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Lucy Grainger : ‘I have tried to kill myself lots of times but now I’m finally happy and want to live a full life’

Last night extraordinary young people from across Northern Ireland were celebrated in a glittering awards ceremony held at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. The Prince's Trust and TK Maxx and Homesense Awards recognised the achievements of young people who have succeeded against the odds, improved their chances in life, and had a positive impact on their local community, as well as those who have played a part in supporting the work of the trust.

By Leona O’Neill

Lucy Grainger (21), from Newcastle, won the Northern Ireland HSBC UK Breakthrough award at The Prince's Trust Awards.

Lucy witnessed her father die from a heart attack when she was three and after trauma in her childhood she developed bulimia and started self-harming. By 13, she had attempted suicide and her life spiralled out of control, until last year when a friend encouraged her to go to the Prince's Trust. Lucy says it has saved her life.

"My daddy died when I was three," she says. "He had a heart attack in the street outside our house. I remember everything about it. I remember going downstairs, seeing the ambulance and seeing my daddy lying there. Everyone was trying to get me to go away from what was happening. I didn't understand what was going on.

"Everything went downhill from then. When I got older I just started not liking myself. I didn't like how I looked or anything about me. I just hated myself. I went through some childhood traumas and that added to everything.

"In primary seven I started to restrict my eating. When I was 11 I started self-harming and it slowly got worse and worse. I got bulimia. I was 13 years old when I first tried to take my life. Everything seemed to be spiralling out of control. I kept trying to take my life and I would hide it from everyone. From when I was 17, I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals - and that was basically my life until I enrolled with the Prince's Trust.

"When I was in hospital, taking my own life was all I thought about. I tried to do it three or four times a day. It was all I was trying to achieve throughout my day. I made over 100 suicide attempts.

"Before I did Prince's Trust my life was upside down. It completely saved my life."

Lucy's involvement with the Prince's Trust came about by chance after she bumped into an old school-friend who suggested she get in touch with the organisation. Initially she was reluctant, but decided to make the leap. The rest is history.

"At first I thought I didn't want to do it," she admits. "I thought I wasn't well enough and that it would be a waste of my time. But I went along and that was pretty much it.

"I did a TEAM programme, which involved some personal development and a residential. And slowly I started to sleep better. Then we did some volunteering. We went to a care home and we sang some songs. We had to do a social action project and we made a community garden and had work placements. I had work experience at NIACRO. There were so many things that went on and they were all amazing.

"It made me feel like I was normal and that I was accomplishing things. Also I felt I was learning about myself. Near the end the of the programme PIPS charity, which works with those who have considered ending their own lives, decided they wanted to partner with the Prince's Trust and I started to volunteer with them, delivering suicide awareness and prevention talks. I also help with self-harming and eating disorder awareness.

"I go around schools, youth clubs and juvenile detention centres and in universities. I tell my story as well as teaching coping strategies and outlining where to get help.

"If I could talk to my 15-year-old self I would tell her that things will work out okay. I am now excited to be alive, whereas before I really wasn't. I had no interest in being alive and all I could think of was negative things, whereas now I think about what am I doing today and wonder what's on the schedule tomorrow. I am looking to the future. Before I couldn't have even seen a day in the future before. Now, I know what I want to do with my life."

Lucy has aspirations to become a social worker. She was recently elected as chairperson of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum and hopes she can give a voice to young people in desperate need of mental health services, ceaseless pushing for funding and change.

Despite how far she has travelled, she says she was shocked to receive the Prince's Trust Award.

"I couldn't believe it," she says. "If I had been told two years ago that I would be where I am now I would have laughed in your face. When I was 17 I didn't think I was going to make my 18th birthday, never mind my 21st.

"I just feel so much better. Things aren't 100%. You can't be happy all the time. But I am normal, my emotions are regular. Nothing is to the extreme. I don't feel suicidal. I don't want to hurt myself. I am healthy now. I will always be recovering, I'll never be fully recovered. But I'm okay with that. As long as I keep going forward, I am going to be fine."

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