Talking to a counsellor helped Reece understand more about their identity and emotions - and steer them away from self-harm.
The conversations within the therapy room in their secondary school and at a charity – and the coping strategies suggested by their counsellors - have stuck with Reece.
As Reece puts it; the chance to talk through feelings, anxieties and negatives and have someone there to listen have “helped me find myself.”
“I feel comfortable in my own skin and walking outside now.
“I can open my curtains, look outside, and not feel like everybody’s staring at me. I’m not paranoid anymore and I feel like I have friends.”
Reece began to see their school counsellor in year 10, following several years of self-harming, body images issues and difficulties with family relationships.
'I bottled up my emotions'
The teenager identifies as non-binary and came out as gay at school in 2017. They told how they faced a backlash from students because of that.
“I was the sort of person to bottle my emotions up and I wouldn’t talk about it,” they said.
“But I knew these weren’t things I could deal with on my own any more. I needed another person for support and to have someone to talk to.”
It was Reece’s mum who first suggested they visit their school counsellor.
“The first thing my counsellor did was get me talking about what I thought was wrong and how my only form of expression was self-harm. It was like I was being introduced to myself.
“I struggled a lot to voice my own opinion as I felt it would constantly be wrong. But my counsellor helped me find a way to voice what I was feeling.
'I could say anything that was on my mind'
They added: “I had someone to talk to where I could just say anything that was on my mind that was getting me down.”
Reece also found it helpful that the counsellor was within school. There were regular sessions but was also a drop-in service available.
“It was easier because the counsellor was always around the school. She was there every day, a friendly face, very consistent.”
And it wasn’t just about talking, said Reece.
“Sometimes I just did a piece of writing or a drawing to show how I felt. I didn’t feel pressurised to say those things out loud at that moment, we could just pick it up when I felt ready to talk about it.
Writing things down has helped Reece avoid a negative outlook in many aspects of their life.
“She suggested that I started writing in a mood diary. Every day I would write in my notebook, and score out of 10 how I felt, what my main emotion was and what caused that feeling.
“We could see a pattern; what would cause me to have a depressed mood.”
As well as a school counsellor, Reece also saw a counsellor at Service Six, a charity that provides specialist therapeutic support to young people in Northamptonshire.
“We looked at my personal issues, my outlets and what was going on.”
Again, the counsellor suggested writing things down.
“I write any negative things down on a piece of paper and then get rid of it, screw it up or throw it in the bin. It’s done then. I’ve got it off my chest. It’s not something I have to worry about. I don’t have to keep it bottled up anymore.
“It means I’ve confronted these negatives things myself. I’ve resolved these issues and the baggage I had in my way. Because that bit of paper has gone, I can’t stumble across it again.
“This has helped me find a way that I can be independent. I’m in charge of my own mood.”
The counselling has helped Reece find another outlet for their emotions, other than self-harm.
“My self-harm is not as bad anymore. If I feel bad, I’ve gone back and thought what’s the best thing I can do for myself rather than self-harming.
'Counselling helped me find myself'
“Counselling helped me find myself. I was struggling with my sexual identification, my gender identification.
“It made me realise who I am and that I can’t really change it. I shouldn’t change it. It feels normal.
“That allowed me to not feel ashamed and to go out in public, do events and run clubs in school. It’s helped me feel like I’m a normal person.”
Reece has also now found another release – martial arts.
They have been training in Kata for the past two years.
“It’s my form of release. My training has made me more tired. When I’m lying in bed I don’t dwell on the hardships of the day, I’m sleeping a lot easier. I feel less weighted when I go to bed.
“Competing in martial arts is the biggest thing I’ve ever done.”
As someone who has benefited from it, Reece is keen to stress the importance of school-based counselling.
“It felt normal to go and see my school counsellor.
“Having counsellors in schools would take the pressure off the NHS-provided services. Young people will feel their mental health issues are being recognised, rather than going to extremes.”
And it’s not just helped them, but inspired Reece’s future plans.
“I have a career path planned which is going into counselling and psychiatry. This has been majorly influenced by my counsellor.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping people. Working with my counsellor, I realised that’s how I want to be. I want to help other people the way my counsellor has helped me.”
To find a counsellor or psychotherapist visit our Find A Therapist directory.