Monthly Archives: August 2013

#Time to Talk

Time to Talk is the latest campaign from Time to Change. I thought I’d write a blog about why I think its important to support this campaign.

A while ago I felt completely unable to be open about having a mental health problem. I felt unable to mention to people that I was struggling and I was scared that if I was open about my mental health status I would lose my career. I struggled for many years before seeking help for the issues that were taking over my life.

Even after I was forced into getting professional help by circumstances, I still found it hard to tell friends and relatives and work colleagues what was going on in my life and more importantly inside my head. This meant that even small struggles became huge, as I felt so alone with what was going on.

I carried on in this way for about two years before it really caught up with me and affected my life. I was working and just about keeping my head above water when I had a major depressive episode. Work became impossible and it was picked up by my boss and led to me being in a position where I was being asked to resign. It was at this point that the extent of my mental health problems came out to a number of people (my boss was aware of these before this but not the extent it affected me).

In the end I had to leave my job and I felt so alone. I had been off sick due to the depression for three months already and during this time had felt that most of my colleagues just didn’t know what to say to me and so had avoided me, This wasn’t with all my colleagues. I feel I need to say this as I had a couple of colleagues who were absolutely amazing with their support of me when they found out the details. Without them I would have been lost completely.

I feel that if I had been able to help my colleagues by giving them somewhere to go to see the information or if attitudes had been different my experience of leaving my job may have been easier and may not even of happened as it is possible I may have talked about my problems before they over took me.

Time to Change’s campaign is all about breaking down the stigma so that mental health is able to be talked about as easily as physical health is. When you think of a colleague who has been diagnosed with cancer I think it is probably easier to talk to them than a colleague who has been diagnosed with depression. Cancer is a known quantity and it is something where the taboos have been broken down over the years. Mental health needs to have the same taboos broken down so that people don’t feel they have to avoid it in a conversation. Also so that people who are suffering feel they can discuss what is effecting them without fear that they are being judged. If you asked people to be honest they would say they would never judge a person with cancer whereas with mental health many would have preconceptions that they would judge the person on.

For these reasons I am definitely supporting Time to Change’s Time to Talk campaign and I ask you to do the same. For more information on how to start a conversation go to http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/talk-about-mental-healthTTC_WeSupport_FacebookPost_300DPI

If you could go back and not have your mental health disorder, would you?

This question may sound familiar to you, especially if you watched “Diaries of a Broken Mind” on BBC 3 as its the same or at least very similar to one that they featured. Since watching the show, it is the question that has stuck with me and made me think the most. What would be my answer to it?

I think the question requires more than a yes or no answer and, if I’m honest, I could never say yes or no to it. There is too much to consider when thinking about my mental health disorders. Where would I be without them? Would I be the same person? These are all questions I would have to consider when answering this question. It’s a very deep question I think, and the fact that answers would be unknown makes it harder to give a simple answer.

As much as its hard for me to admit sometimes, my mental health disorder is part of me. I have been a self harmer since I was thirteen which is now over ten years of my life. It feels like I have always had a mental health disorder so would I be a different person without it? The honest answer to this I believe is yes I probably would be. In what ways I don’t know but I’m sure that my personality has developed in some ways due to having depression. Depending on the day of the week and whether I like the person I am or not on that day influences whether I think this is a good thing or not.

Another concern is would I also have the friends I have if I didn’t have depression? I don’t know. I met a lot of my friends through having common experiences. I think our friendships developed as we understood how each other felt. These friendships mean the world to me and for that reason my answer would be that no I would not go back and change anything. I love my friends and if to gain them I had to suffer maybe that is a positive thing.

I think overall my view as to whether I’d change having my mental health disorders is no. There is too much unknown. I could have a different life and things could be better but I’d possibly lose some of the most important people in my life and to think I’d not have them is beyond comprehension. Also my life could be in a far worse place and therefore I may have reasons to be thankful for having my depression.

Wishing things could be different is a dangerous game. Yes, there are areas of my life where I wish I hadn’t made some of the mistakes I have but I also need to remember to be thankful for all that my situation  has given me. I think that goes for everyone. Maybe we all need to take the time to look at how things could be different just to realise what we have and what we need to be truly grateful for.

 

Mental Health and Education

“3. Pupils should be taught:
a. what makes a healthy lifestyle, including the benefits of exercise and healthy eating, what affects mental health, and how to make informed choices”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The DFE Website, August 2013

I thought I’d discuss why I think mental health needs a more prominent role in our schools’ curriculum. The reference above is for what pupils in Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6, ages 7-11) should be taught in PSHE. It is only a small part of the PSHE curriculum, which is currently a non-statutory requirement in our schools. It is also the only reference, I can see, to mental health. To me this seems inadequate.

We teach our children about how to stay healthy physically, which is important, but we fail to do the same with regards to mental health. Mental Health now has the same standing as physical health in a medical environment and this, I believe, should be shown in our schools’ curriculum. PSHE doesn’t have to be taught in schools, though the majority do so, and therefore mental health and well being does not have to be. Physical health is also covered in science and so can not be neglected in the same way.

The reasons I feel it would be beneficial to start teaching children about mental health earlier comes from the statistics about children and young people with a mental health problem. 1 in 10 young people aged 5 – 16 will suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder (Young Minds Website, August 2013). Surely this shows that it is important that we educate our children to not only look after their own mental health but to understand and not stigmatise those of their peers who suffer from a mental health disorder. Over 8000 children, under 10, suffer from severe depression (Young Minds Website, August 2013). Surely this shows again how important it is to make children aware of how to look after their mental health.

Education is an important weapon in tackling stigma. If we made children aware from an early age that mental health problems are not something to be ashamed of and promoted talking about them in the same way we do other physical illnesses, surely we could start to fight back against the stigma of having a mental health disorder. Talking about mental health is the biggest weapon we have to fight stigma and starting those conversations earlier, i believe, could help us to get ahead in the battle.

I know that some people will read this and think that primary school is too young to discuss this with them but I think unless we do introduce the conversations this early, it will be to late for those children suffering already by the time they are 10. Primary age children will also come into contact with mental illness  before the conversations are started either by suffering themselves or through seeing a family member with a mental health disorder. By discussing mental health in schools we will begin to give children the tools they need to deal with what they are experiencing earlier.

For me it seems like a simple solution. Make PSHE and mental health awareness a statutory requirement of the primary curriculum.

References:

http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/primary/b00199209/pshe/ks2 -Accessed August 2013

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/training_services/policy/mental_health_statistics -Accessed August 2013