SENSITIVITY WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS CONTENT STRONGLY FEATURING SUICIDE. ONLY READ ON IF YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THIS TOPIC. THANK YOU.
Interview by Stuart Graham
Answers by Anonymous
Q- What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the phrase mental health?
A- The first thing I think of is usually depression, that’s usually my snap answer. But then I also think of anxiety – multiple different forms of that. And the reason for that is just purely my own experience with mental health issues.
Q- Is there as specific time in your life you most associate with a mental health struggle?
A- Yes, I’d say that was when I around 21, so about four years ago. My aunt had committed suicide and I was the person that found her. So I got quite severe post traumatic stress from that. It also caused me to become highly depressed to the point that my family wanted me to go on anti-depressants and such.
Q- Did you ultimately choose to go onto anti-depressants then or did you decide against it? And what was your reasoning for your choice?
A- I tried them. Obviously when you go onto anti-depressants there’s a trial and error process. The first part of the antidepressants they put me on just made me feel nothing so I decided not to anymore. I thought feeling bad was better than feeling nothing.
Q- Before you yourself experienced mental health issues, how much did you know about the spectrum of ways people could be affected by mental health issues?
A- In the years since that incident I’ve learned an awful lot more but when I was younger I knew practically nothing because it wasn’t something that was spoken about in my family.
Q- When you came to university did you find yourself surprised or disappointed by the way mental health was regarded?
A- Well largely in my first two years of university I didn’t come across it much. But over maybe the past year and a half or so it has become a much more important issue to talk about. So I feel recently there has been steps taken. It’s not quite there but people are trying.
Q- Do you have certain things you do as a means of coping with mental health struggles?
A- I get quite anxious around people I’m not familiar with. So what I try to do is to ignore parts of my head that are going ‘Why are you here? Why are you talking to these people?’. I try to be in the moment. It’s a coping mechanism I developed when I was in my teen years as I had really bad social anxiety when I was a teenager, to the extent that I don’t think I spoke to a single person outside my family for two years.
Q- Do you have times then that these coping mechanisms don’t work for you? And where do you find yourself mentally when these coping mechanisms fall through?
A- There are times where I am surrounded by people I’m unfamiliar with and it just zaps me. Dunno if that’s the right word but it’s probably the closest to describing how it feels. Sometimes when I’m around people I’m not familiar with, I can’t do anything, I am just crippled. I can’t really talk, I just sit there and listen. I think that some people will think I’m being rude but that’s not the way of it at all.
Q- Would you say there is an attitude of a mental health hierarchy in our society, with some mental illnesses being taken more seriously than others?
A- Yeah absolutely. My mum actually suffers from quite severe agoraphobia and basically she gets ridiculed by some people for it in the town. They call her a shut in and a hermit. Where as people who maybe suffer from depression or bipolar are taken more seriously, relatively speaking.
Q- What are the day-to-day impacts you notice that mental health has on you?
A- Anxiety would probably be my big one, I do get depressive episodes as well but I’ve been dealing with them for years so I’ve developed coping mechanisms with them. But sometimes with the anxiety there’s just nothing I can do.
Q- How then does this anxiety manifest in situations?
A- Probably the most keenly I feel it, is if I’m in a group of people and they are all laughing and voting and I’m just sitting of to the side. I get almost like a feedback loop of anxiety where it just gets worse and worse. Then the worse I’m feeling the less I feel like contributing and the less I contribute the more I want to leave.
Q- Now you are coming forward to be part of a project like this, do you feel like you are better?
A- I don’t think there’s ever going to be a getting better really, it’s just day to day dealing with it. I don’t think I’m any worse or better than I was a few years ago. But I just have developed coping mechanisms that make day-to-day living a little easier.
Q- Do you find that mental health impacts strongly on your relationships with people? Have you lost friends or distanced yourself from family members because of its effect on you?
A- Yeah, sometimes with my social anxiety, particularly people I see as friends. I sometimes find myself question why these people are friends with me, I question it a lot. Sometimes I don’t follow up on friendships the way I probably should. So I think I’ve lost a few friends through that.
Q- You mentioned the incident when you were 21 with your aunt earlier, but do you think mental health affected you before that point?
A- Yeah, the social anxiety definitely. Also in high school I got bullied quite badly so I got really really depressed over that period as well.
Q- Can you talk me through a time when there was a lack of understanding of you or someone close to you’s mental health issues?
A- My mother suffers from schizoactive disorder and that’s not something that can ever get better. So there’s quite a few members of my family who think she just needs to work harder on it and it will get better. Whereas that’s not the thing and it’s something she is going to have to deal with the rest of her life. I think a lot of people are unsympathetic about things like that.
Q- Do you have any advice for anyone who is possibly in there hardest point dealing with mental illness and maybe doesn’t see any sign of it getting better?
A- Reach out to someone. Whether it be a family member, a friend or sometimes even talking to someone impartial like someone in the mental health care at the university.
Q- Finally what made you come forward to be part of this project?
A- Well I think it’s really important for mental health issues to be talked about publicly. Maybe for people who are experiencing it and feel like they are alone. If they see that other people are struggling with it too, it’ll maybe help them in some way to feel less by themselves in the struggle.