We can all help break the stigma

I’ve been motivated to write this to do my bit to try to tackle the stigma attached to mental health problems and to encourage people who are going through a tough time. Part of me is uncomfortable writing about something so personal but I feel it could help change people’s attitudes and support people who are struggling to realise that they’re not alone. I’m a completely normal, happy and successful person who has been through some very dark, difficult times and come out the other side a stronger, more rounded person. Here’s my story…

In between finishing my A-Levels and starting university, I went through a breakdown, which I can now describe as my breakthrough since I found out who I was and made the difficult transition from boy to man.

It all started when I was encouraged by my adventurous older brother to go travelling and decided to go to Mexico on my own for a few weeks. Unfortunately, when I was out there I became very isolated and started having, what I didn’t realise at the time, were panic attacks. I flew home because I thought I was seriously physically ill, finding it really hard to breathe much of the time.

I assumed all would get back to normal on my return but things got much worse. I became deeply depressed and anxious and life became a real struggle. I was forever thinking of my fragile mental state and had to cancel holidays and became restricted to my home town. I was very attached to my mum and found it hard to cope when she left the house.

I remember sitting on the bench outside the GPs’ telling my mum that for the first time I could understand why people commit suicide and that if I never got better I feared that suicide would be my only way out. However, throughout all of this, I clung to hope that I would come through my depression and anxiety and realise my ambition of not only going to university that September but having a career in journalism.

The challenge was that I had to be patient and do everything possible to overcome my mental health problem. I was determined to go to university, despite my doctor’s concern that I wouldn’t be able to cope. I addressed these challenges by being proactive – arranging counselling sessions at university before I started there, doing exercise, eating healthily and embracing student life by taking up opportunities at the students’ union such as getting involved in sports and societies.

Over my four years at university, I gradually came off anti-depressants, finished counselling and broke free from the dark cloud which followed me.

After an incredible amount of effort, I got over the depression and anxiety and proved to myself that I could cope with the challenging life I desired by completing my degree, being elected as a sabbatical officer at the students’ union and then completing a post-grad in journalism. And I have had a successful career in the industry so far.

This was my life-changing experience and I learnt an incredible amount about myself. On the very rare occasions when I start to feel that, as Churchill said, the black dog is barking, I am able to employ the techniques I have developed that work for me so I can overcome the feelings of anxiety which include talking to loved ones, using aromatherapy oils and listening to an excellent book by Dr Claire Weekes. My Christian faith has also helped me greatly. I now have a feeling of inner peace and am able to relate to others who have been through difficult times in their lives.

People who have mental health problems can get through the other side but part of their recovery depends on being able to talk about their problem – this is why we must tackle the stigma.


How can No Panic help?
No Panic specialises in self-help recovery and our services include:
Providing people with the skills they need to manage their condition and work towards recovery.
Our aim is to give you all of the necessary advice, tools and support that you will need to recover and carry out this journey. No Panic Recovery Programs