Let us end the stigma by talking openly about depression and mental ill health.

September 10, 2018

 

As a society we need to work together to slow the increase in mental ill health and death by suicide. We need to find ways to help people to control and manage their mental health, everyone should have good mental well-being. Unfortunately there are no sections of society that are immune to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, paranoia, eating problems or any other mental illness.

 

I firmly believe that to have the optimum level of mental well-being, a number of factors have to come together. The list seems endless but will include emotional support, medical support, employer welfare services, plenty of exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness, relaxation and good sleep. Of course poverty, parenting, bereavement, education and even genetics may mean that someone is always on the back-foot when it comes to achieving a healthy mental state.

 

I have dipped in and out of counselling, I have seen GP's, I have had depression and anxiety. Work, the death of close family members and financial worry have meant that my health has been very up and down. I knew that to go through prolonged periods of mental calm I required not only a determination to beat my demons and illness for good but I also had to receive the correct professional support and advice. I will admit that in the past I have felt like it is not worth going on, I had the thoughts that I would be I be stuck with mental illness for the rest of my life. I probably did think that unless I was able to control my mental health for a prolonged period of time that in the end it would destroy me.

 

In 2017 I sank as low as I could go, my field was flooded and the flood barriers were not up to the job of keeping the flood water away. There was only one way that I knew I had to go, so before I did anything else I spoke to my GP and received the medical advice that I required. This was followed by seeing an excellent counsellor who then helped me on the road to recovery. Luckily I progressed and my mental and physical health have continued to recover and thrive. My experiences  made me realise that I was lucky to have the support necessary to manage my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when the anxiety, low moods and irrational thoughts come back, but as I have spent a lot of time and effort on bolstering and repairing my flood defences, I feel that the periods of low moods and poor mental well-being are overcome quickly.

 

Unfortunately, others are not as lucky as me and for whatever reason, they decide that they cannot go on and they make the difficult decision to take their own life. I have been unlucky enough in my career to have dealt with a number of suicides. It's a horrible job, and I would say that in the majority of these suicides the person is male. It's absolutely tragic that they feel there is no way out and that they have to end their life prematurely. It's also highly distressing for their loved ones. They are bound to feel guilt, and ask themselves if they could have done more to help. It really does affect so many people. Sometimes when you see a suicide note you realise that the issues that were troubling the person could have been overcome. With the right support, advice and encouragement they may still be alive. That saddens me. 

 

The thing is, people from all walks of life have mental ill health. Rich and poor, male and female, young and old. You can look at someone and think they have it all - a good job, money, a nice house, great family; but that person is at the stage that there mental ill heath is out of control, they have no where to go and in some tragic cases they decide that they can no longer go on with life and they end it. A £500 debt that is causing someone extreme stress and anxiety may seem like nothing to some people but to that person it feels like a problem that will never end. 

 

In addition to this, the Universities UK has stated in a report that mental health rates among students is on the rise and mental healthcare is letting many students down. Something has to be done to assist students and indeed all young people who live with mental illness. The pressure on them is ridiculous. The requirement to obtain a degree, to be able to sustain a decent standard of living, keep debt at a manageable level and then get a good job, that pays enough - can be completely over bearing for many.

 

So what can be done? Well the person suffering with mental illness, depression, anxiety, low moods or potentially suicidal thoughts has to ask for help. They have to reach out and talk to someone. They need to talk about their illness, overcome the stigma of talking and admit that they need help. Talking to anyone who will listen has helped me and also stopped me from bottling everything up. There needs to be more access to GP appointments and quality counselling. It can take months to obtain counselling through your GP and if you cannot obtain it through the GP or even work, then it can be expensive. 

 

There is now more emphasis on schools, colleges, universities and employers to provide well-being sessions, mental health first aiders and counselling services, which is an excellent approach. Health insurance, gyms, enforced rest periods, seminars, education classes on well-being should be provided to everyone. It is in everyones interest to make sure that students and employees are fit for study and work. It costs businesses an astronomical amount of money and time that is lost through sickness, and many intelligent and very able students do not reach their full potential due to their mental ill health.

 

As a society we need to take the stigma away from admitting you have mental ill health.

You would go to the hospital if you had a broken arm so why would you not go to see a medical professional if you were suffering from depression or any other illness. In addition to this anti-depressants are offered to patients but are often shunned, the range of good depressants has grown considerably. There is an array of medicines that do different things to the brain and assist with depression, negative thoughts and moods swings. Start by telling your GP exactly what is wrong and they can advise. I have always refused drugs in the past but now after chatting about the benefits I am not afraid to admit that they really help me.

 

The final point is that Counselling has had bad press over the years. Like any industry you will have good and bad counsellors. Some people will feel that talking about their problems will not help them. It seems that in America everyone has a counsellor of some sort, but in the UK there is a stigma in regards to speaking to a counsellor. Talking to an independent trained counsellor is very beneficial. After every session I feel that a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. After a session my problems seem to be solvable and there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Like anti-depressants, counselling is not going to be for everyone, but unless you give it a go you will never know if it could help you regain control of your mind and your life.

 

So lets help each other, let us talk to each other, let us get rid of the ridiculous stigma. By improving mental health services, education and treatment we can improve society and life for everyone.

 

If you are concerned that you are developing a mental health problem you should seek the advice and support of your GP as a matter of priority. If you are in distress and need immediate help and are unable to see a GP, you should visit your local A&E. Do it asap, life is far too short and you may not see it but you have so much to live for.

 

There are charities that are there to help, they are essential for advice and support:

 

The Samaritans – www.samaritans.org

Whatever you're going through, call them for free any time, from any phone on 116 123.They are available around the clock - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it's best to call on the phone. This number is FREE to call. 

 

Mind – www.mind.org.uk- The mental health charity.

Contact them on 0300 123 3393

 

NHS Choices – www.nhs.uk

 

Papyrus – https://www.papyrus-uk.org- Prevention of young suicide.
 

 

 

 

HOPELineUK is a confidential support and advice service for young people under the age of 35 who may be having thoughts of suicide or anyone concerned a young person may be having thoughts of suicide.

Call: 0800 068 41 41 : Email: pat@papyrus-uk.org : SMS: 07786 209697

 

 

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