A BALLOCH student has created a magazine to highlight the invisible illnesses and changes experienced by young people.

Emma Lees started the Growing Pains project during lockdown to help people connect over their shared experiences with issues like mental health.

She got inspiration from the colourful leaflets her mum, who works as a psychiatric nurse, brought home when she was little.

She told the Reporter: “During lockdown I decided to work on a magazine project about growing up and initially I wanted to make something that was a mix of equal parts information and stories.

“The idea is that if you read it when you were younger you could get a better idea of what it is like in the words of someone who is actually experiencing it and not a medical page on the internet.

“Reading about an experience from someone who has lived it is far more impactful than going onto Google and reading a WebMD or an NHS page. They don’t explain how that condition or that diagnosis feels, or what it looks like in everyday life, and that’s what we need to know to be equipped to help not only ourselves but the people around us.”

Growing Pains magazine focuses on the situations people or their loved ones are likely to find themselves as they grow up.

It covers topics of such as moving away from home, changing careers, relationships, sexuality, mental health and invisible illnesses.

At first the former Vale of Leven Academy pupil used the voices of her friends in Dumbarton and the Vale before others outside the area started to share their experiences for the magazine.

The 27-year-old added: “After the first few stories were shared to me I couldn’t believe how open and vulnerable people were willing to be. I felt like I could relate to their story or recognise somebody I knew having that same experience. It was inspiring and educating at the same time, and really special to be let into their world for a moment.

“A lot of the things that affect and shape us are the things we don’t often talk about. They rarely come up in day to day conversations but through making the magazine I’ve realised it’s empowering to talk about them.

“Especially people who had to wait a long time to reach a diagnosis – it can be quite traumatic not knowing what’s wrong with you, but it’s not something you necessarily talk about often, even though it was a big part of your life.”

Emma is now hoping to make the magazine available to local secondary schools in the area to use as a guide for the pupils.

She said: “The dream would be to add more stories into it and turn it into a book. I sent one to my old high school and they put it in their library which is amazing. I wish I had access to something like it when I was younger.”

Every magazine purchased £1 is donated to the Mental Health Foundation to support people throughout the UK.

To find out more, and to buy a copy of the magazine, visit grow ingpainsmag.com.