When I was first diagnosed with clinical depression by my GP, I felt ashamed to tell people about my condition and did not talk about it. This was a feeling I got from people - the attitude that we do not tell people about having a mental health condition, and hearing people say “why is he telling people that he is depressed?”
So when I mentioned to someone that I was going to volunteer at a mental health charity, they responded with "...mental health! Are you going to be alright with those people…be careful, we do not want you coming back any worse”.
I started talking to a couple of people about myself, and received a positive response
After a while of not speaking about my condition, I started talking to a couple of people about myself, and received a positive response. This gave me confidence to say more and tell more people. I kept building on this confidence and now I openly talk about mental health and tell people about my condition, experiences, recovery plan. The reaction I mainly get is that I have an inspirational story.
Being part of the Time to Change Newcastle Village
I recently attended the Time To Change Village in Newcastle city centre, as a Champion, on Saturday 5th October 2013. I had lots of conversations about mental health with members of the public during the day.
The first conversation I had was with a man who was sat in the tea-room tent having a cup of tea and a cupcake. He was on his way to his local church for his breakfast. He mentioned how he had lost his wife but, before she passed away, she would not come out of the house, for fear of meeting the outside world. We spoke about how important it is to talk to one another, and be open about one’s mental health, which should not be a taboo subject.
I mentioned that we should try to persuade people who are isolated in their own homes, to come out and join groups, to help with their mental health condition. The importance of meeting ‘like’ people, and having friends, who you can share your own issues and experiences.
We talked about people from all backgrounds
We talked about people from all backgrounds, including alcoholics and the homeless, who have mental health issues, and the importance of having an inclusive society, to include and engage with all people, to talk about their concerns. The guy had become a member of his local church, which enables him to be part of a group and have people who he can talk to. He also finds talking to God when he is on his own, helps, as he does not feel alone.
I also talked to a man who is associated with NSUN (National Survivor User Network). He has suffered from depression and we both spoke openly and at length about each other’s experience with depression, the journey, and recovery, and how we manage our conditions and life situations.
We also talked about being open and talking about mental health, to help yourself and to help others. Afterwards he said to me “[It]was lovely talking to you. You have a very inspirational story to tell, it should be shared with as many people as you can. It definitely helped me.”
I try to talk openly about mental health to help me and to help others
I try to talk openly about mental health both to help me and to help others. It helps me to learn more about my condition and often the recipient will open up about their condition, and I can learn new tools from them about how to manage my recovery. I have opened-up to people I have known for years who have not previously discussed anything about their mental health. Once I start to talk about my own mental health, they open up about their own condition. This provides me with great satisfaction as hopefully it helps others, and encourages people to be open to end the stigma associated with mental health.
My hobby helps my mental health
To help me with my recovery I have started a hobby in making wooden boxes/crates from reclaimed timber. As having interests or hobbies can be beneficial for your own mental health. The making of my crates is what I call 'my medicine' as it helps to improve my mental health.
I sell the crates at craft fairs, which provides a platform to talk to members of the public. At a particular fair, two ladies came to my stall to look at my crates. I got talking to these two ladies about things which lead onto the reason of making crates and I mentioned depression. These two ladies dropped their confident image, and said they both suffered from depression, which brought all three of us on to common ground. Before we knew it, we were having a good conversation about mental health, and each others’ experiences. To be honest, as they left my stall, I had a tear in my eye; thinking, this is more than making any money, this is about reaching out to help others.
What are Time to Change Champions?
Time to Change Champions are people with lived experience of mental health problems (including carers) who campaign to end mental health discrimination in their communities.
Sign up to become a Time to Change Champion and raise awareness by speaking out about your experiences at events and anti-stigma projects.