*Trigger warning - this story mentions suicide*
To begin with, I have seen first-hand how many close friends and family have had difficulty with their mental health without realising the little things they can do to help themselves.
Most of them depending on a therapist to point them in the right direction which can come months after realising the problem due to waiting lists or a lack of services for example. I remember a friend once said to me ‘all you can do is be there’. It got me thinking that actually, there is a lot more to it than that. I’m lucky that through my own experiences and my own research, I’ve been able to help some of these people in a variety of ways.
Losing my uncle to mental ill health
I’ve also seen how mental ill health can really shake a family. In August 2018, my uncle Stephen lost the battle with his mind at the age of 29. The following months were the hardest that our family had ever had to endure and for most of us the pain is still as raw as it was on the first day. We were rocked to our very cores, everything changed. The worst thing about it is that we aren’t the only ones.
Stephen was more than an uncle to me, he was a mentor, a man that I idolised growing up and, most definitely, a friend. He was the strongest man I knew in so many ways because he fought off the world for so long. I think back to him helping me learn to drive and am reminded of his kind-hearted and hilarious nature – he could leave a whole room in stitches and always had a story to tell. At his funeral I told the story of a family trip to Cornwall in which Stephen was sun burnt beyond belief but his hands were his usual skin colour. Because by helping to make sure that everyone else had their sun cream on, he’d forgotten to apply his own. His selflessness knew no bounds. It was at that moment I vowed to be like Stephen.
Dedicating my time to mental health awareness
It is now that I am making the conscious steps to change the way that mental health is viewed and spoken about, whether good or bad, on a national scale. Imagine a culture where you could say ‘I’m feeling anxious or sad or angry’ or even ‘I’m feeling good or confident today’ and you’d know what steps to take to reduce and limit these negative feelings and have the knowledge to enhance and recreate the positive ones. That is the ultimate goal and it has to start with education. Young people need to learn things like the potential causes and dangers of mental ill health, how to speak openly about emotion, where they can go for help, how they can help to keep other minds healthy and, most importantly, how to keep their own minds healthy.
My approach to mental health takes on a variety of methods but I often use ‘cause and effect’ in that I work out why I might be feeling good or not so good and intervene at the cause. These causes can then be re-applied or adapted to ensure the best possible mental state. It’s the same with everything. For example, if your car won’t run because it is low on fuel (cause), you have to put fuel in it (solution). A car is an interesting way to describe the mental health of an individual, it has lots of parts that require little ingredients to run smoothly. Just as our mental health does – these ingredients could be anything, no matter how small or large, and they vary from person to person.
I see mental ill health as a monster that people run away from. Although I think it is time to turn around and stop running. We need to fight this monster. It starts with education.
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