This week, some of our Time to Talk Champions are discussing their experiences of mental health and why they wanted to get involved in the project to help to tackle stigma and discrimination. Here is the first blog post in our series!
“What Experiences of Mental Health Problems Have You Had in the Past?”
My Grandmother passed away in the second week of my second year of university. I found it very difficult to deal with and couldn’t bring myself to be honest about how I felt and ask for help. This resulted in me becoming depressed and not being able to function properly at home, university or in my part time job.
My university friends told me to “snap out of it” and get on with things, but I just couldn’t do it. My friendships with my housemates and my boyfriend at the time suffered because they just didn’t seem to understand that it wasn’t a choice that I’d made and could “unmake”. My friend seemed to fall into two camps, some understood and left me alone or they just thought I was being silly or selfish.
In the end, one of my dear friends called my Mum and she came to London to see me. She got me an appointment with the university counsellor and helped me to start getting back to some sort of normal routine. We had code words so that when she went home and called me, she knew if I was having a good day or a bad day and this helped her to know how to support me best.
My counsellor was amazing and he made me feel that it was common and that I could get my life back. We looked at different techniques that I could use to improve my mood and recognise my triggers to feeling unwell again. I still use them even now 20 years later!
My friends have told me more recently that they just didn’t know what to do to help me because they had no experience of mental health problems and that they wished they had been taught about it or that people had been more open to talking about it then. I have had bouts of depression since then, but never quite as bad, with the benefit of a little support and more knowledge and know the triggers and can help myself more.
“What Have Your Experiences of the Project Been Like?
I have found the Time to Change project really inspiring. Seeing people being so honest and open about their feelings and being able to use their social capital to help others has been amazing.
I am always in awe of the way that people are willing to help others have a better experience and that this has helped the project to gain momentum each week.
I’m also very aware of how much more willing people are to challenge stigma and discrimination now. My fellow Time to Change Champions are constantly lobbying and drawing attention to new areas where we still need to challenge attitudes and this can only be a good thing.
I sincerely hope that we can carry on with this work to make sure that in a few years time the stigma surrounding mental health is frowned upon in the same way as racism, sexism, ageism etc.