I've always had an interest in issues around mental wellbeing and began training as a psychodynamic therapist in 2007. What follows, are some of the powerful and distressing comments I've heard and read over the years; the same things come up time and time again, yet still no government will talk about mental health in an intelligent, compassionate, helpful way.
"Every morning I wake up in a state of anxiety and within an hour the depression has started again"
"I drink to numb the pain of anxiety and worrying about all the bills mounting up. But these days I don't stop at just feeling numb, I keep going until I'm unconscious - what sort of existence is that?"
"When my wife left my whole world fell apart and ten years on, absolutely none of it has started to rebuild"
"Governments do nothing to help people like me with depression, they don't understand mental illness and call us scroungers and shirkers. I've already been thinking, when the kids leave home and no longer need me, perhaps I'll commit suicide"
"I grew up watching my dad hit my mum and my mum hit the bottle. I decided a long time ago I'd never get married and have a family, I couldn't live with myself if I inflicted that on my own kids"
"My parents were good people but they were just always at work and you felt you couldn't bother them. For three years I was bullied at school every single day and I knew I had to carry that burden alone because mum and dad didn't have time to worry about me"
"I'm terrified of being alone so I stay, even though this relationship isn't good for my mental health. No-one else would have me, anyway"
"Politicians keep saying 'get a job and that will improve your mental health'. I'm sure for some with transient mental health problems this might be true, but if you've got a deep underlying mental illness which has been there since childhood really, no job is going to solve that problem, in fact the stress of work and having to deal with the public will only make it worse"
"Single parents, with absolutely no support, are expected to look after their children, but who looks after the parent when they're in trouble? No-one, that's who"
"The medication stops the voices most of the time, but when I'm put under increased pressure and stress the voices come back and I can't cope with anything"
"Sometimes I see my daughter washing her hands for fifteen minutes and it's like watching myself at that age - but I daren't get help because I'm terrified they'll put her in care like they did with me, and that's where my real problems started"
"I cut myself because my feelings are constantly dismissed by my family and by society, so I've learned to suppress the mental anxiety because no-one will listen to me. When I cut myself it's such a relief, the sense of physical pain seems to reduce the mental distress I'm feeling"
"Being in care in the 1970s only made my problems worse. I ended up pregnant by one of the care home workers"
"There's a lot of mental illness in my family. Problem drinking and violence and suicide on both sides. Six sessions of CBT won't cure that will it!"
"I find it really hard to trust men, because my dad used to hit us all the time and say he was going to kill my mum in the night. I used to go to sleep terrified and check on her at 5am each morning. I was about 7 years old"
"I keep applying for jobs but once they see I suffer from a mental health condition they don't want to know. I had thirty rejection letters last month and it's destroying my self-esteem. Why can't the government create supported work opportunities, where your employer understands things like concentrating and dealing with the public are more difficult for you?"
"Most nights I go to sleep hoping I won't wake up in the morning"
"I keep ending up with these blokes who abuse me. Whenever I get to know a guy and he's the kind and caring type, I end it because I don't feel comfortable in relationships with men like that. I don't know how to behave"
"Forty years on, I'm still angry at my mother for dying of cancer and leaving me and my little brother with a dad who beat us up and constantly blamed us for her death. I think my dad was probably angry at her too. He drank himself to death after we left home"
"It started when my wife lost her job and I was having nightmares about losing our home. I'd never gambled before in my life, it just started with £10 bets in the bookies on the way home from work and snowballed from there"
We all know how prevalent mental health problems are, almost all of us will have someone in our family who suffers from a recognised condition, from personality disorders to stress, anxiety and depression. The poor are more likely to suffer, but the better off are by no means free of risk. Latest figures suggest one in three of us now will suffer from an episode of mental distress which will require some level of treatment, from counselling to medication or hospitalisation. The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030 depression will be the leading cause of disease around the world. Greater than cancer, greater than diabetes, greater than heart disease or malaria. How will society function when such a vast number of us are struggling to cope in our day to day lives? And at what point are political leaders going to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee? Even in this liberated age we're lucky enough to live in, there is still enormous stigma attached to mental illness, but with it affecting so many of us, either directly or our concerns about family members, friends or colleagues, we have to find the courage to start talking about it, because politicians are unlikely to do anything without a great amount of public pressure. Mental health is such a huge and important issue, it has the potential to be an election winner or loser, despite the stigma still associated with it. No longer can we allow them to brush it under the carpet like years gone by.
Some useful links for support with mental distress:
Time to Change
Black Dog Tribe