Volunteering and speaking out about his own experiences has helped Dean to better understand his own mental health.
Mental health has affected my life in many ways – indirectly and directly.
I’ve been luckier than most in that my household is fairly open about mental health. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t talk about how I was feeling at home. My mum’s my best friend, my closest confidant, and I’ve always been able to speak to her.
However, I had never spoken openly and publicly about my mental health until I joined See Me two years ago. I’ve had my own mental health problems since I started high school – and my dad died by suicide when I was younger, which has obviously had a huge impact on me too.
I became a part of See Me after a particularly long, dark period of depression that lasted about three years. It caused me to drop out of university, to not be able to take advantage of job opportunities, and even resulted in a brief stay in hospital for my own safety.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced has been self-stigma, and how I see myself. It made me feel like I couldn’t do certain things or achieve certain things because of my mental health – I couldn’t live the life that I wanted because my mental health was holding me back. And it held me back from getting the help that I needed.
When I was younger, I had quite a negative perception of counselling – I thought I’d be judged. With the help of a doctor though, I got access to psychotherapy, which was great for me. It was the total opposite to what I thought it would be. It helped me to connect the dots – it didn’t give me the answers, but it taught me how to manage myself.
I had a lightbulb moment where I realised that my mental health doesn’t have to hold me back. My mental health issues don’t define me. I can be myself and do the things that I want to do while also managing my mental health. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t speak up and get help sooner.
I definitely think that mental health is spoken about a lot more, which is great – it’s definitely at the forefront of people’s minds. But there’s still discrimination out there, and we still have a long way to go. I feel like awareness is better, but there’s still a reluctance for people to talk about their own mental health – and that’s the first step to getting help.
I would encourage everyone to get on board and tackle that stigma that still exists in society. Even if what you’re doing seems quite small, it’s potentially life saving. It’s about opening up those conversations.
Volunteering with See Me has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. The work I’ve been involved in has had a real impact on other people’s lives – and my own.Back to stories