August 15, 2013

AliceAlthough I live with a mental illness called schizophrenia, I have been extremely fortunate that I have been blessed with such an amazing group of friends. I have also been able to rely on, at times, extreme generosity and kindness from strangers in some of my most difficult times.

One of the things that all these people have shared in common was their ability to listen and to stay in touch even when I am at my most unwell.

When I was at my most poorly, I was having an extremely difficult time, both seeing things that weren’t there and hearing intrusive voices that were extremely upsetting. At the time some of my friends found it difficult to be around me, perhaps because they didn’t understand what was happening to me and perhaps were frightened.

However, some people in my life were absolutely incredible, listening to me, not defining me by my illness and waiting for me patiently day by day to get better. One of these people was my best friend Tristan. Despite the fact that I was acutely unwell, Tristan and his partner Dave kept in touch with me every day in some way or other. They would phone or text every day and even when I was too unwell to speak to them would phone my mum to find out how I was doing and she would let me know so that I felt connected to my friends in some way even in my most difficult hours.

Another friend made the effort to drive an hour to visit me in hospital and bring a card despite the fact that, she was terrified of driving at night and that it was the middle of winter and bitterly cold. When she arrived she was brilliant and I was so pleased to see her. She didn’t just focus on my situation at the time and my mental illness but kept me up to date with all the latest news from other friends and family and helped me stay in touch with everyone.

Since recovery from my last bout of psychosis, I have found even people I don’t know have been surprisingly supportive. I have been relatively open with people when I find it appropriate. I tell them that I have a mental illness because I believe that this challenges stigma and may help others in the future in a similar situation. The number of people who have then felt able to share their own experiences of mental illness with me has pleasantly surprised me. This has helped me feel able to contribute to other people’s well being.

When I was at my most unwell, it was hard to believe that I would ever recover but, with the help of friends and the kindness of people I don’t even know, I have managed to become re-connected with the world and I will be forever grateful to those who helped. I would recommend to anyone that if they have a family member or friend experiencing a mental illness that they can stay in touch in some way. Whether through calling, texting emailing and showing that the person who is ill is valued and cared about. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic gesture it is the little things like staying in touch that often helps the most.

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