January 15, 2014

I have been diagnosed with depression since I was 16. It took a little while to have a healthcare professional to actually say the phrase 'depression' .

During this time I was frequently told I was behaving ‘like a stroppy teenager’ and pushed aside. The word 'hormones' and 'angst' and others were always repeated at me but I felt like it was different to what everyone else my age seemed to be doing. This diagnosis pushed me to look at it from an adults perspective and, for the first time, I stopped hurting myself and focussed on it from a different angle, trying to look after myself.

When I was 18 I was finally referred to social services for an assessment after being on an acute low and given was medications to help me.

This was really first time I experienced discrimination

This was really first time I experienced discrimination. When I was prescribed medication, I struggled with some of the side effects. As a result of this I took a few days sick leave from work. When I returned to my job I was told that because I had ‘failed to declare it’ on my health declaration form, I would be suspended immediately and would receive a disciplinary. To be honest, I was 18 at the time and didn't understand employment policies, and didn't feel like my job was affected, so I was baffled at why they would use this against me. They upheld the disciplinary, and upheld the appeal and eventually my contract was terminated. Or, for a want of a better word, I was sacked from my job.

This is also the first time I met someone that restored my faith in people. My union representative was brilliant and he refused to let it go. He fought for disability discrimination and the case was settled out of court. I was told the reason for this was because the organisation were worried about any media attention that would occur and I wanted it to end, so I agreed to this and put it behind me.

I continued to struggle with depression

I continued to struggle with depression, sometimes so severely I felt like I couldn't cope with day to day menial tasks. I told myself I wasn't going to let it beat me despite my mind shouting at me to quit, but I carried on; I always forced myself to work full time and push forward. Its conflicting having ambition when you don’t want to get out of bed! Usually resulting in daily arguments with myself but somehow, I struggled along.

Long story short, one thing that has followed me ever since my diagnoses was the stigma and the ignorance surrounding mental health.

I want to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health,

This just one case of discrimination I have met over the years. I have, in the past, been told by a GP to 'get over it', a manager has said to me that she would 'never have given me the job if she'd have known' (despite my work being of a higher quality than what was required of me). I have lost friends, been belittled by others, called names, been accused of lying, and been told I'm overreacting. I've been told I 'need to snap out of it', and heard phrases like 'It's not like I can see what's wrong with you' so many times, I have lost count. I want to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health, which is more common than some people realise.

I want to reiterate that my experiences have not all been negative; far from it. I have received support from health care professionals, friends and family and work colleagues. Their support allow me to have faith in people. I think when people are going through a tough time then it's not sympathy that they want but just a basic understanding that, sometimes, they may need support. Support doesn’t have to be in the form of a shoulder to cry on but an acknowledgement that what they are experiencing does not make them 'crazy', it just makes them human.

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