This week is Mental Health awareness week. I’ve spoken briefly about my history in this post but thought now would be a good time to talk about it more. I will add a trigger warning here. Some of the things I am going to talk about might need it. We all have mental health. Good mental health is an asset that helps us to thrive. This is not just the absence of a mental health problem, but having the ability to think, feel and act in a way that allows us to enjoy life and deal with the challenges it presents.
The theme for this years week is surviving or thriving? In March 2017, a study was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, and the results were pretty shocking.
- Only a small minority of people (13%) report living with high levels of good mental health.
- People over the age of 55 report experiencing better mental health than average.
- More than 4 in 10 people say they have experienced depression
- Over a quarter of people say they have experienced panic attacks.
- Nearly two-thirds of people say that they have experienced a mental health problem. This rises to 7 in every 10 women, young adults aged 18-34 and people living alone.
You can find the full results here
I first started to experience mental health problems during secondary school. However it wasn’t something I was really aware of. We never talked about mental health, self harm or suicide at school. It just wasn’t talked about, I really hope it’s improved now. Being a teen is hard, you have a lot of pressure put on you to make some huge decisions that can decide the rest of your life. Some of us can deal with that pressure a lot better than others. Personally I struggled. I didn’t know what I was feeling (or wasn’t), until I went to the doctors in my late teens. By this point I was self harming almost daily. It was my way of coping. I started off small, scratching, picking at my skin.
But that wasn’t enough, one night I found myself taking apart my razor and using the blade. I instantly felt relief. It became addictive. I became good at hiding it. I would only wear long sleeves, jumpers, even in summer. If anyone did say anything I blamed it on something else. My bus stop was surrounded by brambles, so I even blamed it on them. Looking back I was stupid and I’m sure I didn’t really fool anyone. But no one said anything because they didn’t know what to say.
Yes, I am made of scars – Stone Sour
I had (and still do) low self-esteem. I’m quite a shy person, I find social situations quite difficult. One way I used to get over that was to drink. As most of you will probably know, once you’ve had a few drinks you feel more confident. My problem was I didn’t really know when to stop. Back when I was in college pubs and clubs were a lot easier to get in than now. No one ever ID’d us, maybe that was because I grew up in North Devon and not a big city. But most weekends people would go out drinking, and if you didn’t go out there would be a party at someones house.
I’ve been on several different types of medication, I’ve spoken to therapists but my social anxiety makes that difficult at times. Although you can now do online CBT courses which I think are a great idea. I still have depression, I’m not sure if it will ever leave me fully. But I am coping with it. I no longer self harm, I haven’t for many many years. Although the thoughts have popped into my head a few times I can now cope a lot better.
You may be thinking, why am I sharing this in such a public way. But that’s because I’m not ashamed. There was a time when I was, but not anymore. Yes I have depression, social anxiety and low self-esteem but I don’t want to hide it. It’s a part of me. It shouldn’t be a taboo subject. Just look at the statistics above, a lot of people have suffered with mental health problems. If you or someone you know are struggling then please seek help.