Youth Mental Health Day 2021
There is currently no cure for allergic disease, so those living with allergy must be constantly vigilant to avoid their allergic trigger and a potential reaction. This can cause anxiety and fear for the person, as well as their family.
Youth Mental Health Day (7th September) was founded by leading young person's mental health charity stem4. Youth Mental Health Day encourages understanding and awareness of mental health in young people, enabling them to live happy and healthy lives all year round. Each year, the day aims to get young people, and those who support them, talking about how to improve mental health.
Allergy can affect the wellbeing of young adults in many different ways, including:
- Anxiety around a potential allergic reaction
- Fear of using adrenaline auto-injectors
- Negative relationships with food including food aversions and refusal
- Sleep deprivation due to allergy symptoms, affecting mood and concentration at school, university or work
- Visible symptoms such as eczema and hives causing low self-esteem
- Isolation around social events such as birthday parties and eating out at certain restaurants
We spoke to 20 year-old Ella to hear about her experiences of living with an egg and milk allergy.
"I’m Ella, I was diagnosed with milk and egg allergies when I was six months old. I’m very sensitive to even a small amount and have had quite a lot of anaphylactic reactions over the years from the first one when I was 18 months old. I’m now 20 and although awareness is much better, I think the impact on mental health is underestimated and is not talked about or treated. When I go to clinics or have emergency admissions, my physical wellbeing is treated but it would be helpful to have support for the psychological impact of living with allergies.
When I was younger, I very much felt that I was defined by my allergies. Everyone knew about them and I was treated differently. Now I’m older I am able to have more control of my identity and feel that people get to know me for who I am first but living with this condition is not easy and although it often comes across to others that I am confident and manage well, which is true - I do manage well, there is definitely still a significant impact on my mental health.
People understand that if I eat something I can have an anaphylactic reaction but they don’t see the anxiety that it causes when I go somewhere, the constant risk assessing that I do, having to always check if food is safe, having to question people and then put trust in someone else to keep you safe and sometimes not know if I will be able to eat at all.
I find it stressful when people are eating eggs around me to the point where it can trigger a panic attack and I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that was brought on by a very serious reaction. As my allergies are so serious, I feel as though I am always on alert apart from when I am at home where I know I am safe.
The advice I would give is to definitely talk about what has happened to you or about the anxieties that you feel. In the past I was really reluctant to talk about what had happened and I tended to block things out, but I have learned to try not to suppress my emotions and to talk about my experiences and anxieties. This has been really difficult, but it has helped and it has actually enabled me to see things more clearly and feel proud of how well I do actually cope considering the impact it has on my life rather than just let it get me down."
If you need support with your allergy, or need advice on how to manage your or loved one’s allergic condition, please contact our friendly Helpline team on 01322 619898. We also have a host of information on a range of different allergic conditions which is available to download here.
Allergy UK works hard to support young adults living with all types of allergic disease. For information on how you can fundraise to help us continue to support the allergic community, please click here: https://www.allergyuk.org/support-us.