Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Let's Talk Tuesdays - Mental 'illnesses'

A while a go I wrote a post about panic attacks (if you want to read it, click here) Depression and "mental illness" is something I feel really strong about, and something that even I'm a victim to feeling nervous about talking about it. Yet, at the same time it is something so common, many of the people you know are dealing with every day battles, I for one was extremely bad, and it's something that will forever hold me in it's grips - but I'm learning to deal with it, One day at a time. 
The priory group is the leading integrated provider of specialist mental health, education and care in the UK, running the largest network of mental healthcare hospitals and clinics in the country. It provides treatments for addictions and conditions including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, self-harming, and eating disorders. It also supports people with learning disabilities, autism and Asperger’s. They have launched a campaign to highlight stigma and disbelief from fellow peers and staff, and have asked me to join to help raise awareness. They've conducted a survey in universities about mental health and, to me, found some pretty shocking results. 6 in 10 people have witnessed a fellow peer being stigmatised because of a mental illness, and 7 out of 10 people have struggled to believe their peers suffer from a mental health condition. And of the students surveyed, seven out of ten say they know someone with a mental health condition but of those, almost 70% admitted they have struggled to believe them.
I only went to university for a short period of time, and it was only later I realised a main factor of me leaving the course was due to my depression and anxiety. I hated my course, I didn't see a point in it, however it was something I loved before. The daunting prospect of living away from home, and having to decide my whole future when a few months before I could barely get out of bed from feeling so low. I suffered with problems eating from the age of 17, I hated eating in front of people, I'd basically starve myself until I got home, convincing myself I was fat. I survived on one meal a day, and lived off energy drinks, yet to everyone else, I was a happy person, I didn't make it obvious I wouldn't eat, and they knew no different. When I was at university it was a whole lot easier to eat (or not eat in my case) what ever I wanted, and I remember a few of my housemates saying I didn't eat a lot, I'd learnt from being at home how to make excuses so this was no different. Fast forward a few weeks and I confided in one of my uni friends in my depression and anxiety and how low I felt, she was shocked because on the outside I was this happy carefree girl, when really before I went outside my room I had to brave myself for the day ahead. I barely slept before I went to university, panicking about meeting new people. I'd check in the mirror my appearance worrying I wasn't pretty enough or slim enough or that people wouldn't like me, it drove me to the point that many days I wouldn't go, faking illnesses. But no one would know, because of the whole show I'd put on, everyday when I got ready I also masked that anxiety I felt. I'd near enough run back to my dorm and the minute I got back have panic attacks. Slowly, I got back to myself. I'm still very anxious when I go out, even now. But it's something I've learnt to deal with. 
Mental illnesses are something people have learnt to hide, something people are ashamed of, but the thing is, would you be ashamed of spraining your ankle or having another medical condition? No. So why should you be embarrassed talking about other issues. The priory groups campaign definitely highlights what problems there is, especially for students, as it's a big jump for someone normally, let alone someone with anxiety or depression, but also shows how much people hide their problems. Dr Ian Drever, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital Woking explained “Students need to keep an eye out for the signs they may be developing a mental health condition, including problems sleeping, concentrating, and being sociable. Although it’s easier said than done I think it’s important that students share how they feel with a close friend or a healthcare professional. They need to acknowledge to themselves that they are not well, or not happy, and that it’s time to get help.” 
We need to take a step back and stop being worried to talk to someone, or to help someone in need. 
Talking saves lives. 
If you would like to read to full article please click here 
For more information about The priory group - www.priorygroup.com

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22 year old textile designer & mum to a little miracle.
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Maira Gall