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  1. ITV Report

'I'm free to be myself': Transgender teen Amber on overcoming 'darkest moments' of depression

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, ITV News is highlighting issues or conditions often under-represented in terms of awareness as well as looking at positive and therapeutic initiatives helping people with their mental health recovery.

  • By Natalia Jorquera and Davina Fenton

With recent studies suggesting a rise in mental health problems among teenagers and young adults, if you're also transgender you're likely to be even more vulnerable to poor mental health.

For people with gender dysphoria, in addition to the conflict between their biological sex and gender identity, they can also face loneliness, isolation and discrimination.

Amber, 19, from Havant, Hampshire, who is biologically male, began to experience gender dysphoria from a young age.

"I was about four when I first put on a dress, I remember thinking I like this," she told ITV News.

Around the age of 10, she also began secretly trying on her mum's clothes after school and said "that's when I felt normal".

The teenager has been living as Amber for two years but only began wearing female clothes full-time last year.

"I chucked all my boys clothes out and it felt natural," she said.

The teenager was born biologically male.

Amber, who has autism and Aspergers, says she has received a lot of support as a trans girl but has also been the target of "much hate" including on social media.

"When I went to college a lot of people took the mickey out of me...I've been spat at," she added.

Amber also admitted at times she has suffered severe depression.

"Being in this body and it not being in the body I was meant to be in, I felt depressed."

At times Amber has been left feeling deeply depressed.

The teenager also said antidepressants didn't work for her and she went on to self-harm and even attempt to take her own life.

Amber is not alone.

In 2014, a UK survey carried out by Pace found that 48% of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide, while 59% said they had considered doing so.

"I felt alienated"

Her lowest point came after she "came out" on social media, and a slew of negative comments and threats followed which left her feeling suicidal.

"I've never felt that low, so many people are just so narrow-minded," Amber said.

"But they can say what they want now," she added defiantly.

"I'm going to be myself and make a difference."

Social media has been both a help and a hindrance to Amber's well-being. Credit: PA

Despite her negative experience, social media has also had a positive impact.

"Social media is amazing you can contact people from so far away.

"You can contact friends, family..it's enabled me to contact other trans people as well," Amber said.

"I feel very accepted as Amber"

Amber said she still feels down sometimes but it's not as bad because "I'm free to be myself."

Make-up and hair extensions and feminine clothing has also helped with her confidence but she's just as comfortable in a tracksuit these days.

The teenager enjoys getting made up before going out.

Reflecting on how far she's come, Amber said: "I've lost friends, I've lost family..but you just need to focus on the ones you do have."

The teenager's mother in particular has been especially supportive.

Visibly emotional, she said: "The first time she called me Amber at my 18th, I was like 'oh my God this is happening', my mum finally accepted who I am, and she's there for me if i need her."

"I can't do anything of this without her," she added.

The support of her local community has also had a positive impact although it was "very scary" when she first ventured out as Amber.

Amber initially felt 'vulnerable' dressed as a female when she went out.

"I was very socially vulnerable, I started walking in a dress in a pair of heels and had random people come up to me."

"I've been doing it for two years now. I get more support than I do hate."

"I feel free to be myself around anyone I that want in my community, " she added.

The fact that Amber can still enjoy the same sports she enjoyed as a boy, has also had a positive effect on the teen's well-being.

"I can do all the sports that I love as Amber and I'm accepted."

"When I'm out I like to go to the skate park with my brothers. We'll go out and play football."

Shopping trips to buy female clothing makes the teenager 'very happy'.

She also looks forward to shopping trips with her mum or sister and doing their nails or make-up together.

"That makes me feel so natural, like I belong in this family as Amber.

"When I go out as Amber to shop, it's a big adrenaline rush," she added.

"It makes me feel very happy, especially when they allow me to use the female changing rooms."

Amber has entered this year's Ms Transgender UK and is eagerly looking forward to the beauty pageant.

"It's a place I can get in touch with a wider trans community and I can be myself."

Amber is facing the future with confidence and optimism.

When asked what tips she would give for thriving as a young transgender person, Amber said: "Always look on the bright side. Whenever there's dark, there's always going to be light."

She also suggested anyone who needs support in relation to their gender identity seeks advice from a doctor, online forums and gender support pages.

"Take your time, don't rush, I rushed coming out and it fuelled my depression. I've been doing this for two years and I'm not even on my hormones yet."

Want to find out more about gender dysphoria or mental health? Here are some support and advice links:

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