My Mental Health Journey

It is #WorldMentalHealthDay, so I thought along with others I would share my mental health journey.

I’m not alone in suffering and continuing to suffer from mental health hurdles. The World Health Organisation states that “one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”

I have been that one in four suffering from clinical depression which resulted in medication and three months off work. At the time I was employed by Nissan in the UK. They were supportive and compassionate to my needs providing me with excellent care through their company health policy. I was one of the lucky ones.

Many people do not seek treatment either because of a lack of access to proper mental health care, stigma and discrimination. People who suffer from mental health problems are seen as weak. Becuase of this many people will hide their mental health issues and not share how they feel.

Fearing judgements by others and even when people do not judge it is difficult for others to know how to respond. Much easier to put a brave face on things and go about your day. Turning to drugs or alcohol or other destructive behaviours to feel better. This behaviour works in the short term but in the long term only makes things worse.

What do you say to people who share some of the dark thoughts of depression? What do you say when people say they don’t want to live anymore?

My experience of mental health and a continuing awareness of how fragile my mental health can be has led me on the path I am following now. Coaching others to overcome their internal struggles with unpleasant thoughts and emotions and behaviours so they remain psychologically flexible and resilient.

Anyone of us can easily buy into our negative thoughts that can quickly lead to an episode of depression. No one knows what the experience of dying is like, but these thoughts can lead to emotions that are so overwhelming you just want them to stop.

For me, there were times that suicide felt like the only viable option to escape from them.

If you do experience depression, suicidal feelings or other serious problems you should talk to your mental health professional and get support.

How to help a friend or loved one suffering from depression

First of all, take care of yourself being around someone who is depressed can take its toll on you. If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of painful emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. These feelings are all normal. It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s depression. And if you don’t take care of yourself, it can become overwhelming.

Understand that depression is a serious condition. Your friend or loved one can’t just snap out of it or just think positive thoughts. Depression drains your energy and motivation.

Realise it isn’t personal. Depression makes it difficult for you to connect with others and those around you. Even the people we love the most, depression can make you lash out at those around you and act in anger. Try not to take these things personally.

Realise you can’t fix someone else’s depression. The only person that can fix a person depression is the person who is depressed. You can only provide support and be there for them. You’re not responsible for their depression.

How to talk to a loved one or friend about depression

Sometimes it is hard to know what to say you may be scared of their reaction and you may not know what to say. If you don’t know where to start the following questions may help. But ultimately being a compassionate and non-judgemental listener is much more important than sharing ideas or advice.

You may have to keep trying depressed people tend to isolate themselves so you may have to return to the topic again and again. Depressed people may share small details and then avoid talking. Talking about painful emotions and thoughts can cause those emotions to show up and they may fear being judged.

Go slowly.

Ways to start the conversation

  • “I have been feeling concerned about you lately, how are you doing?”
  • “I’ve noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are feeling?”

Questions you can ask

  • “When did you begin feeling like this?”
  • “Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
  • “How can I best support you right now?”
  • “Have you thought about getting help?”

Listen to their answers, offer support and understanding. Avoid making judgements.

Things you can say that help

  • You are not alone in this
  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
  • When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.
  • You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
  • Tell me what I can do now to help you.

What you should AVOID saying

  • It’s all in your head.
  • We all go through times like this.
  • Look on the bright side.
  • You have so much to live for why do you want to die?
  • I can’t do anything about your situation.
  • Just snap out of it.
  • What’s wrong with you?
  • Shouldn’t you be better by now?

(Source: The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)

Modern treatments and talking therapies such as CBT and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are highly effective. With the benefits of the internet professional help and advice is only a click away.

Ultimately we need to remove the shame and stigma in society around depression and mental health. Shame hates to be talked about, and the only way we beat the effects of depression is to bring it out into the open.

Start talking.

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