To start off the series, we have Suzie. A Time to Change Champion, who is speaking up about her own struggles, to try and make a difference:
“As a 15 year old, I stared at my reflection, looking at who this horrible monster was. When I look back on my life, I knew that’s when my mental health problems became apparent – the start of year 10, the start of GCSEs. I had never really heard of mental health problems before, until that point. That was 4 years ago; I am now 19, in the depths of my mental health problems but trying to reach out to others. I am currently a Time to Change Champion. Well what does that mean? It means that I am trying to reduce the stigma, discrimination and assumptions that the general public may have of mental health.
Time to Change started in October 2007 and since then, through the help of television programmes, media portrayal’s, adverts on the television and online, it has helped to educate individuals on mental health conditions. This includes possible symptoms, treatment methods and also tackling the taboos of mental health. 1 in 4 individuals will suffer from a mental health condition in their lifetime – you could be walking down the street and not realise that the person you passed could be suffering with an illness – and that is the importance, a MH condition is an ILLNESS.
In 2009, when my problems began, I was not aware of the different organisations that helped individuals dealing with MH conditions. I didn’t even realise at that point that I suffered with any form of illness. I had started self-harming when I was 12 but didn’t see that as any problem. I started restricting my dietary intake when I was 14 leading onto bulimia behaviours shortly after my 15th birthday. The stigma I felt and still do now at points, is that eating disorders are seen as a ‘lifestyle choice’ rather than a MH condition. I have written myself, posts about what the reality of eating disorders are like and many people even now have told me, ‘why don’t you try eat healthier and exercise in moderation?’ but it’s not as simple as that. Each person’s experience is different and there are many different elements, triggers and experiences which can influence a MH condition.
Growing up, who could I really turn too? Many friends I had and have now have or have had MH problems themselves and I hear it time and time again that they felt alone in their struggles with not knowing who to turn to due to being labelled, stigmatised and feeling as though they were ‘attention seeking’.
This year, after 4 years of suffering from various MH conditions I have spoken up. I had tried so hard to keep it all a secret, lying to my parents, friends, college and university teachers but it gave in. I crumbled because I didn’t know who to turn to and was scared of how people would react; the fact that they wouldn’t understand why I did it or would say ‘just get over it’ or ‘stop doing that, it’s stupid’ and I know how irrational that may sound. But they were the thought’s that were going through my already frazzled mind.
Many people wish for money, luxury or a house. Well my dream is for people to not discriminate. No matter what MH condition someone is diagnosed with. Whether it’s anorexia ,bulimia, depression to bipolar or schizophrenia to psychosis, no one should ever feel alone or judged due to their diagnosis. Your diagnosis does not dictate who you are or where you go in life and I feel as though there is so much emphasis placed on a label that we forget the person before. We live in a world where we don’t know how many people are suffering silently due to the fear and stigma that comes with having a MH condition. It should never happen and I will do all in my power to make sure that no one has to feel like that.”
If you would like to find out more about Time to Change, click here.