Heidi Montague, who has suffered with severe emetophia – an extreme fear of vomit – for around three years, said she had struggled to get the right support.
“It’s so unfair that people do not get the treatment they deserve when they need it,” she said.
Heidi said she had been discharged from various mental health services in the past because she was not deemed sick enough for support.
“It was completely degrading, it was exhausting to know that I was never going to get the help that I deserved,” she said.
“I thought I wasn’t worthy of it. Then I started to realise it wasn’t my fault, it was the way the system worked.”
She had also been put on medication but said that in her case, it ‘wasn’t helpful at all’.
Her experiences began to take their toll. “In the past I’ve been so ill without getting the support I needed I got to the point where I was suicidal and self-harming,” she said.
It was thanks to her own research that she was recently diagnosed with Avoidance Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.
She came across the rare condition – which she said was not well known among medical professionals – while watching a video online one night.
“I just sat there and started crying,” she said. “I was so relieved that there could be an opening where I could have a different outlook on my mental health. Where I could get a different type of help.”
The diagnosis meant she began to be treated for an eating disorder, rather than an anxiety disorder, and is currently going through a psychiatric outpatient unit.
Heidi is now using her platforms on Instagram and TikTok to post about mental health, sharing videos reflecting on her own experience and links to helplines which people can turn to.
A recent video was viewed more than 100,000 times.
“People message me all the time telling me I’m inspirational,” she said. “They are so grateful they’ve come across what I’m doing.”
And helping others has given her a powerful sense of purpose.
“It makes me feel like I have a point in living,” she said. “If I can make a difference in just one person’s life, it would make me so happy.”
She welcomed the news that former Love Island contestant Dr Alex George, had been appointed Youth Mental Health Ambassador by the Prime Minister to raise the profile of mental health education and wellbeing.
Boris Johnson said: “I’m delighted that Dr. Alex George will be working with us as we do everything in our power to improve people’s mental wellbeing.”
But Heidi said more funding was needed for services to ensure that all those suffering with mental health issues could get the support they needed.
If you are affected by any issues raised in this story, contact The Samaritans for support on 116 123.