Having lived experience of mental health issues and been on the receiving end of mental health discrimination in the workplace (historical employer), I became a Time to Change Employee Champion when temporarily working for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) as a Mental Health Community Partner.
On leaving the DWP I wanted to continue to champion mental health in the community: becoming a Time to Change Champion and a Pets As Therapy volunteer was a way to achieve this.
I've been a Time to Change Champion for a number of years now but it's only very recently I have joined with the movement. I would be lying if I told you this involvement has been easy. But I hope, my struggles make things better for others like me who are living with a mental illness.
When it comes to the need to talk about our mental health, we seem to put all of the responsibility in the court of the person who is already struggling. Sure, nobody can read minds, and people can’t expect specific help without asking for it. But mental health problems can make it harder to talk and ask for help in the first place. The responsibility of reaching out for help has to be matched with our shared responsibility to look out for each other - to provide safe spaces to talk, to listen, and to offer caring responses.
For years I didn’t speak about my mental health issues. They began to aﬀect me seriously when I was about 14 years old. School became challenging, I experienced bouts of paralysing depression, I developed a panic disorder and had real trouble with pretty much everything from work and relationships to food, sleep and self worth. I didn’t think I’d make it to 30. It just didn’t seem feasible.