14-20th May 2018 is Mental Health Awareness Week. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that mental health is a topic close to my heart and one that I talk a LOT about on here.
What Is Mental Health Awareness Week?
Mental Health Awareness week is a nationwide campaign every year, which promotes positive mental health and how important it is to talk.
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is “Stress” and to cope with it. Stress is something that we all experience throughout our lives to varying degrees whether that’s in our personal/home lives or at work. I think it’s great that this year’s theme is going to be relevant to such a huge number of people and I hope that it will encourage more people to get in involved and start some important conversations.
I started to become more aware of my mental health when I was at university. During my second year (2011-2012) I found myself struggling to motivate myself to carry out day-to-day tasks. I didn’t want to leave the house and I was struggling to complete my coursework. All I remember is staring at a blank page on Microsoft Word. Even on days where I actually managed to write a few words, it was far from my best work.
I was so lucky at my university, as there was brilliant mental health support available. My supervisor was really understanding, and the Open Door Team helped me to understand what was happening and helped me to work alongside my department to get an extension on the coursework I was struggling to complete. For the next few years, after the support of my university and good friends I managed to get my life back on track and really enjoyed my final year at York.
Fast-forward to 2014 – I ended up having a really negative experience in the job I was in. I was working in a toxic environment and I was under a lot of undue pressure and stress for a really poor wage. Eventually it took it’s toll on my mental health and I ended up having to take 6 weeks of sick leave and unfortunately I was unable to go back at all.
I was really lucky in that I quickly received a job offer from the firm I work for now so I wasn’t out of work for long. However, since that negative experience “triggered” my anxiety and for a long time my mental health continued to suffer and I found it increasingly difficult to cope with in my day-to-day life. I didn’t want to socialise or do anything that wasn’t 100% necessary e.g I would DRAG myself out of bed to get to work, come straight home and get back into bed.
After a few months of this, I decided to get some help via my GP. She prescribed medication to help with my mood and the physical anxiety symptoms I was experiencing. At this stage I also requested access to counselling services, as the one-to-one support I had previously had at university had been really helpful.
I was told (in February) that I would not be able to have my initial consultation until at least May. After that, it could take another few months before I allocated a counsellor. At this point I was in a really terrible state and I felt I required urgent help and waiting a minimum of 3 months wasn’t good enough.
Fortunately, between myself and my family we were able to afford access to private counselling services. Let me tell you – it was not cheap but it was honestly the best decision I’ve ever made. I saw my counsellor on a weekly basis from February 2017 until around November 2017. I’m not by any means “cured” but through counselling I learnt some amazing coping strategies for managing anxiety and how to pin-point triggers before things get too out of hand.
I’ve learnt first-hand just how under-funded Mental Health services are and I want to use my platform as a blogger to raise awareness of not just mental health in general, but just how under-funded services are and how much still needs to be done.
I was fortunate enough that I could afford to access private healthcare but I know most people are not in this position. It really does make me angry that those in need are continuing to be placed on never-ending waiting lists.
“On 4th October 2017, our beautiful son lost his fight with depression at the age of 23. Dani had a loving, supportive upbringing from family, lots of good friends and plenty of hobbies and interests. Dani was an incredibly talented and intelligent young musician, achieving an impressive number of milestones for his age, particularly in the metal scene in Northern Ireland with his band, Shrouded.
He had so much to live for and so much ahead of him. He was being treated for his illness, he had weekly counselling, he had continuous support from his parents. Sadly, it was not enough and we have been left with only memories of our beautiful son.”
Due to circumstances leading up to Dani’s death, his parents Gillian and Ahti believe that there is more that can be done to help young people to communicate with each other properly. They hope to develop awareness of the fragility of young people with this illness called depression and to help young people to be more open-minded and tolerant of others who suffer mental illness.
If Dani’s story has touched your heart like it did mine please, please consider donating to this Just Giving page – all proceeds are going to Aware NI (I’ll tell you all about them in a moment)
Who Can Help?
Reaching out to someone is the first step to getting the support and help you need. This can be anyone – a family member, a friend, colleague, youth worker or a teacher that you trust. As you know from my story, I reached out to my GP and she helped me to take the next steps towards treatment.
There are also many charities all across the world who provide essential support services to those who are struggling.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about a mental health charity which is local to me in Northern Ireland and they do some amazing work.
This post was created in partnership with Aware NI.
Aware NI is the depression charity for Northern Ireland – and the only charity working exclusively for people with depression and bipolar disorder. These are just a handful of examples of the work AWARE carry out every single day:
Aware NI has an established network of 25 support groups in both rural and urban areas in Northern Ireland. These support groups are run by trained volunteers and they welcome people with depression and bipolar disorder as well as carers for people with the illness.
Information and Outreach Provision
Aware NI deliver Information Outreach sessions and mental health/well being programmes in communities, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces.
Aware NI also has a fundraising department organising fundraising events in schools and communities throughout Northern Ireland.
If you want to know more about the work Aware NI do, find out about volunteering opportunities or to download some of their excellent resources (which will benefit anyone, anywhere in the world) , visit their website: www.aware-ni.org .
More Mental Health Related Posts
If you want to read more of my mental health related posts I’ve put together a list so you can find them all in one place:
5 Ways to Put an End to Anxious Sleepless Nights
3 Ways to Banish FOMO For Good
Celebrating the Small Victories
How To Live Your Best Life
Taking Care of Your Mental Health at Christmas
What Is High Functioning Anxiety?
Self Care Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety
7 Signs That You Need to Strengthen Your Self-Care Routine
Finally I would like to say a huge thank you to:
Aware NI for the work they do and for their help in putting this post together
Gillian and Ahti Kansanaho for allowing me to share Dani’s story – I hope this post helps to raise more awareness and money for this cause.