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.
People often say that a problem shared is a problem halved. Unfortunately I’ve learnt first hand that this is sometimes easier said than done when it comes to mental health. Having been diagnosed with Bipolar and Anxiety Disorder when I was 19, I spent 10 years never really talking about my mental health.
I have always been open about my diagnosis but when it came to really talking about it, discussing what it meant, how it felt and most importantly how to deal with it, that was a conversation that only ever happened internally.