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The best way to understand someone’s mental health problem is to talk to them

Carl - Time To Change

"Education is key. It’s very easy to dismiss someone’s mental health problem if you don’t understand what is really going on."

My name’s Carl, I’m 26 years old and I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for over 10 years. However I suspect even before then there were some mental health issues going on.

I think it’s key to talk and create an open discussion on mental health. I believe it should be treated in the exact same way that physical health is treated. We will very likely have either been affected or know someone close to us who is suffering from mental health issues, and it’s a very serious problem. Suicide is the number one killer of men under the age of 45, which is a terrifying statistic.

I’ve had various reactions when I’ve disclosed my own mental health issues to people around me, some positive, some negative. Most of the positive reactions have been from people with their own issues, or people who have had close family members with issues.

“I feel like this highlights that education is key. It’s very easy to dismiss someone’s mental health problem if you don’t understand what is really going on.”

Before I had any issues of my own I would have probably not understood if someone was depressed, for example, I may have just seen them as acting ‘grumpy’ or ‘lazy’ – words that really have no meaning and tell you nothing.

I’ve had support from friends if I’ve had to drop out of a social event at a moment’s notice because of my anxiety peaking, but I’ve also had people upset because I’ve done this, despite me being open with my reasoning. A negative reaction makes you less likely to discuss it again and instead seek out an excuse to cancel an event.

If people understood how you felt at this moment and how little it really would affect them, it would be a huge boost to a person who is already suffering. Commonly with mental health issues you already feel guilty and worried, thus being punished for something so small can have a hugely negative impact on these feelings. If you force yourself to take part in the social event when you’re already feeling withdrawn this can make those feelings even more apparent, leaving you feeling exhausted.

“I think the introduction of mental health education at schools will be a massive help and is something I wish I had access to during high school.”

We were taught a lot about drug use etc. at school but never was it correlated with any emotional problems the person using them may have been feeling.

If we can educate children about mental health, then they will take that knowledge into adulthood and hopefully be able to at least understand what someone else might be going through. The best way to understand other people’s mental health issues is to talk it through with them and to educate yourself. If society becomes an open culture where that is encouraged then this will go a huge way to helping those going through a mental health issue.

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