January 27, 2012

Nikki giving her speech at Time to Change reception hosted by Nick CleggNikki Llewellyn was one of our inspirational Champions who spoke alongside the Deputy Prime Minister at Time to Change's reception last week. This is a transcript of the speech that she gave:

"Mental illness isn't something you just get over, it's with you for life; even if you overcome the symptoms, the effects will be with you forever - and that is why we will always need organisations like Time to Change.

I believe I became depressed at 13, although at the time I didn't really know what was wrong; I took an overdose, but I didn't really want to die...I just didn't know what else to do. Back then, there was no one you could really talk to, and internet searches just led to really negative people. I couldn't tell my friends because I didn't want them to think I was weird, so I suffered in silence until I was 23 years old; my father had been diagnosed with depression and after seeing how he was treated by friends, family and even doctors, I vowed I would never tell anyone. However, 10 years of suffering in silence took its toll and I became scared for my life - so I went to my GP. He was nice and tried to be understanding, but wasn't really helpful; he just kept suggesting various medications even though I swore that I'd never ever take medication - I still have all the meds he ever prescribed!

When people ask me how I got better without any support or medication, I simply can't answer them - but I can guarantee that if Time to Change had been around then, it would have been so much easier. I can still remember the day I found Time to Change - I was messing around on Facebook, as you do, and I saw a really colourful advert; I clicked on it, and it was one of those cartoon moments where a lightbulb appears over your head and I thought to myself, where have you been all my life? Since that day, I've been to three Roadshows, written a blog (with one on the way), did a video interview, contributed to the new leaflet and I've joined the Time to Change Community Engagement Advisory Panel...and I’m just getting started.

I remember the last Roadshow I did, which was in Harrow - there were these four Asian girls and I will never forget the conversation I had with them. When I told them that 1 in 4 people will have some kind of mental issue in their lifetime, they each looked at one another in shock; so I asked them, if your friend came to you because she was worried something may be mentally wrong, what would you say? What would you do? What would each of you say or do in that situation – can you imagine how terrifying it is just to start that conversation? As we talked, it dawned on me just how lucky these girls are; when I was younger, I didn't even think about telling my friends because it simply wasn't done back then. But now, thanks to organisations like Time to Change, such conversations can and are taking place.

Whilst my recovery may be unique, my symptoms are not; there are far too many people who are afraid to tell someone that they have a problem, far too many people suffering in silence because they're ashamed or scared or don’t even understand what is wrong. If people believed that a broken mind is nothing to be ashamed of, and that it’s ok to talk about how they’re feeling, then they would. Having secured funding until March 2015 is fantastic, but that is just the start...what we need now is people out there, letting everyone know that it is okay to talk about these problems. At the Roadshows, we were worried that people would mistake us for fund-raisers, so I coined the phrase - "we're not raising funds, we're raising awareness". Please… help us to do just that."


If you're interested in becoming a Time to Change Champion like Nikki, tell us about yourself in our Champions sign up form.

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