September 8, 2017

Nicole: “I used to dread  talking about mental health, but now I feel a passion driven desire to talk about it whenever and  wherever I can.”

Becoming a Time to Change Young Champion has completely changed the way I live; it has given me the confidence to talk openly, without shame or fear, about my mental health. I no longer feel I need to lie about my experiences, or worry that conversations about my health will make others and myself feel uncomfortable. I have learnt a lot by sharing my experiences and I hope I have helped others too.

Before becoming a Young Champion, I would often fear the opinions others would have of me. I’d fear people would judge me for having lived with a mental illness and would see me as a liability and weak. From the training provided and meeting the incredible people behind Time to Change, as well as my fellow Young Champions, my ability and confidence in talking about my experiences with mental health have grown.

By seeing the power talking openly and confidently can have on people, I have become even more passionate to end the stigma surrounding mental health, raising awareness and ultimately saving lives. I often look back at why I started learning more about mental health and why I applied to become a Young Champion - the reason being to become the person that was not there for me.

From a very young age I struggled with my mental health. Having undiagnosed anxiety and often being passed off as ‘shy’ and ‘attention seeking’, both commonly used phrases to describe a child, I cannot help thinking if somebody would have looked a little deeper, perhaps somebody more aware of mental health and the signs and symptoms to look for, a simple conversation could have changed my whole life.

Since my childhood, there have been many more occasions where a conversation could have changed things, saving me years of illness. If only I had known then, what I know now. Three simple words; it is okay.

It is okay to have ill mental health and it is okay to talk about it.

One conversation about mental health has the power to change somebody’s whole life; one of the main reasons I choose to share, to talk and to campaign. I remember the first time I delivered my testimony with Time to Change. After sharing my experiences of anorexia and having answered some questions, a gentleman from the group passed me a note which said, ‘you are incredibly powerful, thank you’.

The power of conversation I am talking about does not only apply to talking to somebody who may be experiencing ill mental health but it applies to all conversations. The awareness and education one conversation can generate is unbelievable. With one in four people experiencing ill mental health at some point in their lives, you are probably surrounded by at least one person who could benefit from a conversation about mental health.

Three years ago, I could not talk about my mental health without my eyes filling with tears - tears of both pain and shame. Completely ashamed of myself, I fully believed the misconception that recovery from a mental illness was not possible. I never could have imagined I would be where I am today, let alone doing the work I am doing. Time to Change has not only inspired me to create change but also given me the opportunities to actively create it.

I have gained a voice, one that stands up to stigma without fear and that I am truly thankful for. Not only has my voice been able to help the way I view myself and my personal experiences but also help others, allowing me to change something awful into something positive.

I used to dread talking about mental health, but now I feel a passion driven desire to talk about it whenever and wherever I can. Sharing this enthusiasm for change with fellow Time to Change Young Champions and seeing the incredible work we achieve, makes me genuinely proud to be part of such a wonderful campaign. 

Read more from Nicole on her blog Nicole's Journey

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