The thing with being totally open about the problems I have with my mental health, something I really do want to be, is that there is always that voice telling me I’m attention-seeking and selfish. It’s a vicious cycle. That’s the thing about stigma; it affects the way we think about things, and that is exactly what mental illness does to you.
My mum told me, the last time we were sat drinking cappuccinos in M&S cafe in Altrincham, that my dad really doesn’t like the fact that I’m on antidepressants. I told her that I think it’s because he doesn’t understand what they do, because he’s from a generation that was told taking such medication would mess with your head and leave you with no control over your mind, which was kind of right at the time, because they’ve come on along way since the early days of ‘happy pills’. My mum is rather in the belief that anything is better than what I was like 3 years ago, and I wholeheartedly agree.
I made the mistake of taking my mum to my first CBT appointment back then. I really should’ve thought that through, because I didn’t imagine it would mean her knowing that not only had I thought about suicide, I’d thought of how I would do it in a lot of detail; and lots of other details of how deep in I was that I had till then managed to keep from her. I didn’t want to upset her, it broke my heart to see her heart break, but it worked out for the best. She realised that she couldn’t and never would understand what was going through my mind, and whilst I know she spent some time blaming herself, she realised that it didn’t matter that she didn’t understand, only that I could talk about it.
If people don’t understand what it means to be depressed, the stereotype and ignorance will continue. The Katie Hopkins’ of this world will continue to spread poisonous messages about mental illness, and more people will die because they didn’t feel they could reach out and get help.
I also think I sought help after a relatively short amount of time (retrospectively, 18 months/2 years felt like a lifetime at the time) was because I knew what was happening. I might have been in denial for a while, but having been exposed to mental health problems previously, I relatively quickly recognised that I was depressed.
So we need to SPREAD THE WORD. Spread the word and SAVE MORE LIVES.
This is a brilliant time for this week to be happening, because mental health problems do not go well with exam season. I feel like it’s definitely something schools should address more, bearing in mind that I know the majority care a lot more than my school that was literally all about the results… kids’ health is more important than any exam result or any grade.
I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone. Not even Michael Gove or David Cameron (gasp). So minimising the misery caused if and when mental health issues strike is so so so important. And to do that we need to end the stigma, because it’s about bloody time.