Fiona's story: "The more they know, the more they can help"
While the conversation about mental health has moved at pace in recent years, the discussion about suicide and suicidal thoughts still remains a taboo subject. In this blog for World Suicide Prevention Day, Fiona discusses her own experiences and offers some tips on how to talk openly about this difficult subject.
I’m 34 and I’ve struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager, but I had a huge breakdown in 2013 and that was the first time I had suicidal thoughts and tried to take my own life. At the time I preferred to keep things to myself, but if I had shared how I was really feeling with someone, then it may not have reached the point it did. I would definitely encourage discussing this with someone you trust.
I was working in a care home at the time and I struggled to cope when a resident died. At this time, I began suffering with terrifying intrusive thoughts, that made me believe all sorts of things about myself and gave me false memories. I was so confused and scared. I had no idea that I had a mental illness called OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder.
The first time I summoned the courage to speak to my doctor, he didn’t understand my concerns at all and made me feel stupid and as though I shouldn’t have bothered him. I decided to go to A&E instead as I was desperate and in crisis and I thought that it would be the safest place to be and somewhere I would get proper help.
I was glad to be given a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression and anxiety and that something could be done to help me.
I was very lucky to be sent to a specialist hospital. This couldn’t have been a more different experience. Even though I was in a really bad way, I felt safe and comforted there and actually listened to. I was glad to be given a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression and anxiety and that something could be done to help me.
I’ve always been open about having mental health struggles. I happen to be a naturally open person anyway. Everyone deals with things differently, but I find it really helpful to talk, rather than bottling it up. I also find if I talk about it, then it might encourage others to as well. A lot of people in the media are opening up more about their mental health struggles and this helps to increase awareness and reduce stigma.
Personally, I have had mostly positive reactions from loved ones and friends. I feel very grateful to have a real supportive network around me. I live with my parents which helps me a lot as they are always in my corner and I can always rely on them. They even help to pay for my therapy and take me to psychiatry appointments.
I was seen by a mental health nurse who was so genuine and kind. She gave me time, didn’t rush me and was non-judgemental about my intrusive thoughts. I wish everybody could respond like she did.
I do have one positive memory that will always stick in my mind of an interaction at A&E, where I was seen by a mental health nurse who was so genuine and kind. She gave me time, didn’t rush me and was non-judgemental about my intrusive thoughts. I wish everybody could respond like she did. It was the first time I felt my concerns were being taken seriously.
It can be very daunting for someone to open up and share their personal mental health struggles and I imagine this feels even more intense for people in the public eye. I’m concerned that some of the negative treatment and comments that famous people like Meghan Markle or Naomi Osaka receive online and in the media might discourage people from coming forward. If they are left feeling ashamed and guilty for speaking out, then they do not receive the help they need.
I think it is a really courageous step for someone to admit that they are struggling and I would definitely advise discussing things with family or close friends. The more they know, the more they can help. You are not alone and you’re definitely not the only one who’s struggling.
I think I will always struggle with my mental health. I have good and bad days, but I now have lots of things in place to help me. I talk to a therapist regularly; I see a psychiatrist and I am on medications that work really well for me. I try to be mindful and appreciate the small things in life and I’m just glad to still be here.
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