“I eventually succeeded in building a coping strategy and embarked on a slow and often agonising road to recovery.”

“I believe some people are simply more pre-disposed to mental ill health, but mine was worsened due to a series of aggravating factors, such as a family break-up, bullying at school and even a complicated relationship with religion.”

Mr Gordon is highly critical of the way mental health services move from child to adult care and warns many people with mental ill health simply fall off the radar.

After a prolonged period in an in-patient psychiatric unit, Andrew spent many months recuperating at home and struggled to go out in public. His confidence started to return after a period volunteering in the community for a few hours a week.

It was only when a friend suggested that he take up politics that he started to re-evaluate his place in society.

Initially he shrugged off the suggestion, but later reconciled with the idea and started to reinvent himself as a politician, with an emphasis on the importance of community to bring about change.

Stigma hasn’t been challenged; in some places its gone backwards.