Local Buckingham man creates website to battle stigmas attached to Autism and Mental Health, Sonny Hawkins, 26, hopes the website will serve as a platform for bloggers, artists and filmmakers to share their story.
Sonny Hawkins, project director and creator of AMHA from Buckingham in Buckinghamshire wants to battle the stigmas attached to Autism and Mental Health.
As well as having Asperger's syndrome, Sonny has various physical and Mental Health issues including Depression, Anxiety and an Eating Disorder. With the help of Fixers – the charity which gives young people a voice - the 26 year-old has created a website - www.amha.org.uk - which will serve as a platform for bloggers, artists and filmmakers with autism, mental health issues or a combination of both.
Sonny hopes the new platform which he build from scratch, will serve as an online space for people to share their real life experiences about Autism and Mental Health conditions, he hopes through honest and open discussion to educate the public and raise awareness, concentrating on several vital areas including the workplace, schools and girls with Autism.
Sonny says, 'I want AMHA to be a safe, supportive space for people to feel comfortable to discuss and create a more accurate view of what life with autism and or mental health conditions can be like in order to tackle stigma and misconceptions that have built up over decades of poor understanding,' he says.
Sonny began experiencing mental health issues after his mother became seriously ill and he became a young carer. ‘I made my way through home life and the school system under extreme stress and pressure,' he says. 'I struggled with various mental health conditions which were amplified by my Asperger's syndrome - although I didn't know I had it at the time.’
He adds: 'Although my family always knew there was something not quite right with my behavior growing up, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I was diagnosed by the charity Clearly Speaking with Asperger’s syndrome. ‘Throughout my life, I’ve been on the receiving end of derogatory, belittling and stigmatizing comments by professionals and the public alike. 'I have heard it all with a list longer than my arm, one health professional most recently stated ‘you only have mild autism, you’ll be fine.’
Sonny says it is important to show how autism and mental health interlink so people can receive appropriate help. ‘Obsessive behaviours, sensory overload, difficulty with being able to read people and communicate are just some of the many traits of Asperger's syndrome,' he says. 'Many of these traits can interlink with your mental health and become co-morbid, which can amplify your conditions. From experience, I have found if you treat one and not the other, it can prevent you from recovering through therapy and other interventions if you are fortunate enough to be offered any treatment.
‘Although from an early age I was given various therapies for my Mental Health, when I was finally diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome alongside it, there was no help and support as Autism requires specialist treatment,’ he adds. ‘By ignoring the autism, it was like having an entire section of my life closed off from the discussion.'
Sonny hopes to expand his websites functionality, which has already made it onto the top 60 Mental Health blogs from content reader Feedspot. ‘I have big plans for AMHA, this is only phase one, it is part of a very big picture which myself and my family are in the mids of developing to benefit those in Buckinghamshire and the surrounding counties. We are determined to develop AMHA in response to the severe lack of NHS services for those on the spectrum, I want to eventually turn AMHA into a charity to offer vital professional services via Clearly Speaking,' he says.
'I feel with the help of other sufferers we can support and begin to change people’s views and attitudes.
‘I’ve received great support from Clearly Speaking and Fixers – from the moment I met Young Person’s Coordinator Wesley Erpen he’s stayed in contact and has been there helping me every step of the way, and some of the bloggers on my website are young people from Fixers.
‘It’s great that Fixers is out there helping people.’
Fixers works with young people aged 16-25 across the UK by providing them with resources to help them campaign on issues they feel strongly about.