We need to talk openly to young people about mental health

It was January 2009, I was aged thirty-one and the psychiatrist told me what I had already begun to suspect.

‘You have clinical depression and have probably experienced bouts since your teenage years.’

My colleagues would not have believed it. Many members of my family would not have believed it. Still, importantly I believed it. I was relieved that I could now finally access some support and I had a name for my despondency and tearfulness. I had successfully secured a promotion a few months before and was working hard, I had a loving, kind, sweet (and generally awesome) husband and some very special friends – why was I feeling like this? Why did I have a susceptibility to misery? Why did I hold it together all day and then get into my car and sob every evening? I was beginning to get some answers.

It's time to talk about mental health

Fast forward seven years (where has that time gone?!) and three children later and I am only just starting to be more open about my struggles with mental health. I speak to my close friends about things and a few weeks ago I discussed the issues with my mother-in-law for the first time. She was interested and kind and I greatly appreciated her gentle questions. Last month, when it was Time to Talk Day, I encouraged some of the students that I teach to consider mental health awareness and we discussed action that could be taken if people needed help. These are big steps for me.

Another step forward has been starting a blog – 'virtually talking' about mental health issues. I figure the more I blog the more comfortable I will be about sharing my own experiences with other people. I come from a background where mental health is not discussed and treatment is not sought (classic ‘stiff upper lip’ British mentality) but I do not want the teenagers that I connect with every day to go through their teenage years suffering in silence so I have tried to start some conversations lately.

I will talk frankly and openly to my children about my mental health

In a few years I will talk frankly and openly to my children about my diagnosis and the techniques and strategies I use to look after myself in order to look after them too. However, most importantly I will thank them for helping me to ‘tame my black dog’ with their innocent fascination in the world and I’m hoping that my gift to them will be to teach them to feel comfortable about talking about mental health with whomever they wish to, whenever they wish to. 

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Reading this story has alarmed me to call my GP and request an urgent appointment. I work in mental health so why I did not realise I was suffering from this made me think. For the last few weeks I have been extremely tearful, angry and extremely worried. I cry over any little situation and feel like I am going to end up alone by myself. My partner isn't very understanding with mental health but my dad is also bi-polar so I have grown up around it. I have found even little tasks very difficult. I am normally the outgoing girl who has her life organised but these last few weeks have challenged me and now I feel more alone than ever

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