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How having a stutter affects my mental health

4 min read
22 February 2023

Topics mentioned: anxiety, self-esteem, friends, bullying

Author: Sophie

About: Sophie, 16, shares her experience of having a stutter (or stammer), how it's affected her mental health, and her tips for speaking to someone who stutters.

A stutter (also known as a stammer) involves frequent and significant problems with fluency and flow of speech. A way to treat and slow down a stammer can be speech therapy.

A stutter can be overwhelming and confusing, and there is no clear cause. Stuttering can be worse when the person is feeling excited, stressed, struggling with their self-esteem or feeling pressured.

It gets bad to the point where I just give up speaking to anyone who doesn’t know that I have a stutter.

How having a stutter affects my life

Having a speech difficulty can affect anyone in the world, and I’m one of those people. Mine started when I first started to talk, however going to a speech therapist to treat it before it got worse really helped me. It didn’t come back severely until I started secondary school.

When I was 11, it did become more prominent and annoying. I had friends who didn’t understand the meaning behind a stutter and why it came back again. At the time, I was stressed over assignments and my anxiety wasn’t being kind to me. After three years in secondary school I did end up dropping out to be home-schooled due to my mental health.

When I left school, my stutter became milder, and I wasn’t as stressed. My mental health was also easier to manage once my stutter was stopping. It still happened when I wanted to get my words out quickly, or I would end up speaking over someone to try and get my words out before I stuttered again. It gets bad to the point where I just give up speaking to anyone who doesn’t know that I have a stutter.

I found myself getting mocked and questioned more often.

In September last year, I started studying animal welfare at college, and it came back immediately. I felt so destroyed and angry, as if I had betrayed myself. I did make new friends who were wonderful to me and asked questions about my stutter when I spoke.

However, after a couple months at college, I found myself getting mocked and questioned more often, but not in a nice way. As if I was ‘weirder’ or much stranger than everyone else.

Strangers and my friends don’t understand how them mocking and copying my stutter makes me feel. Sometimes it’s even difficult for me to understand why I stutter. I only don’t stutter when I have tics, as I also have mild anxiety tics.

When I have something exciting to say, it’s impossible to get the words out.

How having a stutter affects my mental health

Having a severe stutter makes me feel incredibly alone in what I’m going through. People think a stutter is something you can stop whenever you wish – if it was, I would.

It’s affected my mental health so much, because having a stutter makes me feel different, and knowing that when I have something exciting to say, it’s impossible to get the words out.

Situations where having a stutter is difficult

  • meeting new people
  • starting a new job
  • interviews
  • ordering food
  • phone calls
  • talking over background noises
  • overcrowded places
  • unexpected questions
You are not alone.

Six tips for speaking with someone who stutters

  • Don't finish our sentences

    We will get there in the end if you wait.

  • Please be patient with us

    I understand it can be annoying, but it’s more annoying for us.

  • Show interest in the conversation

    If we see that you’re getting bored or frustrated, the stuttering might become more severe with stress.

  • Keep eye contact

    This shows that you are interested and listening.

  • Treat us as your friend

    Don’t treat us like a baby, because we will know.

  • Treat us with kindness

    The most important tip is to treat us with kindness, because having a stutter doesn’t make us any different.

If having a stutter or stammer affects your mental health too, you are not alone. There is lots of information and support out there to help you.

The most important tip is to treat us with kindness.

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

  • STAMMA

    Offers advice and information for people who stammer (or stutter) and those that support them.

    Support available via free webchat, telephone and email. 

     

    Opening times:
    10am - 12noon and 6pm - 8pm, during weekdays
  • The Mix

    Free, short-term online counselling for young people aged 25 or under. Their website also provides lots of information and advice about mental health and wellbeing. 

    Email support is available via their online contact form.

    They have a free 1-2-1 webchat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, Monday - Friday
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
    24/7

Thanks for sharing your story Sophie, 16

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