I remember as a young child being very worried about things and being in my own head a lot. Looking back now, I can see that this was the beginning of anxiety.
I’d never heard the words mental health though and no-one talked about it, so nobody realised. Instead, I was described as “sensitive” and told I needed to toughen up. Fast forward a few years and in my first two years of high school, I was bullied so badly that I began to contemplate suicide. Thankfully, I didn’t go through with it, choosing instead to tell my mum about what was going on and how I was feeling.
She got the bullying stopped and took me to the doctor for help with the depression I’d developed. I was referred to a nurse counsellor which ended up being a horrible experience. She was very dismissive of my feelings and made me feel like I was wasting her time because I was too young to have any real problems.
Sadly, this is all too common an experience for young people when they seek help for their mental health
I didn’t tell anyone at school how I was feeling because I felt so worthless and ashamed and didn’t think anyone else would understand. With hindsight, I now know this was self-stigma
The experience with the nurse meant that I didn’t fully deal with my mental health problems and they followed me to university. I had to come home very quickly after experiencing a complete breakdown. Due to my earlier experiences, I didn’t seek any professional help, instead relying on my wonderful family’s support to get me through.
It wasn’t until February 2020 that I finally went to my doctors and asked for help. I’d experienced depression on and off over the years, but it was the anxiety that seemed to affect my life the most. I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and given access to a CBT programme – then the pandemic hit! Suddenly, I was dealing with a world that had closed in overnight and I developed agoraphobia on top of everything else.
Anxiety and depression have had a huge impact on my life, but I’ve been lucky to have incredible support from my family.
Whilst I am very open about my mental health experiences these days, I am still careful about who I talk to about it as I’m still wary of the judgement and discrimination that so many people experience. I wish that mental health had been talked about more when I was younger as I may not have felt so alone, and it would have helped to know that what I was experiencing wasn’t unusual and that other people could relate and help
I think there has been a huge change in how we talk about mental health recently and the more people do talk, the more accepted and normalised it becomes.
However, there is still a lot of stigma around mental health, especially around more complex experiences. I am fortunate to work for an extremely good company which really does put staff wellbeing as the top priority but I’m in the minority there. Support like mental health first aiders should be as commonplace as physical first aiders.Back to stories