Understanding Mental Health

(TW: mental health, depression, anxiety, self harm, panic, grief, phobia, stress, shame, suicide, ptsd, lack of support)

'Hello my name is' stickers with (from left to right) 'Grief', 'Anxiety', 'Phobia', 'Post-Traumatic Stress', 'Stress', 'Shame', 'Depression' and 'Panic' written on them
‘Hello my name is’ stickers with (from left to right) ‘Grief’, ‘Anxiety’, ‘Phobia’, ‘Post-Traumatic Stress’, ‘Stress’, ‘Shame’, ‘Depression’ and ‘Panic’ written on them

I suffer from depression and anxiety. I am on medication for this and under counselling at university. I used to self harm daily and I didn’t tell anyone for years.

After I came out about my mental health problems things started to improve slightly, I no longer self harm anywhere near as regularly and dark thoughts are a lot less frequent. I am also more vocal about mental health. As I mentioned on an earlier post (Deputy Prime Minister’s Mental Health Hero Awards) I have done a lot of work now around the topic, including the campaign Free Your Mind. Even now I am at university I am vocal on everyone seeking out help, ill mental health affects 1 in 4 people in their lifetime, add in the stress of a new place, moving out of home, exams, coursework, being alone, being homesick… the figures rise rapidly. On my university course alone the figures are more like 1 in 2 if not a higher percentage… and there are only 16 of us.

The issue is that it is so prevalent, but there is a severe lack of understanding. So many people are affected by these issues and yet so few people genuinely understand, and a lot of people don’t care to either. Mental health is a scary concept, what if you learn about it and realise you are suffering? Surely then you have to add a label to it and you feel like you are trying to be a *tumblr special snowflake*? Or what if you learn about it then suddenly everyone comes to you with their problems? You don’t need people to come and ask you how to fix them, why would you want to learn?

You should learn because it is so important.

Sure, you might not want people to come and ask you, in which case, you can say that. But having a basic understanding of different mental health conditions gives you the chance to not come across as a total dick when you encounter someone with issues. It allows you to talk to them without first judging them based on actions that could be a result of their health. It is vital that everyone has a basic understanding so mental health stops being such a tabooed thing to talk about.

Infographic in the shape of a head and neck with puzzle pieces making up sections. Top left to bottom right.  '1 in 4 are affected by mental illness' '8.6 million adults have suicidal thoughts' '1 in 30 experience PTSD' 'Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death' 'People of color have less access to care' 'Children with anxiety disorders least likely to receive treatment'
Infographic in the shape of a head and neck with puzzle pieces making up sections. Top left to bottom right.
‘1 in 4 are affected by mental illness’
‘8.6 million adults have suicidal thoughts’
‘1 in 30 experience PTSD’
‘Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death’
‘People of color have less access to care’
‘Children with anxiety disorders least likely to receive treatment’

Personally, I have a few different issues still, medication has only made it easier to deal with sometimes, and I still struggle a lot. In particular at the moment I am going through phrases where I find it very difficult to communicate with people. I spent a few weeks unable to speak to people, and this wasn’t just people at university, but I mean my family, my fiancé, my best friends. I was unable to talk to the very people who I knew inside could give me support. It was difficult at first for some of them to understand, but those close to me got it.

The issue came about when not everyone understood.

At university I was already on academic review having missed lectures due to a mix of mental and physical health issues, during which time I struggled to communicate why I would not be in and this went down negatively on my record. I was placed on review to ascertain if I was engaging in university adequately and this was supposed to be helpful to me and to aid in my well-being. Unfortunately it did the opposite, I found myself more stressed, more worried to turn up and even more worried to write in and say I couldn’t come in because I couldn’t get out of bed as my head wouldn’t let me.

Last year, within the first few weeks of term, I missed two days of lectures. I felt awful for it, but I was feeling so bad at the idea of being away from home that I struggled to get up and couldn’t get out of bed for two days, save being dragged to get food by my partner. Rather than just asking if I was okay, I was told that it would have been better for me to come in regardless as being with my coursemates would make me feel better. Something that obviously didn’t help a whole lot.

Since then I have had a lot of problems, both on my course and off and a lot of it has had links to my ill mental health. On top of this I have also been undergoing surgery and it has caused a lot of stress. As a result, as mentioned in my previous post (University and the struggles faced) I am suspending from my course with an aim to come back in September. I was discussing this with someone and explained that I was seriously struggling to communicate and I couldn’t avoid this, and had very little support given back. “Whatever the reasons, there’s no excuses for not communicating. Especially for nearly three weeks, it’s rude.” When this was said I felt crushed. It was near the end of a meeting and it had all gone well, until this point. It isn’t the first thing that is out of order that has been said like that from this person, and I highly doubt it will be the last. But it is things like that that really hurt. It was a comment out of pure ignorance, and I know this person is well meaning, they just don’t get it and don’t seem to understand it when it is pointed out multiple times.

Unfortunately this isn’t the only person who has done this in the past. I have had the whole comment of “It can’t be that bad,” or, “you’re just making it up,” and comments like this don’t make anything better. They make everything ten times worse, especially if you are already in a bad way.

Mental health should not be taken lightly, ever.

If you are suffering from ill mental health I am going to do some blog posts soon on the matter, some tips that I have found help me when I am really bad. There is loads out there with advice but I would like to post up my take on it all and what works for me.

For now though, if you are feeling down, or want to understand some of the thoughts that can come from ill mental health (in this case depression), watch this video. It is from America but is one of the best things I have ever seen.

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