July 27, 2012

Until 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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