A woman with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is keen to dispel the misconception patients are a danger to others.
Sarah Coulthard-Evans, 36, was diagnosed 10 years ago after doctors repeatedly dismissed her symptoms as depression.
Having self-harmed and even attempted suicide several times, Coulthard-Evans was eventually sectioned.
Years of therapy allowed her to “heal massively and make sense of what happened in her life”.
Read more: Self-harm more common among teens who start puberty early
Coulthard-Evans, who lives in Northampton, moved into supported accommodation in the community on 18 March, just five days before lockdown.
Now in a better place, Coulthard-Evans manages her disorder with medication, monthly calls with a psychiatrist and plenty of sleep.
Coulthard-Evans hopes to raise awareness of BPD, stressing patients are “more dangerous to themselves than anyone else”.
Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders – a partnership between the University of Wollongong in Australia, the New South Wales (NSW) Ministry for Health and Local NSW Health Districts – has also produced work to dispel the “myth” BPD patients are dangerous.
“It is much more likely a person living with BPD will harm themselves, rather than harming someone else,” according to the strategy.
Coulthard-Evans struggled with low self-worth from an early age.
“My main problems were a very poor view of myself, instability – I struggled with relationships of any form, always really wanting to please but never feeling satisfied,” she told Yahoo UK.
“I self-harmed from a young age because of the pressure I put on myself.”
Parental neglect or abuse during childhood is a recognised cause of BPD.
“I experienced sexual abuse from a family member,” said Coulthard-Evans.
“It was a trusted relationship so straight away that messes you up.
“I was also not believed; I took that really hard.”
Read more: Two in five psychiatric ward patients had coronavirus at outbreak height
BPD can cause similar symptoms to depression, including prolonged low mood, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts in severe cases.
This led Coulthard-Evans’ GP to prescribe her antidepressants in her early twenties, which were ineffective at the time.
Several suicide attempts led to her being sectioned.
“I ended up in secure services, where there’s a lot more assessments done than in the community, where everything was with my GP,” said Coulthard-Evans.
These assessments resulted in her being diagnosed with BPD in 2010.
Watch: What is borderline personality disorder?
Coulthard-Evans spent four years at Rampton Hospital in Nottinghamshire, one of three high security hospitals in England and Wales.
“I had significant trauma therapy and intense CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy],” she said.
“Once my self-harm was under control, I could start tough trauma therapy, which allowed me to heal massively and make sense of what happened in my life.”
Coulthard-Evans was then transferred to a medium security unit via the charity St Andrew’s Healthcare, where