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World Mental Health Day: Talking about mental illness

Laura Gavin 10 October 2017

According to the BBC, mental health issues affect 16% of people in England aged between 16 and 64, and the issue as a whole appears to have been increasing since the 1990s.

Is this down to more people talking about the issue, or modern society recognising mental health difficulties in a different way to the ‘hidden from view’ attitudes of the mid-twentieth century? In part, perhaps, but the figures also say something significant about our ‘on-the-go’ lifestyles, in which we are constantly contactable via smartphones and other devices, and taking a break for our own wellbeing is not always top of the to-do list.

Jane Derbyshire is the Service Manager for P3’s housing-related support service, iDecide Derbyshire, which focuses on supporting people with mental health needs.

“Any changes in lifestyle circumstantial or otherwise can have a huge effect on the way we are feeling. We should not be afraid to say “I am struggling” or worry about asking for help and support, but many of us find this the most difficult thing to do.”

Sarah Davison works in the accommodation-based service within iDecide, and thinks there is still a long way to go in terms of how we treat, and talk about mental illness.

“I make clear in my assessments that it’s okay not to be alright. You can’t help having mental health issues, it’s something that needs to be addressed and treated on a parr with a physical illness, and you need support to do that. Mental health for many has such a horrible stigma with it and can be viewed as a sign of weakness.”

Jenny* has been using the accommodation-based service for two months, after mental health issues caused a breakdown in relations between her and her family.

“Mental health issues run in my family but I was always sort of okay, or seen as okay. A lot of people were relying on me, so I didn’t want to say that I was struggling as well. I was always the one to say ‘you need to go to the doctors’ to other people, but there was no one directing me to go.”

Jenny received support to find a place to live, and straight away was encouraged to see a doctor by Sarah, who then attended the appointments with her and helped her talk about her depression and anxiety.

“I knew the help was there, but I wouldn’t have gone on my own. I have really bad anxiety, especially about going to the doctors, and it would get to the point where I would cancel appointments 20 minutes before. So it took for Sarah to be like: ‘I’m at the doctors waiting for you, are you coming?’ It’s the encouragement and support, knowing that it’s going to be alright.”

As well as specific mental health support, the accommodation-based service provides help with managing day-to-day tasks that people with mental health issues can find difficult such as paying bills, creating a CV and applying for jobs.  

“Speaking about it out in the open, it made it more normal and acceptable for me to say, okay, I’ve got depression and anxiety. A lot of people do actually have it and I don’t mind speaking to my friends about it anymore, because I’ve admitted it to myself. I’m not any different to anybody else, there’s a lot of people that are just like me.”

Jane Derbyshire added:

“The media often do not help as they will only portray the negative effects of mental health, which is why we also need to talk about the positive impact that our support staff have on our clients’ lives. Something as simple as giving up five minutes of your time to listen to someone can have a huge beneficial impact.”

P3 runs several mental health support services in Derbyshire, including the new Recovery and Peer Support Service with Rethink Mental Illness.

To find out more about P3’s other support services, visit www.p3charity.org/get-help/get-help and search by postcode to find services near you.

*name changed to preserve anonymity.

 

 

 

 

 

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