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Mental health: what’s your story?

We all have mental health. Some have great mental health, while, periodically, others struggle with their mental health. And all of this is perfectly normal.

What is identity? Identity is who we are. It can be made up of our features – the way we look (I, for instance, have blonde hair and blue eyes). It can be made up of labels such as ‘I am a dancer’ or ‘I am a Christian, Muslim, Hindu’ and so on… For those of us who struggle with mental health it can be daunting to admit, due to the fear of being labelled as ‘a crazy person’.

I’m on a mission to eradicate the fear for all of us – whether we’re in the public eye, or just regular ‘everyday’ people – in speaking out about our mental health battles.

So to save myself from eating my own words, I’ve decided to share that, I, a 19-year-old everyday girl, have struggled with mental health. I have experienced some form of anxiety and insecurity for the majority of my teenage life. For a couple of years, this meant suffering with extremely bad panic attacks. At another point, I wasn’t even able to queue up by myself to get lunch as I was too afraid of comments from my peers about… well, absolutely nothing really! Three years later, this seems absurd, but it was real and it was affecting me.

I learned to keep my anxiety at bay (most of the time) through physical activities such as dance. I love to dance, so not only was it benefiting my health both physically and mentally, it was something I really enjoyed.

By 17, things had got quite bad for numerous reasons and I found myself feeling isolated and quite depressed. It took me a while to admit it, but I needed help and I needed to do something about it. I had decided to join a local church. Immediately, I found a sense of belonging and peace, although it took me a while to fully open up about things that were affecting me. Once I had, I realised how drastically my mental health had improved. Therefore, I give you my Golden Rule for overcoming depression: put yourself smack-bang in the middle of the biggest group of people you can find. It may be a sports team, or club, or gym class, or just a brilliant group of friends and family that you trust to be open with – but make sure you talk!

I can’t say since then that my life has been a smooth road, but whose life is? If you’re reading this and yours is, then please ring me because we should really swap! All jokes aside however, going through the challenges of life were so much easier with people by my side; people who loved and cared for me and who were equipped to help me deal with things I could not deal with in my own strength.

So I leave you with something to think about – not just today – but every day. I have learned that, yes, the stigma around opening up about mental health can be scary; but that doesn’t mean we should let fear prevent us from doing so. Life can be a constant battle and it is hard to fight sometimes. That, however, is perfectly normal. The more you open up about the struggles you have faced, the more you will see it happens to all those around you too. Please speak out and please seek help about the struggles you face, and when you feel strong – because I promise you, you will – please help out those who need someone to be strong for them. Be a friend, be a shoulder to cry on, and point them in the right direction to get help. If you know someone who is struggling with their mental health, don’t let them go unnoticed, unheard or unhealed.

For tips on being mental-health friendly, building dementia-friendly communities and resources on mental health, please visit our Health and Care section.