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Why it is ‘Time To Talk’! Hear what our authors have to say

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It’s Time To Talk day! So, we asked our authors about why they chose to open up about their mental illness and we’ve had some really inspiring comments back!

FROM THE SUFFERERS…

Why did you decide to open up about your mental illness?

Hope Virgo, author of ‘Stand Tall Little Girl

I have never found it easy to open up about my mental health – I was worried about how it would affect my career and what people would think of me. However, after losing three friends to mental health problems I decided that I would try and be honest with those around me.

It was only once I started to open up more that I realised how silly it was to be embarrassed about it. Being open not only felt cathartic but it also had a profound impact on others. I could inspire people to fight just by sharing my own battles!

 

Mark Edwards, author of ‘Life After Care

Honestly, it was more of a process. I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 1981 after trying to commit suicide as a teenager. People were less understanding then and labelled me a “nutter”. I originally started being more open in protest, I was not a “nutter” and refused to let people think I was.

At a later point, I was invited to speak about my journey by a church minister. That was the first time I had opened up to a large group of people and my nerves were uncontrollable! I did, however, manage to tell my story and was met with such a positive, sympathetic response – I had finally found an audience that wanted to help me. It was then that the purpose of my openness changed, I wasn’t telling people my story out of anger, retaliation, and impatience, I was doing it to inspire, to educate and to help others.

 

Sonya Watson, co-author of ‘Postpartum Depression and Anxiety’

I decided to open up after I had spent eight weeks in the Mothers and Babies unit here in Christchurch NZ. I had been lying about how I was feelings for a few months and I just got tired of it! It was time to give back to those who helped me, time to educate people and make them understand that PND is nothing to be ashamed of and that lots of mums struggle daily with it!

 

Adam Shaw, co-author of ‘OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Related Depression’ and founder of The Shaw Mind Foundation

If you’ve read our Pullingthetrigger books on OCD and anxiety then you’ll know that I spent the best part of almost 25 years avoiding my illness. It was not until I had reached rock bottom that I decided that I needed to really open up about my illness. Telling people about it meant that I could face it head-on, it was like I was readying myself for a battle with an army of supporters!

 

Chloe Catchpole, co-author of ‘Body Image and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

One of the biggest reasons I opened up about my mental illness was to feel less isolated. For so long I felt ashamed by my diagnosis, it was like carrying a heavy emotional anchor everywhere I went. An enormous weight was lifted when I started being honest about what I was going through. I also wanted to battle against the stigma surrounding mental health.

 

Q: Do you think being open about your mental illness is essential for recovery? Was is essential for your own personal recovery? If so, how?

Hope Virgo, author of ‘Stand Tall Little Girl

Personally, opening up to those around me helped build and strengthen my own support network. All of a sudden I had an army to back me up. If I had bad days I could immediately message my friends and family, and within seconds, I had support.

Whether talking is essential to recovery or not? I would absolutely say that it makes things easier. It is truly horrible suffering in silence. I hate to end on a cliché, but please remember, you are not alone! The only way to realise that is by taking a leap of faith and tell people what’s going on!

 

Mark Edwards, author of ‘Life After Care

I do think it’s part of the process, yes. Feeling more comfortable about telling people about my journey has helped me tremendously, even if, on occasion, I did encounter ignorance and prejudice.

Being open and honest has helped me embrace my past, I should not be ashamed of it, and neither should anyone else with mental health problems! I accept that I may occasionally meet people that choose to judge me for my past, but as long as I continue to demonstrate that I can be a good priest, father and husband then I know I am the real winner- my illness did not defeat me.

I was told I would never amount to anything in life. I was told that “my type of people” either spend the rest of their life in and out of mental institutions or prisons. I was told that I should just do everyone a favour and kill myself! I find it utterly satisfying proving those comments are wrong, I am thriving!

 

Sonya Watson, co-author of ‘Postpartum Depression and Anxiety’

Absolutely. It was a huge part of my healing process. First, I had to accept I was no supermum like you see in the glossy magazines. I learnt that those ideas weren’t realistic, and that I didn’t have to be exactly like them to be a good mum!

I started publicly speaking for mothers’ groups in-front of mental health conferences within three months of being in hospital. Then I was asked to come on the Postnatal Depression Family Trust. This was my healing point and I have never looked back. Nine years down the track I coordinate/facilitate Mums’ groups and speak to lots of different service providers, including doctors, GPs midwives etc. This is now my passion to help/support/guide Families dealing with PND to get rid of the stigma that is still around in 2017!

 

Adam Shaw, co-author of ‘OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Related Depression’ and founder of The Shaw Mind Foundation

I think it makes recovery easier. For my OCD and anxiety, it helped me face my “triggers” head on and accept them, instead of trying to ignore or suppress them. It changed the game and so I would recommend it as a way to put yourself onto the path to recovery.

 

Chloe Catchpole, co-author of ‘Body Image and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I think being open about mental illness is definitely key to recovery. The level of openness can vary depending on the person, whether it just be with family and friends or more openly on social media. However, honesty and communication are crucial for a fruitful recovery. It certainly was in my case. The best thing I’ve got out of an open dialogue about mental health is the chance to help others. Sharing personal stories of hope is incredibly rewarding, as it makes others feel less alone and can create a feeling of community. Reassurance and support is vital.

 

FROM THE PROFESSIONALS…

Q. From the perspective of a professional psychologist, why do you think it is important for people with a mental illness to talk about it?

Dr Annemarie OConnor, co-author of ‘Body Image and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I think it’s important for everyone to talk about their difficulties.  It’s what makes us human –and mental illness is no different to any other difficulty any of us might face at any time in our lives. Talking normalises it, makes it accessible, and the process of talking can create improvement in itself, and in terms of generating more support and unity.

 

Kathryn Whitehead, co-author of ‘Postpartum Depression and Anxiety’

When problems are kept a secret, it adds an extra level to the original problem. By talking about our mental illnesses, we take the power of secrecy away. It unshackles us from shame, gradually removing the stigma in society and within ourselves. Talking about a mental illness opens up avenues for recovery you may never have dreamed existed. Even a small start of talking to just one person will begin to relieve the suffering. Stigma thrives on isolation and silence. Recovery begins with just a few words being shared.

 

Q: Do you think being open about your mental illness is essential for recovery? If so, why?

Dr Annemarie OConnor, co-author of ‘Body Image and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I know people who have recovered who haven’t wanted to be open about their mental illness with anyone: it has remained deeply personal and private, which is fine.  I don’t think it’s ‘essential’ but I think it makes the process of recovery a supported, joint venture, and one where you can gain encouragement, motivation and celebrate your progress from those around you.

 

Kathryn Whitehead, co-author of ‘Postpartum Depression and Anxiety’

Being open about your mental illness isn’t essential for recovery … BUT it can be one of the most useful things you might ever do towards your recovery. You will begin to talk when you are willing to: no one can force this to happen, you have to choose when is right for you. My only advice would be to trust your feelings/instincts with this and start small, see what happens as you take steps towards openness.

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