This week we mark mental health awareness week and I wanted to share both my own personal experiences with mental health and why in the North West we have launched a new Mental Health Matters series of online events.
Earlier this year Janet Farrar, UCU President and myself began putting together the concept of a monthly online meeting to discuss mental health matters. We've been working closely with the TUC North West team to outline a range of different topics to explore and we identified a host of different speakers to hear from. Each event is themed and working with trade unions, charities and key stakeholders in the region, we aim to provide facts, figures and sign-posting for each particular subject. So far we have covered topics including the mental health impact on working people during the Covid-19 pandemic, the mental health concerns for young LGBT+ people, how our key workers have managed their mental health, the affects of harmful gambling and looking at our forgotten key workers and the consequences of the role they have had to play during lockdown.
Personally, this is a subject very dear to me and a project I am very committed to, passionate about and proud of. I would like to give you some background about my own Mental Health experiences.
I found myself suffering badly with my mental health from a young age. In those days, we didn’t talk about our emotional struggles as the stigma surrounding it was so great. At 16 years old I remember being so unhappy and desperate to get out of my life that I took some pills. With help from my mum and a call to the Samaritans, I survived that and went on to start my first job which changed my life forever.
I became stronger, met lots of new people, enjoyed working and going to college at the same time. I met my husband at work when I was only 19 but was still plagued by the ‘Black Dog’ of depression at times. He had been married before and had two girls so our lives were often full of fun and laughter when we saw them but at other times it was extremely difficult being a step-mum and dealing with their behaviours.
At work I started to progress my career but with that came more work-related stress. The depression returned often so I took medication, got support from friends and used different talking therapies, all of which helped me to cope at the time until I hit another crisis point. Again, I wanted to take my own life but my husband was the rock I needed to help me pull back mentally from the darkest place I’d ever been in.
I carried on working and enjoying life spending years in and out of therapy until I finally got to know who I was and understood my condition so much better. I still need low dosage medication to keep the worst of the depression away and I manage it so much better when it does make another appearance.
My personal experiences are one of the reasons why the Mental Health Matters initiative is so important to me. Every day, more conversations are taking place about mental health across all mediums and between hundreds of thousands more people than ever before. I want this initiative to be a place where people are able to learn more from others so that we can all help each other to move forward and campaign for change.
I want those participating to see the emotional colours, shapes and sizes of the diversity of all the people at the MHM sessions and take their experiences into their lives. Most of all, I want us all to feel that we have a voice and take part in those conversations around all aspects of Mental Health so we can be there and be strong for each other when we need it.
We do not record our events, to try and create the safest space possible for those who want to come along and share their experiences. Our next event will be on Wednesday 26 May at 4.30pm and will be exploring the forgotten key workers during the pandemic. Please feel free to come along and join the conversation about mental health.
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