July 16, 2015

New research into public attitudes towards mental illness has shown that we are moving the right direction but there’s still a long way to go before stigma is gone for good.Julie's blog I wanted to share my story to reflect how far we’ve come over the years and to celebrate someone special whose experiences have made me even more determined to speak out and break the silence that surrounds mental health.

I have been able to talk about my mental health freely, but my grandma couldn't

Nearly two and half years ago, I was working in A&E where I was assaulted on two separate occasions. Afterwards, I became very unwell and after a visit to my GP he said he thought I was experiencing PTSD following the incidents. Subsequently, I was told that I needed to take time off work and was referred to the occupational health team who officially diagnosed PTSD.

My friends and family have been incredibly supportive and I have been able to talk about my experiences freely. Unfortunately, my grandma wasn’t so lucky and I remember how different people’s behaviour and attitudes were towards grandma nearly three decades ago.

She rarely left the house because she was unwell and I remember being five years old and we had to post things through her letterbox because she wouldn’t open the door. As a child I remember thinking ‘I have a grandma but she’s hidden behind a letterbox’.

Then, shortly after, I remember her being taken away to hospital in an ambulance. After that and up until I was 13, when she sadly passed away, we would visit grandma once every few months. We had to get three different buses to the old style institution that was practically in the middle of nowhere. I still remember that institution now; the locked corridors and some extremely unwell patients. Grandma always seemed happy though and I never really understood her mental health problems until she died and I was old enough for my mum to explain that Grandma had bipolar. She also had Parkinson’s and finally dementia.

My grandma didn't have her voice but I’m determined to make a difference for myself and for her

We didn’t talk about grandma very often and she was ridiculed in our local community. It is sad that she never got the support she needed. 

I remember going to my first Time to Change event where we shared our stories with members of the public to break down the misunderstanding that surrounds mental illness. We did a minute’s silence and I welled up because I couldn’t believe that I was at an event sharing my experiences with the general public, who really wanted to listen. How different it must have been for grandma all those years ago – she didn’t have her voice but I’m determined to make a difference for myself and for her.

Do you have your own story about a relative who couldn't speak out about their mental illness? What do you think of Julie's story?

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Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.