‘When I was five or six I remember seeing mum breathing into a paper bag. I wanted to help her but I didn’t know how.’
16-year-old Tara Henry, from Craigavon in County Armagh, has experience of what it is like to suffer from agoraphobia.
Her mum has had the condition for the last 11 years. Tara wants to raise awareness of the phobia and campaign for more mobile support services to be made available for adults.
Her story was broadcast on UTV Live on June 8.
Agoraphobia is a common mental health problem characterised by a fear of anxiety especially of situations which people fear they can’t get out of or escape.
Talking about living with agoraphobia, Tara says: ‘I remember desperately wanting to help mum but not knowing what to do. Over the years she went outside less and less.
'Sometimes she made it to the school gates but she would get panicky and have to get back home.
'She wasn’t able to attend school events like my leaving assembly. My aunty used to record the Christmas school plays so that Mum could watch them at home.
‘It had a big impact on me. It really affected our relationship and I felt like I didn’t have the mother-daughter bond that people talk about experiencing from birth.’
The creative resources team at Fixers helped Tara to create a poster campaign.
Click on the image below to view it.
‘We came up with the idea together of a girl looking out through a window, with writing on the frame spelling out her anxiety,' she says.
'I want to put them up in health centres and schools and places where people will notice them and start talking about the condition.
‘The more it’s talked about, the more it will be recognised and I hope more support will be made available to those who suffer from it.
'But it’s important that the support comes into people’s homes.'
Paddy Love, senior Cognitive Behavioural Therapist from the Mental Health Resource Centre in Belfast, is supporting Tara's campaign.
He says: ‘Avoidance becomes a way of life for people with agoraphobia, restricting the person’s life, so they shop online, go out accompanied or ultimately become confined to the house in the worst case scenarios.
‘I think it’s fantastic to see such a young lady take on board such a campaign at a time when mental health is severely under-resourced in Northern Ireland.'
Tara says her relationship with her mum has gone from strength to strength.
‘Mum has good days and bad days but she has been an incredible support to me,' she says.
‘I’m living life to the full, volunteering and experiencing big events and music festivals. I want the same for Mum.
‘One day recently, when I came home from tech she told me she had walked down the garden path. I cried with happiness. She is my star and I want her to experience life with me.’
Tara's project was supported by the Wellcome Trust.
To find other resources on this topic, and watch Fixers films, click on the image below.