‘You’d never know.’ The number of times I’ve heard that. I know it’s well meant, I get that. But it’s still an insensitive response, isn’t it?
Maybe if mental health issues were more visible, more out in the open, general attitudes would be different, right? But we’ll get there, I’m sure.
As you can probably tell, I’m quite upfront about my own mental health. It’s a decision I consciously made. I have a diagnosis of type 2 bipolar disorder and generalised anxiety disorder. I’ve been registered with disability services at Queen's since I started my MPharm degree. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the nature of my degree, I also like to read up on current research findings into psychiatric medications.
I’m happy to use my own issues to demystify some of the preconceptions around mental health for other people
I have my own mental health page on Instagram, where I discuss my experiences with medications and talking therapies. When I first started posting, some friends were worried. And yes, social media can be an unpleasant place, I understand that. But I’m happy to use my own issues to try and demystify some of the preconceptions around mental health and mental illness for other people. But to be honest, I’ve found that generally people are very receptive to the ideas I talk about and issues I raise. They find it liberating in a way – maybe because it gives them an opportunity to discuss their own experiences
Before I came to Queen’s I did a Mental Health First Aid training course through AwareNI. Also the School of Pharmacy has a mental health and wellbeing team, which I joined. I represent my level 2 colleagues. We do some fundraising and to try and spread awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues.
Asking for help is not admitting defeat
The most important thing I could say to anyone is that asking for help is not admitting defeat. Sure, yes, it can be hard to hold your hand up or make that first call. But it gets easier after that. I think that Disability Services do a great job here, I really do. Through them I was granted support from my Education Authority in the form of a Disabled Students’ Allowance. I also have a academic mental health tutor, which is great when I’m not feeling my best.
You have to understand that what you’re actually seeing isn’t you. It’s the illness
At the moment, with the Covid situation, everyone’s feeling a bit more stressed and anxious in general, and I’m certainly not immune to that. Isolation is a problem too. I’m not around large groups of people at the minute – which is something I struggle with at the best of times. But isolation can be just as difficult. I suppose it comes back to knowing yourself – recognising what your triggers are, what your symptoms are. Because it’s actually not always that obvious. You have to understand that what you’re actually seeing isn’t you. It’s the illness.
Mental Health issues can affect anyone at any time. But confidential, professional help is available through the University.
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