Extract from my latest Metro.co.uk article: 6 people share their experiences of friendship during Mental Illness


(image: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

I have bipolar disorder and four years ago I was hospitalised for a severe manic episode.

Without the love, kindness and support of my friends, I definitely would not have recovered as well.

Their support reminds me I am not alone and helps me to feel loved and safe. But mental ill health can be frightening for those who do not understand it, and sometimes friendships can be lost when one person experiences a mental health condition.

Some people may find it hard to cope with symptoms of a friend’s illness and, as such, cut ties or back away.

Jessica Valentine, psychologist at the Brighton Wellness Centre spoke to Metro.co.uk. She says: ‘Sometimes having a friend with a mental health illness can be draining. ‘On the other hand, it’s good to experience the journey of mental health; the ups and the downs, from a personal level. ‘You really get to ‘feel’ your friend come out of the depression. And, it somewhat makes you feel that you are living it too, side by side, helping them.’

The Mental Health Foundation explains that friendship can ‘play a key role in helping someone live with or recover from a mental health problem and overcome the isolation that often comes with it.

It advises that many people who manage to hold onto friendships while experiencing a mental health condition can see those friendships become stronger as a result.

I wanted to see the role of friendships in other peoples’ lives, either when they were coping with a mental health condition, or when they had witnessed a friend in crisis.

Here six people explain their experiences:

Read their experiences and rest of article: http://metro.co.uk/2018/03/01/6-people-share-their-experiences-of-friendship-during-mental-illness-7343290/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/


Why Wait: Eating Disorder Awareness Week and My story with Anorexia: Guest post by Hannah Brown


(image: rebloggy)

Please read with care: Trigger Warning: Eating disorder Discussion

As Eating Disorder awareness week progresses, it has really got me thinking about my own journey and the symptoms that I experienced as part of my anorexia.

The hashtag #WhyWait is being used this week as we all come to terms with the fact that according to Beat 34% of UK adults cannot name a symptom of an eating disorder, and that even more shockingly sufferers wait 3 years before seeking any sort of treatment.

Aged 19,I started the diet that I thought would give me a wealth of happiness, how wrong I was. What I also started was my gradual decline into anorexia. There were warning signs, there were behaviours that were obsessive and out of control, my physical appearance was changing, becoming weaker and I was almost translucent in colour-  but most strikingly was the change to my personality.

Extreme calorie restriction causes a massive reduction in personal motivation and general apathy. Studies have shown how thoughts become obsessed on food and their behaviours around meals soon turns slightly absurd.

This was absolutely my experience, it crept up on me scarily, without warning. As my diet became more and more refined, my thoughts were turning more and more to food, how I could further restrict, avoid the meal time or alter plans in order to exercise more.

There were so many signs, so many warning lights that for some reason I chose to ignore. I brushed them under the carpet, and kept up with the pretence of “I’m fine”.

Ignoring the issue, or refusal to acknowledge that a problem was developing was a symptom of my perfectionism and the denial that I was experiencing was concurrent with my theme of being the strong one, both within my peer groups and within my family unit.

But why was I waiting, what was I waiting for?

(image: Rebloggy)

What I didn’t realise was that by waiting to act on my symptoms with any sort of conviction and determination, I was simply prolonging the agony that I would face in the initial stages of my recovery, making those first few months even more difficult. As the behaviours became more entrenched, they became habitual in nature. Personality traits that were once alien and unrecognisable soon become my identity.

There came a time, that I decided to reach out to my GP and unfortunately I didn’t quite get the support that I thought I was going to- whilst I wasn’t turned away, my weight certainly wasn’t critical enough to cause any sort of concern from the medical profession and the advise was to add a dessert into my meal plan, perhaps the occasional spread of butter.

In hindsight, perhaps if I had listened to this very basic advice I wouldn’t have gone on to lose more weight. However, there was no attention given to the mental battles that I was starting to have with my intuition and my fear of food- or the the fear of losing control over it.

Visiting my GP had taken a great deal of courage, as I said I’m always the one that is simply fine, is there for everyone else, often at the expense of myself. To get this quite flippant advice left me feeling slightly desensitised. I left wth their advice- put it in a box and chose to ignore it, my mental health not addressed.

But I don’t want my experience to stop you, or your loved ones reaching out to your GP, because for many they can be the most valuable resource available. Go in, if you can with a loved one and don’t leave that room until you have been given care that you totally deserve.

Alternatively use the Beat help finder page to find that source of support that will be right for you, grab it and don’t let go.

It is OK not to be OK, it is OK to struggle, and it is OK to ask for help. The term “admitting” has slightly negative connotations, like we are owning up to something, a crime. But please, please do not think of it like this. You wouldn’t ever wait after discovering a lump, or if feeling constantly unwell- the same should be said for your mental health.

My journey continued and things didn’t get better until they had got much much worse. I ended up in hospital, but even then I was naive at just how unwell I had become. Hospital was an experience that I will never forget, it was difficult and lonely but undoubtedly it did save my life.

I know, deep down though, that it could have been avoided, I could have saved myself and prevented all the heartache that I endured as part of my recovery.

In reading this, please ask yourself the question: Why Wait?

And take it from me, i might not know you, but you absolutely deserve to receive support and help.

You’re not weak but wholesome and rich, go to my website https://aneartohear.co.uk/- because you deserve to be heard. We can help you.

Dispelling the Online stigma: Twitter, Antidepressants and #MedsWorkedforMe

(image: amyransom.com)

I wasnt going to write a blog on this because it might feed the Twitter trolls. But I have decided that its really important that I speak out about whats been going on this week on there, in realm of mental health on social media. Theres been a lot of stigma against medication as well as much support for it.

This week, a study by Oxford University and published in the psychology medical journal the Lancet, found that anti depressants work and are effective in a large number of cases. It was hailed as the first major study to prove this. Some medications were found to be more effective than others, but it provided a fantastic proof- that anti depressant medications do help relieve depression in many cases. They are not just a placebo pill.

However, of course, there are a large number of people who have had bad experiences with anti depressants and want to make their voices heard- yet often at the expense of those of us who it works for.

On Twitter, using the trending hasthtag #antidepressants and #medsworkedforme, I shared that anti depressants coupled with my mood stabilisers, have very much helped my bipolar disorder. My brain chemistry and illness is such that unmedicated I can have episodes of suicidal depression, psychosis and mania. My medication keeps my moods balanced and well, so I can function and live a normal life. I have been on anti depressants for almost 15 years now. I have been on fluoxetine, duloxetine and now sertraline.

The only bad experience I ever had with them is when my previous mood stabiliser stopped working and due to an increased dose of duloxetine to relieve my depression (which it did), I tipped over into a fast and unpredictable manic episode. This is the risk that those of us with bipolar run.

Yet, by and large my experiences with meds have been hugely positive. They keep me stable and well.

Unfortunately, on Twitter, I got trolled for the first time by people sharing the following ‘helpful’ opinions (they were not helpful and highly stigmatised):

1) You should reduce your sugar intake as sugar causes highs and lows and is addictive as cocaine. If you reduce your sugar, your bipolar will improve.

(To this I had to reiterate that no medication and less sugar will make my illness worse… and that excess sugar does not cause bipolar 1 disorder.. i.e. it does not have that impact on my mood swings.. bipolar is a real illness in the brain. Reducing sugar may help with overall health but seriously you are going to tell me this?)

2) Others asked what alternative therapies I had tried- eg exercise instead of medication. I reiterated the above re psychosis and suicidal ideation. Which unfortunately cant be treated with exercise alone.

3) People shared their own stories eg the man who had multiple severe illnesses and takes no medication because ‘it shortens life span’ and its a medical fact apparently that these medications cause psychosis. (Some psychiatric meds cause side effects but psychosis- really? Also why would you tell me it will shorten my life?)

There was a lot of what I would call militant stigma against medication, either by people who fear it or have experienced negative effects.

While medication is not for everyone, we shouldn’t be shaming people for taking it. I shouldn’t be shamed for keeping my brain healthy and well through taking meds. And neither should any of you.

Make sure you fight this stigma (and the block button is always useful).



What to do if you think you have Depression: a Guide.

(image: Christy Ann Martine)

This blog was voted for in my  Facebook group online poll and so I have decided to write it, with my advice from personal experience and more.

So firstly- what is Depression? Depression is more than just low mood. It can affect your entire ability to function. Depression symptoms include your mind slowing down, poor concentration, lack of sleep or too much sleep (when depressed I sleep too much), more tearful than normal/ prolonged low mood, loss of motivation and ability to go to work/ socialise, not wanting to do activities you enjoy, feeling lost and/or hopeless about life.

Some people who are depressed will self medicate with alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, spending money- anything to make them feel a bit better. Some may start expressing suicidal thinking and ideation or make plans to end their own lives. For others, depression can be part of a wider mental health disorder. I have bipolar disorder for example and depressive episodes are part of my illness. So its a big topic and one which is different for each person (due to brain chemistry and environment).  Anxiety and self harm can also be part of depression.

So what to do if you think you are depressed?

1) Make an appointment to see your GP/ Doctor immediately. If you can get an urgent appointment, do. Tell them how you are feeling and they may suggest medication such as anti depressants which help lift mood and get you back to normal functioning and/or recommend you to a therapist. NHS waiting lists in the UK are ridiculously long for therapy, but just speaking to a doctor and taking medicine should help. Note that anti depressants do have a side effect- and can make you more anxious/ depressed within the first two weeks so talk about this with your doctor. If you have a psychiatrist and medical team (like I do), go and see them and discuss how they can help your care.

Getting better can take months and is a combination of factors. If your depression was triggered by an event, it may be good to go and see a counsellor to discuss any trauma.

2) If you are feeling suicidal and feel like self harming, disclose this to someone you trust. You may not need to be in hospital if you have a good support network, but if you are really really ill, you may need to be. However, do not be afraid for asking for help from medical professionals- especially your GP and/or psychiatrist. They are there to help you get well.

3) If you get a first time psychiatry referral- this is what will happen. You will get asked lots of questions so the doctor can ascertain what is going on. I found that being as honest as I could was more helpful. Take a loved one with you to the appointment. They may ask you to complete questionnaires on your health too and/or refer you to psychology.

4) Use your support network- friends, family, partner. If you have a loving person who understands depression in your life- lean on them. Support from others is very helpful. Depression can be stressful for all involved and some may not understand or may tell you to ‘pull yourself together’. This is just stigma and remember depression is an illness that needs treatment.

If you feel able, see friends you love and trust. When I am depressed, I find it hard to leave the house.. but love and support from others is vital- even if theyre just bringing you chocolate and magazines. Acts of kindness really help.

5) Other holistic methods can really help depression. Whether its:

*Gentle exercise
*Prayer if you want to pray
*Journalling and writing down your achievements however small (eg I washed the dishes)
*Colouring a picture and making something beautiful
* Good sleep regime (when depressed this can be harder)
*Eating healthy food/ foods you love
* Taking care of yourself
*Watching a funny film
* Texting a friend
This can be hard when you are depressed but I would recommend Yoga Nidra meditation for anxiety as well as Headspace meditations….

6) Be Kind to Yourself

Depression is not your fault. Its an illness and a natural part of life. You don’t have to deal with it alone and you don’t have to beat yourself up because you are feeling lower than normal.

Reach out for help but ultimately be kind to yourself. 

Eleanor Segall is the blogger and editor behind this blog Be Ur Own Light.

Guest Post: Mental Health in Schools- Support, Goals and Prevention by Jon Manning at Arthur Ellis: School Enterprise


Last year, 916 children per day in the UK were referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. In some areas of the UK, there are mental health appointment waiting times of up to 2 years.


As with everything, we need to learn from this, adapt and solve. Many of our children are subject to a huge amount of information through a variety of channels including social media, news, peers etc, much, much more than if you look at only ten years ago. With these added pressures, we need to ensure they have a more robust support system in place that is ready to react when they need it.


Arthur Ellis: School Enterprise is a non-profit organisation solving mental health issues. Founded through the real life experience of Jon Manning who suffers with Bipolar Disorder. With the help from Medical Professionals, Teachers and Local Authorities, AEforSchools was created, a support system that embeds itself in schools and mentors pupils on those waiting lists and provides empowering workshops for those within school counselling.


Like many things, a mental health issue snowballs, it doesn’t always go away, it may get worse. With the numbers rising, our young people need to understand and be able to differentiate between good mental health and mental illness and know how to take control of their lives to minimise the effects of it. The more children that can take this control at a young age, the more resilient they will become and be able to live fuller lives as they grow.


One thing that I have learnt from my journey to gaining a diagnosis, is that a support network is key. You need to be able to feel comfortable enough to open up to someone who can listen and work with you to support you. Not everyone will be able to help with everything. Personally, my Mum and Dad had different approaches, I would approach one for certain things and the other for something else.


Another main task I took on was exercise, no matter how small. Some days, I didn’t feel able , which is okay. I would however, make sure I did three lots of exercise per week. I found that setting an achievable goal helped so much with giving me a purpose, I could relate that back to how I felt after a jog or a few press ups and it began feeling better…with that, I added a day. This sometimes took so long I felt there was no progress at all but I knew the most important thing was that I was doing it. I found that my Mum was the part of my support network to help push me to not to forget those press ups! You tend to do it when a strong, female is telling you to!


Making little goals and having a support network to help push you to strive towards goals is a great way of tackling issues. You may need medical intervention but this is a good way to help without it (or with it depending on what you need). It is easier to stop a snowball rolling down a hill while it’s still small. The further down it gets, the more help you will need- and that is OK. Be open. Those that are close to you often understand, tell someone you trust.


When I first told people about my diagnosis I often got the reaction ‘Well that makes sense’. We had all been thinking the same thing but hadn’t spoken about it. I was shaking at the thought of telling people, not knowing how they would react, what they would say and what they wouldn’t say- but how they might look. However, because it was the right people, it was fine, liberating in fact to disclose my bipolar!


So use that network you have around you, talk about how you’re feeling and think about something you love, do it in small doses and get your network to help you complete those goals.


Teach your children the same and they will grow up more resilient, more confident and able to handle the ups and downs of life.


Jon Manning, Founder, Arthur Ellis: School Enterprise  https://www.arthurellisltd.com/

Channel 4 Launches Lloyds Bank’s Mental Health Awareness Diversity in Advertising Campaign: For Time to Talk Day #GettheInsideOut

(image: Channel 4)

Channel 4 to launch Lloyds Bank’s £1m award-winning Diversity in Advertising campaign

  • Professor Green, Victoria Pendleton, Jeremy Paxman, Rachel Riley, Ade Adepitan, Alistair Campbell and Alex Brooker star in Lloyds Bank’s mental health awareness campaign
  • New research finds 75% of people believe there is a stigma in Britain attached to people with mental health conditions
  • Almost three quarters (74%) think the average person would be unwilling to discuss their own mental health issues
  • But nearly three quarters (72 per cent) think society has a better understanding of mental health conditions
  • Openness of celebrities and media coverage contributes to positive change


Lloyds Bank’s winning ad campaign of the Channel 4 £1m Diversity in Advertising Award launches exclusively on Channel 4 on mental health awareness Time To Talk Day (1.2.18).


The adverts will feature celebrities – including Professor Green, Jeremy Paxman, Rachel Riley and Alex Brooker – as well as members of the public and Lloyds Bank colleagues playing a variation of the ‘Who am I?’ sticky-note guessing game, to explore the common misconceptions about living with a non-visible disability.


And to coincide with the campaign’s launch, a new Lloyds Bank and Mental Health UK survey, reveals that although improvements have been made in how society thinks about mental health, 75 per cent of people still think there is a stigma attached to the issue.


Lloyds Bank and creative agency, adam&eveDDB, created the mental health adverts  after winning Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising Award, set up by the broadcaster to improve diversity in advertising.


As the award winner, Lloyds Bank will receive £1m worth of advertising airtime on Channel 4. The competition invited entrants to put forward creative ideas featuring non-visible disabilities.


Channel 4’s Sales Director Jonathan Allan said: “Producing an advert that puts non-visible disabilities at its heart was a demanding brief and it’s been a real pleasure working with Lloyds and adamandeveddb as they developed a fantastic new campaign that makes people think more profoundly about mental health.


“If this campaign can encourage the public and advertisers to think a little harder about all aspects of diversity, it can help make a real difference to people’s lives.”


“The TV ad is brilliantly simple, yet hugely effective,” says Robin Bulloch, Managing Director, Lloyds Bank. “And while winning the Channel 4 Annual Diversity in Advertising Award in itself is a great achievement, the positive difference the campaign will hopefully allow us to make to so many people’s lives is the real ambition here. By raising awareness of invisible disabilities and taking action to promote healthy wellbeing, we can support our colleagues to recognise the signs and feel confident and equipped to support customers and each other.”


Lloyds Bank has been working with Mental Health UK to launch #GetTheInsideOut which will appear on the adverts. #GetTheInsideOut campaign will encourage more people to speak about mental health and aims to inspire those living with a condition to speak up about mental health.


Research from Lloyds Bank and Mental Health UK, undertaken by YouGov, found that seventy-five per cent of respondents feel there is a stigma in Britain attached to people with mental health conditions. And 88 per cent feel society needs to do more (much more (62%) or a little more (25%)) to better understand mental health issues.


The survey reveals that 67 per cent of respondents think people are more comfortable talking about mental health conditions now than they were five years ago. And people feel that the four main factors behind this change were – celebrities talking about mental health (70 per cent); media stories about mental health (70 per cent); societal change (68 per cent); and charities raising awareness (56 per cent).


But the research also reveals that 74 per cent of respondents think people would be fairly unwilling (62 per cent) or not willing at all (11 per cent), to discuss their own mental health issues.


Managing Director of Mental Health UK Brian Dow welcomed the research commissioned by Lloyds Bank and said: “We have come a long way in a short time to raise awareness. In large part thanks to the hard work of the charity sector, campaigns like Time to Change, a willingness of celebrities, notably the Royal Family, to talk about mental health and positive engagement by the media.


“Nevertheless this research shows that we cannot rest of on our laurels – there is a lot more that we need to do.”


Although the survey showed that people think significant steps have been made in the past five years on people’s awareness of mental health, more still needs to be done.


The survey discovers that compared to five years ago;

  • 72 per cent of respondents think that society  has a better understanding of mental health conditions
  • 69 per cent feel people empathise more with people with mental health conditions
  • 70 per cent think society is more aware of the everyday realities of living with a mental health condition
  • 70 per cent also feel there is more awareness of mental health issues raised in the media


In addition;

  • Fifty-six per cent of respondents said they’d feel comfortable talking to someone they don’t know very well about their mental health.
  • While 37 per cent said they’d feel uncomfortable, with over half (57%) of this group concerned that they might offend the person  and a similar proportion (56%) worried they would embarrass or upset themLloyds Bank and Mental Health UK Charity Partnership

    Lloyds Bank is proud to be working in partnership with Mental Health UK. Together the Bank and Charity aim to promote awareness of the link between mental health and money problems, encourage discussion between customers and colleagues. To date, colleagues and customers have raised over £4.8 million which has enabled Mental Health UK to design, build and launch a pioneering new service called Mental Health and Money Advice. This service is the UK’s first advice service dedicated to helping people understand, manage and improve their financial and mental health.

    For further information –

    Channel 4 –

    Tim English, Group PR Manager

    1. 020 7306 6984
    2. tenglish@channel4.co.uk


    Lloyds Bank –

    Eve Speight

    M: 07585965319

    E: eve.speight@lloydsbanking.com



Blue Monday- a Message: Day of Mental Health Self Care

(image: Excellence Assured)

So today is apparently Blue Monday- the most miserable day of the year, according to the media. Its January, Christmas has ended, the days are still short and dark. But, today doesn’t have to be blue in the sad sense of the word. We don’t have to be down today- even if we don’t feel great or strong.

Today can be about a day of self care, recovering, healing, hoping, dreaming and positive actions that can make your day better. Feeling like you can’t get out of bed today. Try just an hour earlier. Feeling anxious, depressed, low, or wanting to harm yourself? Seek support. Seek help. Don’t feel like you have to hide this or go through it alone.

Self care is so important- whether setting small goals to do, or phoning/ texting someone you love, to doing something, eg reading books, making art or listening to music, for the pure joy of it. Maybe you like running or dancing, maybe you like bubble baths and candles? Whatever is your thing- that thing you love, that heals your mind and body? Do it.

If you like meditation, meditate. If you need to talk to someone you trust, open up. If you need to be quiet and watch a movie, do that. If you want to see a therapist or doctor- go. You may not want to talk but you will feel better to get that weight off your shoulders.

Everyone is an individual. If you are struggling on todays Blue Monday (or Blue Self Care Monday)- please seek that help. You are not strange or weird for feeling how you feel. Mental health touches everyone regardless of age, sex, race or religion.

Remember to keep shining your light… even if its a tiny candle to fight the dark. You have this today. We are all here for you.       

Guest Post by Reviews Bee: How to Prevent the Negative Impact on Child Mental Health


(image: http://acelebrationofwomen.org/2015/02/childrens-mental-health-matters-take-action/)

The physical health of children has always been an important aspect. Nowadays with the increase of stressful situations, modern medicine is concerned about the importance of childrens mental health, as it plays an important role in their personal development, upbringing and growth into adulthood.

There can be negative impacts on a child’s mental  health, which can be demonstrated as depression, anger, addictions or other mental health conditions.  If you notice behavioural changes in your child, you should take important steps to reach out and help them.

First, identify the reasons.

Everyone faces daily problems and children are not an exception, but in contrast to adults, they are not always able to cope with the relevant issues or take steps to get out of the situation. At times, they may be unable to properly express their feelings appropriate to the situation.

It should be noted that psychological health is formed by the interaction of internal and external factors, including environment. Amongst the most common situations causing mental disorder are tense situations in the family, problems at school such as bullying or low grades and sometimes internet bullying via social media.

As soon as the problem is identified, you, as a parent, should go forward and help your child as much as you can . The following steps are good approaches to the problem:

  1. Communicate with your child

Always have time to talk to your child. Be interested in their problems and show that you care, ask them to tell you about their day and try to understand troubling points in their daily life. You should be able to give advice, but understand their rights to make their own decisions and respect their opinions. Learn to treat the child as an equal partner, so they will share their sincere feelings and problems- so you can help.


  1. Help your child with their lifestyle

If home or school is a difficult environment, try and make it as calm as possible for your child. It is good to balance work and relaxation for the child. Make sure that they sleep on time, as proper sleep is required for their nervous system to calm down. You can even help the diet of the child with good nutrition and include more food rich in protein, vegetables and fruits. It is also good to encourage positive activities and hobbies.


  1. Teach positive thinking

Help your child to find and see sources of positive emotions. Positive thinking will also help the child to find inner peace in different situations. Encourage the child to build plans for the future, set goals and develop ways of reaching them. Being a role model for your child is so important with this.


  1. Boost the childs self-esteem

You should help your child to increase self-esteem, as this can be at the core of unhappiness or mental health issues at home or school. Your task is to prove their worth and how good they truly are. You should assist the child in finding their confidence and improving their self esteem so they can thrive. If you struggle with this, it may help to contact a therapist to help them.


  1. Work with a psychologist.

Many parents decided to get their child referred to work with a psychologist. If your child is truly struggling, this can be helpful. Some tips and guidance granted on the specific needs of your child may prevent future problems and boost their mental health.

This article was written by Reviews Bee at http://www.reviewsbee.com/

Raising our Voices: Stigma and Bipolar Disorder (For Equilibrium Magazine Issue 63)

I was asked by Equilibrium magazine, an online magazine dedicated to mental health and wellbeing by those with lived experience, to write an article for them. I chose to write it on stigma and bipolar disorder and here it is. You can also read it online at :   https://issuu.com/antz333/docs/equilibrium_2063


I am very excited to be writing my first article for Equilibrium. In this article I
will discuss stigma and life with bipolar.

I have lived with bipolar disorder for thirteen years, having been diagnosed at just
sixteen years old. The illness runs in my family, but it was still a shock when I
found myself unwell in hospital as a teenager. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder,
which means moods can oscillate between depressive lows and manic highs that
can be treated with medication and therapies. When depressed, one might find
oneself feeling extremely negative and unable to do activities previously enjoyed
or, in bad cases, suicidal and unable to cope with life. When in a manic state, one
may be in a heightened hyperactive state, talking fast/not making sense and
unable to sit still. A person may act in ways they would not usually behave when
in a typical state. This can then spill over into psychosis, with delusions and a loss
of touch with reality, which can eventually lead to hospitalisation in severe cases.
There is currently no cure for the disorder; however, mood stabilising medications
such as Lithium, prescribed by a psychiatrist, and courses of therapy can very
much help. It is believed that bipolar may be caused by a chemical imbalance in
the brain, but there is still so much we do not know. It is for this reason that
stigma about the disorder and other mental health conditions, pervades across
the world.

So, what is stigma? Stigma can be defined by the Oxford dictionary as a ‘mark of
disgrace associated with a circumstance, quality or person’. In terms of mental
illness, people fear what they have not experienced, do not know and do not
understand. It is the fear and ignorance that then perpetuates myths about those
who struggle with their mental health.

Due to the sometimes unpredictable nature of mental illness, in our case, bipolar
disorder, fear and stigma are most definitely generated. When people haven’t
been through the suicidal, heart-wrenching lows, and the sometimes equally
terrible highs, they will comment that the person is ‘attention-seeking’ and just
doing it to get a reaction from other people. We have seen this recently when
depressed celebrities, for example singer Sinéad O’Connor (who has bipolar), open
up to the world about their demons. They get criticised, shot down, told they are
being drama queens, silenced, as if their problems are trivial. There is nothing
trivial about serious mental illness or how the brain can trick you into feeling.
There is nothing trivial about feeling so unwell you can’t get out of bed, wash,
live. There is nothing trivial about experiencing suicidal tendencies and not having
support, because support networks are the one thing that keep bipolar sufferers,
and those with other conditions, going. Without my support network, I know I
would find things so much harder.

So, how do we tackle this stigma? In one word: talking. Telling people about our
experiences. Sharing the world of people who have mental health issues and
reflecting it back to wider society, through explaining to non sufferers what its
like to live with a mental health condition. It Is so important to show wider
society the world inhabited by people with mental health conditions. Everyone
is different. Its vital to explain the unexplainable. Talking about our symptoms
but showing how we can reach recovery or what recovery means to us.

I began speaking about my experiences online via my WordPress blog ‘Be Ur Own
Light’ (www.beurownlight.com) about a year and a half ago. The blog began as a
diary, as I was navigating life with a difficult anxiety disorder which made it
difficult for me to hold down a job long term. I still live with this anxiety and am
learning how to manage it. When I first began writing, I did it secretly and only
showed it to close family members and wrote under pseudonyms. I was effectively
testing the waters to see the reaction. I was frightened I would get negative

I began writing for charities such as Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change and
Bipolar UK, under pseudonyms, because I didn’t yet feel able to associate my name
with the illness. I was scared, and I suppose was experiencing some self-stigma. In
thirteen years I had never written about my illness or mental health online,
though I had explained it to close friends. I remember the day when my first
article for Rethink was published –‘Being Jewish and Bipolar’- and getting hundreds
of likes, shares and positive comments. This built my confidence, and, over the
course of a year, I wrote for more charities and even started writing for the
Huffington Post Lifestyle blog and other websites/magazines under my real name.

A month or two ago, I decided to write all my mental health blogs under my real
name. There is still so much work for us all to do to bring down the stigma, but it
starts from raising our voices. We deserve to be heard and we need to talk in order
to make mental health issues ‘normal’ in society and to fight for better treatment.
One in four people suffer, although I would argue the figure is more like one in
two. Together we can battle, speak out and one day beat the stigma.

Eleanor Segall is a mental health writer and advocate, who has written for many
charities and magazines. She currently works for mental health and learning
disability charity The Judith Trust. Her blog ‘Be Ur Own Light’
(www.beurownlight.com) is read globally and tackles her life with mental health
issues and those of guest bloggers. Eleanor can be found on Twitter and Instagram

Letter to my MP: On Mental Health and Talking Therapy Waiting Lists

(image: Imperial College)

I have just responded to a letter that my MP replied to me today. The other day I wrote to my MP here in London about the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill which aims to stop dangerous restraint in mental health hospitals. This was a campaign through the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

I was sadly less than impressed with the response I received even though it was quick, my MP quoted a lot of figures at me. Now, one of these figures, ‘750,000 more people accessing talking therapies since 2009/10’ really got to me. In 2015, I had a short course of NHS cognitive behavioural therapy which was useful but didnt help my anxiety. However, since late 2015/ early 2016, I have been on the therapy waiting list for talking therapy to help me process the trauma I have been through, Almost 2 years later, I am still on the list and have had to go privately which is less than ideal as you will see in my letter below. I hope it resonates with you and that my MP will use my case study in parliament ( one can only hope):

Dear MP,

Thank you for your swift response to my letter regarding the Mental Health Units Use of Force Bill. In your letter to me, you stated ‘more people accessing mental health services every day….as well as around 750,000 more people accessing talking therapies since 2009/2010’.

As someone with Bipolar disorder who was hospitalised (and sectioned) in 2014 for 4 months, with another 4 months in day hospital due to psychosis and mania, I have been on the waiting list for talking therapy since 2015- almost 2 years ago. When I recently went to a review with my psychiatrist, he said he would speak to psychology for me but that because the service is over stretched I may have to seek therapy via local charities or go privately. Being that I am currently waiting to start work and on ESA, I couldn’t afford private therapy without help from my family and I have had to go private which is grossly unfair due to the trauma I have faced. However, as you state, more people are accessing mental health services meaning that even in someone with a case such as mine, I have had to wait for talking therapy and effectively given up on NHS support in that regard.

I hope you will use my case study as an example in parliament when discussing mental health with Theresa May and your party and would appreciate a response. 

Yours sincerely,

Eleanor Segall