This week in Canada was #BellLetsTalk day, and Time to Talk day in the UK. Both days are focused on mental health awareness, and encouraging people to openly talk about mental health.
Being transparent and discussing mental health experiences and issues is extremely important. It does a number of things:
- It can be empowering to share your story.
- Hearing about others’ stories can let you know that you aren’t alone.
- Sharing information and talking about mental health normalises it. It helps erase the stigma.
- Sharing stories and information helps raise awareness and understanding.
- It’s good to encourage people to talk about their mental health. Bottling things up is no good and can make us feel worse in the long run.
I became interested in Psychology and mental health when I did my BEd (teaching degree). As part of our degree, we had to take a course in Educational Psychology. I found it very interesting, and considered that it could be a future career.
Now, I have always been a very empathetic person, and when I started teaching, I really connected to many of my students. Several of them would use me as a sounding board and I became almost like a counsellor to them. I realised that so many of my students were living with anxiety and depression on various levels. Some, had diagnosed mental health problems and were under treatment, but so many were dealing with stuff and there were precious few resources for them. I did my best to be there for them, and tried to point them to the resources that were there, when appropriate, but my heart went to them.
This, alongside the realisation that my health meant that I could not continue teaching forever, spurred me to pursue a MSc in Psychology, with the intention of continuing on with a PHD to retrain as either an Educational Psychologist, or a Counselling Psychologist (although my health has deteriorated and so I’ve not been able to continue with that plan, and I’m no longer sure I’ll be able to).
Since living with chronic disease, I’ve started experiencing my own mental health issues.
Because my health requires that I stick to a strict routine, and that I be able to control my day, I have found myself getting anxious about making sure I follow it, ensuring that I know what is going on each day, and that I prepare myself for it. There are other things as well, that I’ve found myself getting anxious about that I wouldn’t have before.
I don’t always get the stereotypical anxiety attacks with shortness of breath, etc., but I often find myself getting frustrated, and even if I’m not given the space and time to calm down, I can get angry. In fact, it can sometimes be difficult to recognise when I’m frustrated and when I’m anxious. I have to step back and think about the situation and why I feel that way. That can be difficult to do when feeling upset, and in the middle of something.
I am lucky in that, for the most part, I am able to use my coping mechanisms to keep a handle on things. I can talk to my husband about how I feel too, and I have some good friends that I know I can go to if I ever need to chat as well. I also know that my local mental health service has a group for people with chronic health conditions that I can go to, or I can speak to one of their therapists if I find myself needing help.
If you are struggling with any aspect of your mental or emotional health, please know that you are not alone.
You can reach out to a trusted friend or family member, call a helpline (see below), or speak to your GP. There is no shame is talking to someone, no shame in sharing, and no shame in asking for help.
Kids Help Phone- 1-800-668-6868
Crisis Service Canada- 1-833-456-4566, or text 45645
Centre for Suicide Prevention- 1-833-456-4566
Crisis Text Line- Text CONNECT to 741741 to reach a counsellor.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- 1-800-273-8255
National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse- 1-800-799-7233
Kids Helpline- 1800 55 1800
Lifeline- 13 11 14
MensLine Australia- 1300 78 99 78
Samaritans- 116 123, or email jo.samaritans.org
Childline- 0800 1111
PAPYRUS- 0800 068 4141, text 07786 209697, or email email@example.com
Sane- 0300 304 7000