Until it affected me, I knew nothing about mental health

Photo of Sian, a Time to Change bloggerUntil it began to affect me, I was completely ignorant about mental health. I'm ashamed to admit that, like my peers at school, I thought anyone with schizophrenia, bipolar or depression was 'weird' and should be avoided at all costs.

I didn't understand it and I'm so glad that through suffering from depression I've learnt about all the spectrum of different mental illnesses and how they affect people. It's such valuable knowledge to have because, as the Time to Change campaign is saying, so many people suffer from mental illness and these people could include your family, best friend or even your future partner.

My depression has been met with a lot of ignorance over the last few years. Stupid things that people say, like "My mum told me to stay away from [depressed] people like her, she's not the kind of person you want to be around."

These throw away comments are so nasty and hurtful

These throw away comments are so nasty and hurtful, and make already vulnerable people feel even more isolated and depressed. Subconsciously I felt the need to hide the fact I was depressed, as though, if I was honest about it, people wouldn't want to know me. Once, in an argument with a friend, I was called a 'f***ing psycho.' I've also been told to 'man up,' 'stop feeling sorry for myself,' and even by one person – 'nah, you haven't got depression, you just think you have!'

Over the years I've been called spineless, pathetic and lazy. I was also told at one workplace that I 'don't do anything.' I would have liked to see the person who said this to me drugged up on anti-depressants and drinking bottles of Lucozade just to be able to stay alert. Because that was me at the time and it's not easy.

One of the main problems is that many people don't recognise the signs of mental illness 

One of the main problems is that many people don't recognise the signs of mental illness or distress and instead take someone's erratic or aloof behaviour as arrogance. When I moved into halls for university I became antisocial and isolated very quickly due to my worsening depression.

I was convinced my flatmates didn't like me and that I wasn't good enough to be there. One night I wrote one of my flatmates a message on Facebook, apologising if it seemed like I didn't like them and explaining that I suffered from depression. After this they didn't seem to speak to me at all. It felt as though I even became the flat joke - instead of giving me some space, they began to do things like hammer on my door at 3am and talk about me outside my room.

they knew there was a vulnerable person in the flat, they jumped at the chance to put me down

They were nervous like everyone else about coming to university and once they knew there was a vulnerable person in the flat, they jumped at the chance to put me down. Looking back now I almost feel sorry for them, but at the time it was very hard to cope with.

I applied for a job recently and having been told that I had most likely been successful (unless I had a criminal record or something) I wrote that I suffered from depression on a form for medical reasons. I then received a letter a few weeks later telling me, without any explanation, that I had been unsuccessful in my application and best wishes for the future. Most employers have been fine with me having depression, so it was disappointing and sad to come across one that was still so backward in its beliefs.

I'm not ashamed to say this because I understand mental health now

I've self harmed for a number of years, I've lost so many friends through my erratic behaviour, I've even been in hospital twice since the start of 2012. And I'm not ashamed to say this because I understand mental health now. I know that whatever trouble a person with mental illness gets into - whether it's a suicide attempt, a horrible relationship break-up or a descent into drugs - it isn't a reflection on them, only their illness. And once everyone in our society knows this, or at least attempts to understand this, the stigma against mental illness with fade.

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Comments

Answer1

You are totally right.I want to give you CONGRATULATIONS that you are open and speak about that and you accept the mental illness.I have to say that i have many friends who they have depression many years,but they are really cool people.I spend time with them,they dont have ANY DIFFERENCE from no one else. You are such a brave person.Your personal story really touch me.I wish the best for you. Friendly!

Sian, that's almost a

Sian, that's almost a mirror-image of what happened to me whilst at University. Before what was meant to be my third year, I had a manic episode and ended up in a psychiatric hospital where I was told that I was undergoing hypomania. I had no idea that being extremely positive was a worrying mental condition and it resulted in me being depressed for a long period after that. Despite my manic episode I managed to graduate from my degree, but since then I have found it a struggle to find work, and come to terms with my bipolar in the long term. With regards to finding work, even looking for voluntary work has it's problems, as an age charity rejected my application to help out because they had "serious misgivings" about my mental health. To use such a phrase in that sense is just unacceptable. Thanks for sharing your story, and I hope things improve in the long term.

I know exactly what you mean

I know exactly what you mean about the stigma of mental health issues. This is why I don't talk about my problems to my family or friends, they either wouldn't understand or would class me as 'a mental' and fear that at any provocation I'd shoot up the office. Sian you are far braver than me for doing this, I wish you all the love in the world

Well said!

This article brought tears to my eyes as it was so reminiscent of my experiences. Thank you for sharing and all the best for the future, hope you continue to find the strength that's so clear in this article.

I`ve suffered depression for

I`ve suffered depression for a few years and currently have it now. And alot of what you said rung a bell with me. I`ve been open too about it too, as i`ve cried many times due to feeling down and haveing low self esteem. And i`ve heard people too say your not Depressed, your just feel a bit sad. I`ll be happy one min, then as low as i can get, and i`ve had people i thought was friends and as i`m not social, shy and down, they have all ignored me at my work place and have heard them say. "He`s putting an act on" or "attention seeker". Had other stay away from me, due to how i am and hardly any wanting to see how i am.And hardly now have any friends. As i may put a post up of it and someone will straight away say Not moaning and whinging again, i`d happily take that then having depression. And so much of your blog is like me too, i`ve had times too ,i wanted to hurt myself. But i think of my family and think it`s not fair on them. But i hope you manage to control it too Sian :)

Really well put Sian. I know

Really well put Sian. I know what you mean about becoming isolated and anti-social in University halls, it's very difficult to deal with especially when everyone around you your age seem to be having so much fun so effortlessly. And you put it brilliantly when you say that whatever trouble a person with mental illness gets into, it isn't a reflection on them, only their illness. Good luck for the future!

Sian's blog

I've had that rejection slip many times from jobs I applied to. I have also suffered from depression and anxiety. I bloody well agree with you that some people find it easy to put down others as a 'psycho' or whatever. It's so flaming funny to them. Someone I know takes the mick out of people in her school who self harm. What's the alternative - letting off a lighter and a deodorant in a school bus with hilarious consequences?

Wow. It's amazing that you've

Wow. It's amazing that you've found the courage to share your story, and the upside of having had depression is that you have a greater understanding of how some people with mental illness feel in society. :) Hope things are working out for you at the moment x

I relate to this!

Gosh, I'm so glad so many people here can relate to how hard being at university is with depression. You totally isolate yourself and feel like you don't belong. And going back to that year after year is so hard. I have to go back in October and I'm not sure if I can actually face it I really enjoyed reading your post and look forward to seeing more from you!

Great Post

This resonated so much with my own uni experiences many years ago but still painful on reflection. Looking back to my first year at university; this is where my problems started. The extra stress of a large lifestyle-change (which was leaving home and moving into halls of residence) could have been a trigger for my depression. From there I went downhill becoming progressively socially isolated, slipping on my studies and getting increasingly more tired. I also stopped eating properly and spent a great deal of time smoking cigarettes which further exhausted me. At the same time I became increasingly anxious about my studies but knew I didn’t have the energy to regain lost studying ground. Consequently I found myself despairing and worrying more about the inevitable and foregone out-come of dropping out and where my life would lead with this perceived failure. This was further fuel for anxiety. I spent two years after dropping out bumping along on the bottom with severe depression abusing alcohol and contemplating suicide daily. During this time I sought professional health care (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), learned a great deal about the Cogitative Triad of Depression and eventually broke free of this illness. Today I am riding high, married with a beautiful baby daughter, a meaningful job and a great future. To all the people who helped me; my eternal thanks. For the many who didn’t (through ignorance and/or fear) – grow up and educate yourselves!

Well done for coming through

Well done for coming through all you have and finding your future. I am sitting her thinking my family will be better off without me, as i beat this in 2002 but don't think i can do it this time, i am just to tired to keep fighting this never ending treadmill of depression. I am bipolar in the lowest level with manic episodes so i make big plans i can't carry out. Sorry if this isn't the right place for this. xxx

Support services

<p>Hi Marie, sorry to hear you're going through such a touch time at the moment. The Samaritans are always there if you need someone to talk to. You can call them on&nbsp;08457 90 90 90 or email&nbsp;jo@samaritans.org. </p><p>If you wanted practical support and advice in your local area, the excellent advice lines run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness have experts you can talk to. You can contact Mind on&nbsp;0300 123 3393 or email&nbsp;info@mind.org.uk. Rethink can be contacted on&nbsp;0300 5000 927.</p>

marie

Hi Marie...can't believe I just wrote you a really long reply...& it was to many characters long! Sending you lots of love....keep fighting my lovely!!!!! Xxx

Can relate to your story

Your first paragraph mirrors my thoughts on mental illness until it happened to me. I am sad to say I was also a general nurse so really should not have thought in this manner. Reading that has really made me think again about stigma as I suppose in reality I didn't think I did discriminate against anybody but perhaps did it latently. I have had similar experiences with employers since my initial illness but think of it in a positive way as 'there loss' if they pull an offer after verbally stating OK. I had a similar experience lately and sorry to say it was with a large national mental health organisation NOT Mind or Rethink but one that should have known the issues I had. I also lost many friends but those that remained will be friends for life. I have learnt to self-manage to some extent and know it is beneficial but admit that self care sometimes goes out the window when relaps raises its head. But with each rotten low mood blip I arise again like a pheonix and rebuild my life once again. Really wish we could hold a huge protest in Downing Street about the impact of stigma and that services based on recovery need major funding. I also live with diabetes and for that have yearly check of blood, urine, kidney function and eyes - what do I get for mental illness medication and no support until crisis occurs - the joys of mental health in the UK

Sian_'s Blog

Well said, Sian. Your experience mirrors that of many of us. Really good that you can write about it. And well said,all you others who have posted your support and experience. Remember that the worst generators of stigma have always been from within the health community itself, particularly mental health. Here in Canada, we finally got the Canadian Psychiatric Ass'n, and the Canadian Medical Ass,n to recognize this, and they have begun medical education courses as part of ongoing physician education. Keep working, keep writing and know that there are millions of us out there supporting your efforts. Bill Ashdown Vice-President Mood Disorders Society of Canada

I relate to this totally, congratulations!

Congratulations babe on being able to speak about your mental health, I think the stigma needs to be broken and that if you do feel you have a mental health problem that you can speak out. It's vile that no-one supported you at university when it's such a stressful time, they should have been there for you but least they can see now how much of a strong and brilliant woman you are. I'm going to deal with my own mental health issues this week by booking my doctors appointment, i'm terrorfied about doing this but after being on this website and reading your story it's something I need to do. All the best! Prom Queen :) xx

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