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UKAEA Mental Health Blog

Category: testimonial, Mental Health, mental health first aiders, mental health awareness training, COVID-19, UK Atomic Energy Authority, covid, UKAEA, mental health awareness

Mental Health

Our EDI partner, Marcia Ore has asked for me to write a blog post with regards to my thoughts, feelings and experiences with mental health.

Coronavirus and lockdown have put a strain on all of our mental health, whether we realise it or not. We are in a recession; people are losing their jobs and livelihoods. Friends and family are dying from this virus and the way we lived has changed and there is a high probability it will never be the same as it was.

During lockdown, the one commodity I have had a lot of is time, my evenings and weekends are made up of ways to spend that time. The last 3 months I have used a lot of it finishing university coursework and exams. When that was finished, I played games, I read books, I bought the knitting needles back out of retirement, I had regular phone calls with loved ones and I watched a lot of TV, I must have completed Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ three times over! After deep cleaning the flat for the 100th time I remembered our old family home video tapes, I set up the camcorder and began to watch.

There were a lot of home videos to get through. I come from a reasonably large family, I am one of 4, both my parents are one of 4 . There are aunties and uncles, cousins, 2nd cousins, nieces, nephews and as the years have progressed, stepfamilies. The camera was only ever switched on for Christmas and birthdays, but as there were 6 of us in one house, this was pretty frequent. There is quite an age gap between us 4, my older sister is two years older than me, but my two younger sisters are 12 and 13 years younger than me, the main reason being my parents divorced and they have a different Dad.

I loved watching the videos, it was hectic, busy and loud but it was home. Nostalgia pangs aside, I could see how our family unit was changing and I watched with a feeling of sadness, I knew this story and how it ended. The last tape was my 18th birthday, there are no more home videos after that, our lives had been changed not long after and like the world today, will never go back to how they were.

 Not long after my 18th birthday the “Great” recession hit us hard, alongside my Mother and my younger sisters Father breaking up we lost our house and he left us to it. Now at the mercy of the state and homeless (which I do not recommend), my Mother fought for us to be able to stay together in sheltered housing. I quickly left college and worked three jobs 7 days a week.

After we lost so much, three new entities crashed into my life. Depression, Anxiety and Stress. I spent three very long years working hard for very little money to help my family through this and my new friends came along for the ride. My ultimate goal? Get a job that gives a decent pay-out for death in service then do the deed and let my family have the money. Why wouldn’t they be better off with some comfort in their lives? Why bother carrying on? There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Surely, they would be happier if I were not there and my sisters did not have to rely on free school meals and the charity of others?

These were all thoughts and questions that went through my mind on a daily basis.

This was 10 years ago, my life has changed a lot, and for the better. The best one meeting my wife.

When someone opens up to you about their mental health, please do not ignore them or tell them to “suck it up.” I suffered in silence for three years right at the bottom of a very deep hole because any time I even whispered I needed help there was always someone to shoot me down. I was not brave enough to speak up, that is what it takes to get help. One small step of bravery by either side, one to open up and one to accept.

If you have read my story and thought you have had it worse and did not suffer with any mental health issues, I think that is brilliant. Use that mental resilience and strength to help others, share your tactics for keeping your mental health in top condition. Just like physical health, everyone has to learn what works best for them and how to use it to their advantage. Conversely, if you have read my story and never experienced anything to this scale, again I think this is brilliant. I am happy you did not, no one deserves that. Still, be an ally to those that might need you, no one can predict the future. In my experience, everyone needs a little help at some point.

“We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us” – Jo Cox

 We should all be looking out for each other; it is our duty to one another. Should my family have felt shame for relying on free school meals? Should a black person be made to feel less than for the colour of their skin? Should a member of the LGBTQ+ family be refused medical treatment? The list does not end here but these are, in my opinion, easy to answer. Every single one of these can have a direct effect on someone’s physical and mental health.

Thank you for reading this, if you have questions, comments or would like to discuss anything further please reach out.

The mental health first aid team is still operating, just remotely.

 

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