'I struggled with my identity': Two-thirds of adopted youngsters have sought help for mental health

  • 'Can I make sure you're not going to abandon me?' Mimi's story

A 20-year-old woman who was adopted from overseas as a young child has described the lasting impact on her mental health of "not feeling wanted and not having a place".

Mimi Woods, from Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, was adopted from Thailand at the age of three, having been born prematurely and put into a care home.

She says her childhood in Wales was full of love and support, but when she turned 15 she began to struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts for no apparent reason.

It comes as a report found that two-thirds of adopted people aged 16 and over have sought help for their mental health.

According to the findings, adopted people are almost three times as likely to be involved with mental health services, and more than twice as likely to not be in a job or education between 16-25.

The report by Adoption UK also revealed a "failure to provide early and consistent support" for adopted young people and their families.

Mimi says her adoptive parents have always been loving and supportive. Credit: Mimi Woods / Adoption UK
  • 'Identity is a big issue for me'

Mimi said: "My parents told me from the beginning that was I was adopted but I was not able to hide my adopted status from other people - my parents are white and I'm Asian.

"I enjoyed growing up. I enjoyed school. I had good friends; I had a good social life. I had a really good childhood - lots of love, lots of support. My parents are lovely people.

"I had no other issues in my life, so I couldn't put my finger on the reason for feeling the way I did. I've since learned that past trauma can affect you years later."

Mimi says although she is proud to be adopted, she has continued to struggle with her self-identity into adulthood.

Mimi was adopted from Thailand aged three. Credit: Mimi Woods / Adoption UK

"Identity, I think, plays a big part in your adopted journey," she said.

"I don't look like you - although I speak your language, I eat your food, I go to school here, I live here.

"You always think: 'Am I loved? Can I put my trust in you? Can I make sure that you're not going to leave me; that you're not going to abandon me?' There's always that thought in your head.

"I talk to other adopted young people and they all suffer from mental ill-health as well. My younger sister, who my parents also adopted from Thailand, suffers from mental health issues."

Mimi's mental health issues grew so bad that she once tried to take her own life.

Mimi said she struggles with her identity. Credit: Mimi Woods / Adoption UK

Adoption UK Cymru director Ann Bell said: "For the third year running, two-thirds of barometer respondents from Wales said they face a continual struggle for support. 

"All too often these families are being failed by a system which invests heavily in the placement of children for adoption, then fades into the background, often with terrible consequences for the mental health of the children and their adoptive families."

  • Anne Bell from Adoption UK: 'We need more ongoing support'

The Welsh Government said it welcomes the report's findings, and has invested in developing adoption support services over the last two years.

A spokesperson said: "There is more to do and we will continue working with the sector to ensure we target those areas that need further development and investment.

"We are committed to improving mental health services and providing the right level of support, including therapeutic support, to help reduce potential emotional trauma.

"We will also continue to develop our services so adopted young people making the transition to adulthood - and their families - can readily access support services as and when they need them."

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