Mental Health Awareness Week | Part 2

14 May 2015

It's time for part two of my little series for Mental Health Awareness Week, a two part series where I have given 6 strong, inspiring and brave bloggers the space here on Tattooed Tealady to share their experiences with mental health in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week. An important week which helps raise awareness of mental health, those who suffer with mental health disorders and the stigma which surrounds it. You can catch up with part one here.

Part one was all about introducing the 6 bloggers, sharing their age, professions and general experiences with mental health, as well as why Mental Health Awareness Week is important to them. By introducing the bloggers in this way, I wanted to show that mental health really can affect anyone of any age, lifestyle and profession. The stigma surrounding mental health is hugely down to wrong information of mental health, or in a lot of cases, a complete lack of information regarding mental health. There's this stereotype that mental health only affects certain people of a certain lifestyle or status, and that's simply not the case. Mental health can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time.

For part two I asked the 6 bloggers taking part 4 more questions; what made you decide to seek professional help, how have the mental health services in the UK been able to help you, why do you think stigma associated with mental health should stop and what would you like to see done in the future to continue raising awareness of mental health, in the hopes of reducing stigma?

Once again, a huge thank you to each of the bloggers taking part and for being brave enough to share their experiences here on Tattooed Tealady. I for one know how nerve wracking it can be to open up about mental health when it is still shrouded in so much stigma, and I have huge respect to each of them, for sharing their stories with us all.

TRIGGER WARNING: This post may include sensitive language and information regarding mental health. If this could be difficult for you to read, please read on with caution. 

Seeking professional help wasn't really an active choice. After more than 20 years of suffering anxiety, and 14 years of dermatillomania, I started getting very tired, losing my balance and getting headaches/earaches. After visiting my (very supportive) GP, who sent me for all sorts of tests, he wondered if it was stress related. He signed me off work for a total of 8 weeks and started my treatment.

I've visited a local talking therapy organisation which is run by the NHS. I am able to access weekly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions free of charge, which makes a huge difference.

Mental health is not understood and, unfortunately, this just adds to the problems of sufferers. In my case, my anxiety often manifests itself by worrying about letting other people down and the fact that so many people don't understand the issue just makes that worse. It ends up perpetuating a cycle and that needs to stop.

I want to see more robust laws in terms of discrimination, especially in the workplace. I have seen people lose their jobs whilst suffering from mental health problems and it's not acceptable. Nobody would dream of disciplining somebody who had broken their leg, for example, so why are mental health conditioners any different?

Check out Becky's blog here, and follow her on Twitter @BeckyBedbug

Seeking professional help wasn't an easy step for me, as the reception I had received from other people in the past had not been extremely positive. I have sought professional help from a young age in the form of school nurses and doctors who would talk to me about my issues. The crux point for me was when I went to Sixth Form College. My first year was going well but then my anxiety got the better of me, I wouldn't turn up to class as I felt nauseous even at the thought of it and my grades dropped dramatically.

I got referred to CAMHS services by my GP who rightly so believed that I was slipping downhill and needed change before I got into the working world. A few years later (2014) I contacted Italk which is a service in the South which provides face-to-face and telephone consultations and treatment for adults with mental health. This is where I am currently receiving treatment for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

I have had a good response from the mental health services in the UK and have been given the tools needed to keep my symptoms under control. However I am disappointed by the waiting times patients are facing. This time around I had to wait almost a year to receive treatment, which in some cases will be too long to make a significant change to someone's behaviour.

One of the big issues for sufferers of mental health is stigma. I believe that stigma should stop because mental health can affect everyone. People stigmatising mental health could have issues further down the line and at the end of the day, mental health isn't who you are, but a condition. Invisible illnesses are often stigmatised because people often don't believe they're real because they don't show signs physically like a broken arm, for example. I think awareness should be introduced into schools from a very young age to educate people on the different mental illnesses that are around, what the methods of help are and how to treat people with these illnesses. 9 out of 10 people stigmatise illnesses because they haven't experienced it themselves or they just don't understand it.

Check out Charlotte's blog here, and follow her on Twitter @CharlotteLife93
Last year around November, my boyfriend broke up with me because he "couldn't deal with me" - the panic attacks, how antsy I was, and the self-harming. This gave me the kick up the butt I needed to get help for what was happening to me.

By the end of November I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and severe depression. I was offered help in the way of antidepressants or a therapist - the pills didn't help and I was too frightened to call the therapist and organise an appointment.

The stigma needs to stop for reasons like that - I don't want people to be too scared to ask for help because of what people might think. It needs to be talked about, in any and every way it can be. Attention needs to be brought to the fact that a lot of diagnosed people can function normally and nobody would have a clue that they need help.

MHAW is one of the things I like seeing - things like this need to continue.

Check out Jess's blog here, and follow her on Twitter @LipsticksandLaw.
I spent a long time suffering in silence and coping (or not as the case may be) in my own way, until my mum found out about my self-harm and took me to the doctors. I didn't want to go, but i'm glad I did. They really can help; you just have to be brave enough to accept that you deserve recovery.

They have been able to help me; I was put on antidepressants, and when those weren't working I was weaned off them and put onto different ones without any drama or struggle. My doctor is one I've known for my whole life, and she's the nicest person, so that really does help. I've been offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and while I'm terrified, I will hopefully be starting that later this month.

I think the stigma surrounding mental health problems needs to stop because an illness is nothing that anybody should be made to feel ashamed of. Nobody would roll their eyes at somebody stuck in bed with the flu, so why should it be any different when the chemicals and hormones in someone's brain are awry?

The conversation just needs to continue; we need to never stop talking about it, and we need to ensure that nobody ever feels alone. We need to work to remind everybody that they are worthy of recovery, because everybody is and it does get better.

Check out Katy's blog here, and follow her on Twitter @KatyGilroyBlog.

When I was younger my parents took me off to see the doctor, but as I got older I became quite isolated with my issues, as I was afraid of being judged. But as my thoughts (specifically the suicidal ones) got more extreme, I became desperate for help and went to see my doctor. I was scared of what I was feeling and what I would do if left alone with the thoughts I was having. 

Unfortunately I have had several bad experiences with the mental health services past the point of being referred on by my doctor, therefore I tend to seek other ways to help my condition and check in with my doctor for medication guidance where necessary, 

Calling a halt on stigma surrounding mental health will help people come forward and speak out about their suffering, without fear of judgement, helping ease the pressure and stress sufferers put themselves under which will help aid recovery time. 

I believe that more media coverage of everyday people living their lives with mental health issues, uncovering the faces behind the wide variety of illnesses, would help to raise general awareness and show people that there is no 'typical' face of mental health and that anyone can be affected.

Check out Lucy's blog here, and follow her on Twitter @LucyCarterArt.

It got to the point where I couldn't cope anymore, I needed help to even continue going to university and I have been offered a number of options past and present, but I feel like this is the first time I am noticing some benefit.

In the past I haven't found them much use, but I think it is important to realise that they will only help as much as you will let them. My doctor has been fab through all of this and I am so glad I took the step in reaching out.

I think the stigma with mental health is something like it's an 'attention thing' or a person with it is weak or crazy, which is so wrong. People need to start looking at it like an illness, rather than something which is brought on by ourselves. I think more people would speak out and get help if there was less stigma around mental health.

I would love society to be more accepting of people with mental health conditions and help them through it, talking openly about it is the way to spread awareness. You need to remember you shouldn't be ashamed of your illness; a patient suffering with anything else wouldn't be, so why should you be? I think mental health awareness should be brought into schools, everyone needs to know, and we can save more lives.

Check out Olivia's blog here, and follow her on Twitter @_OliviaJadexo.

Do you think the mental health services do enough to help those who need them? What do you think we could do as a society to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health?

You can find out about Mental Health Awareness Week on the Mental Health Foundation website.