I have recently had the great fortune of talking with fellow Time to Change Champion and mental health campaigner Adam Howard. Adam suffers with mental health himself and has made the courageous decision to turn his struggles into something positive. He shares his story and experiences through his website and is also a significant part of a vital movement challenging stigma and raising awareness of mental health! With his permission, it is my pleasure to share with you his answers and insights into some of the questions I have asked him.
Hey Adam! Please could you share with me a little bit about your diagnosis and how it makes you feel?
Hi! So, I’m Adam and I’m 20 years old. I was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression in December 2016. While receiving such a diagnosis was both eye-opening and a relief, mainly because I had a better idea of what was causing my problems, I do feel a certain pressure to make genuine progress and feel much better in myself. I have found that my depression in particular often leads to a lack of motivation and concentration to do even basic tasks, therefore it can feel as though I’m not really achieving much at all. As a driven and ambitious person, I do not want a mental illness to stop me from reaching my biggest dreams/goals.
Thank you for that. I understand that feeling of relief from receiving a diagnosis as you can almost begin to understand why you might be feeling that way.
How was it that you reached out for help?
During my first year at sixth form, just prior to my diagnosis, my Mum noticed I was having regular panic attacks at home ahead of going into college. Due to this, she encouraged me to visit my GP and seek professional support.
Good one mum! That leads me nicely into my next question.
Have you found your family and friends to be supportive?
Overall my family and friends have been supportive through my struggles, however, there have been instances where people have got annoyed/frustrated at me for how I’ve acted. Being so honest about my suffering with mental health problems has led to conflict at times for sure.
Oh brilliant, I’m so glad! Yes, I suppose everyone has their own opinions but that’s why raising awareness and education around mental health is so important. There seems to be an awful lot of negative stigma particularly surrounding male mental health.
Have you personally confronted any misconceptions or received any negative attitudes due to male stereotyping?
Particularly because of my work campaigning in the world of mental health awareness, there have been examples of people displaying stigmatising behaviour. As males there is still an outdated, damaging view that we should be stoic and not show any form of negative emotion, which has in fact contributed to some people labeling me as weak for speaking out. ‘Stop being a girl.’ ‘You’re doing it for attention.’ ‘Pull yourself together.’ These are probably the most common statements.
That’s awful! Mental health education is fundamentally important. The fact that you were labeled weak for speaking out proves this. In fact, it takes undeniable strength and courage to share your thoughts and emotions as you make yourself so vulnerable.
If you had to chose just one thing that you wish people knew about your illness, what would it be?
Ooh good question Abbie! I’d say the one thing I’d most like others to know is that my illness doesn’t make up my entire personality. Obviously, there are periods when I’ll feel low, demotivated or anxious, however this doesn’t mean I’m incapable of having happy times and joking around. It’s frustrating when people mistake my mental health problems as a reflection of my whole character. There’s way more to the person than a mental illness; I’m not depressed 100% of the time.
What a very good point!
Do you have any advice that I can share for improving mental well-being or any strategies that you have found to be useful?
Confide in people you trust. Put yourself first. Stick to a structure/routine. Seek professional support if necessary. Do more things you enjoy. For me personally, I’ve found great solace in speaking and visiting my friends, as well as immersing myself in nature, exercise and reading books. The key thing is finding what works for you, everybody is different.
Wow, those are some fantastic tips, I agree with everything that you have suggested. Unfortunately, I think it’s common for people to struggle with putting themselves first for fear of seeming selfish and conceited. However, there is a massive difference between self love and valuing oneself and being totally self-obsessed and arrogant. I really would not be here writing this today if I hadn’t confided in those I trust and found support. I also find nature and reading a great help, of course along with my passion for baking.
Finally, my last question and It’s a biggie, then I’ll let you go.
In your opinion, what is the biggest problem in mental health and how could we improve it going forward?
Although we have made fantastic strides in improving attitudes and discussions around mental health, I find it extremely worrying that kids at school have limited education around the topic. While I fully understand that lack of funding has hugely contributed to a mental health crisis across every age group, I believe that if children at school age are taught strategies such as meditation and mindfulness, it can only benefit them and future generations moving forward. Even now, people suffering mentally are often left until reaching a crisis stage before being given support, therefore I think the perfect solution would be to implement more early intervention measures. After all recovery is often a faster process if people are helped earlier!
I couldn’t agree more!
Thank you so much for chatting with me Adam, allowing insight into your story, and for sharing such helpful, valuable information. Keep up the brilliant work!
I hope that you have enjoyed this brief insight and that some of Adam’s excellent points have got you thinking! I strongly encourage you to take a look at more of Adam’s posts and go and show him some support for the incredible work that he is doing. If you are interested to hear what I had to say, you can find my answers to Adam’s questions over on his blog.
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