Monday, 10 October 2016

World Mental Health Day

Today, 10th October, is apparently World Mental Health Day. The World Health Organisation apparently endorse this, and I guess it's one of campaigns aiming to raise awareness of mental health and illness globally.

I always find the concept of a topic as vast as mental health being squashed together in one day a little odd, but although there are a vast number of mental health issues which are lumped together under one heading, they do have something in common and I can't criticise anything aiming to improve people's awareness of such a common and yet seldom discussed group of problems.

Any regular readers of my blog will be aware that my own mental health issues are longstanding so I can't pretend I don't have a personal stake in this. For that reason, I always feel slightly guilty pushing the mental health agenda. However, it's an important issue that will affect 1 in 4 of us (I think that's probably a conservative estimate) so I won't avoid talking about it.

My first experiences with mental health problems were back when I was a teenager. The support I received was less than ideal, my parents and school didn't really understand what was happening or how best to help me and even the professionals I encountered seemed out of their depth. A lot of my experiences were covered in this pseudo-anonymous post, which I initially wrote as a presentation to give at work. It's now nearly 15 years since that first consultation in that dreadful old building and I still remember it vividly. I can't ever change that, but I hope that when I meet young people in my professional life who are struggling, they remember their encounter with healthcare in a more positive way - someone cared, someone listened.

Unfortunately, it's not just a teenage problem. Although it's pretty common for mental health difficulties to begin in adolescence, they frequently persist into adulthood. Mine certainly have. Despite my struggles, though, I'm doing ok. I'm in a stable relationship. I'm holding down a (fairly intense at times!) job. Not everyone is so lucky. Mental illness is one of the most common reasons for claiming incapacity benefit. Plenty of people struggle and suffer, and yet stigma still persists.

Once again, my blog has become a ramble with no real direction or structure. I'm not sure it says much. But, if you're reading this and you're struggling, you aren't alone. Help is out there. And remember that just because you've been unfortunate enough to get unwell, doesn't mean you aren't awesome.

There are a number of places you can get help should you need it. The services I've listed are free to call and open 24/7. A more comprehensive list is available through the NHS choices website, but not all services are free or open at all times.

If you're struggling today, or any day, the Samaritans are there to listen for free - call 08457 90 90 90.
Children and young people can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 whilst adults who have concerns about a child can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.
If you feel in danger of hurting yourself and don't have a crisis plan, please call 999 or go to your local A&E department.
If alcohol is a problem, you can call Alcoholics Anonymous on 0845 769 7555.
If you need help with drugs, you can speak to Frank on 0800 77 66 00.
Men with any difficulties can use the online chat/email service here
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, Beat can be called on 0845 634 1414 (adults) or 0345 634 7650 (for under-25s)

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