Friday, 25 September 2015

Mental Health Stigma

With World Mental Health Day approaching on the 10th of October it feels necessary to try and help end the stigma around suffering with mental health problems. Mental health isn't taken as seriously as it should be, people only seem to make awareness and care about the sufferers when something awful has happened due to their mental illness. Normally it's too late to help someone when you find out how much they've been struggling because they've already taken the action towards ending their life. It truly is heartbreaking that the lack of knowledge and lack of believe results in the loss of so many innocent lives a year. Suicide rates show that British men are 3 times more likely to die from suicide attempts than British women.

Now suicide isn't the result of every single diagnosable mental health disorder out there, I'm mainly focusing on depression. I'm a sufferer myself and it's not pleasant. The word depressed is used too commonly as an adjective nowadays "It's raining today, how depressing!"  and it sheds depression in a bad light. The stigma surrounding mental health issues needs to be changed, I'm sick of people assuming that someone suffering with a mental health problem can 'snap out of it'

Depression simply cannot be snapped out of. Symptoms for sufferers are not always identical, one victims experience with depression may be different to the next. 

However the most acknowledged symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Low self-worth
  • Low spirit and enthusiasm for every day life
  • Feeling hopeless/agitated
  • Numbness 
  • Alienating yourself from your loved ones
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Loss of or an increase of appetite
  • Low energy levels
  • Poor concentration
Depression is different to feeling unhappy. You may feel unhappy about a rubbish day at work but someone suffering with depression may have had the best possible day of their lives but feel so completely numb to what is happening. Depression isn't just sadness about typically sad things, it's feeling sad and down for absolutely no reason sometimes. It's not getting out of bed for days at a time because there's no point, you feel like everything in your life is bleak and there is no future or way out which is why it leads to suicide because unless you get the help you need you want out. It's having no care in the world for how you look. There's the guilt you feel for feeling so awful with no real explanation. There's explaining to your manager why you can't get out of bed and them not understanding. It's losing all joy in the activities you once enjoyed, you liked to read? Nope no more. Your bed is your new best friend. It's not having the energy to talk to anybody thus isolating yourself further from the life you once enjoyed. It's knowing you're starving and your belly is rumbling so excessively it's like you haven't eaten in a month but you just don't have the energy to stop hiding under your duvet. It could be insomnia. It could be sleeping all day every day for weeks.

I try to block out the worst parts of my depression from my memory but it should be spoken about. I should not be made to feel ashamed. I should not feel embarrassed. The worst period for me was March-May this year. I saw no future. I had no faith in myself. I had nothing and no one, although I had a room full of people around me. I stopped eating because that's the only thing I could control. Days would go so fast, day in day out spent in bed, alone. Feeling completely alienated from my family. I decided that I didn't care about employment and money, one weekend I just decided that I wasn't going to go back to my job. I stopped turning up to my shifts and never informed my collogues and manager of why. I stopped reading books, I couldn't concentrate on the words in front of me. I couldn't care less about my medication that I was supposed to take. I didn't want to be alive. It broke me into pieces. Constantly feeling numb or feeling extreme happiness and joy for the world or extreme sadness where I thought I'd never be happy again. One day I'd be happy, the next a complete mess and there was nothing for me to identify what I'd be feeling the next day. The worst time for me was around nine consecutive bad days. There was just nothing there, nothing to live for and no one to talk to.

It got better and that's what I want to tell you. If you're feeling anything like I did, or similar feelings you're probably thinking there's no way I'll ever be happy again. Without sounding like a massive cliche, it does get better. I'm not entirely sure how I overcome the worst of it, I'm still not better I have my days where nothing is okay and it never will again but I know now how to control it. 

I keep myself busy, I throw myself into my education, in writing blog posts, into exercising, into laughing, into looking at the beauty around me, in spending time with my friends and family.

I'm thankful I'm here today and I never thought I would be saying this, but over summer some incredible opportunities opened up for me and I have never felt so happy. I passed my AS exams and have entered my second year of A-Levels. I have another job which I enjoy. I have just a small handful of friends who I don't see often but I'm grateful for their presence in my life. I'm back in my happy world of books, I cannot stop reading. I'm reviewing books for an actual company. I have family who care, who make me laugh and make my days more enjoyable. Most importantly I have my mum. My mum is my best friend and I truly believe I wouldn't be here if she hadn't supported me. 

Depression isn't glitter, sunshine and rainbows. It's real. It's a valid reason for not going to work today. Your feelings are always valid. It's possible to get better. 

I didn't intend for this post to get so heartfelt and personal, probably too revealing but I want people to realise it's okay to feel like this and there is a way out. 

Again, sorry for the over shared information but I hope this is informative and as real as can be.