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Monday, 13 May 2019 13:15

It's Mental Health Awareness Week - So Here's My Story

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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK.  And with one in four people suffering from anxiety, depression or stress, it’s a wonder we need to raise awareness – you’d think that everyone knows.  But they don’t, or people know it’s ‘a thing’ but don’t understand it.

I was like that.

I couldn’t quite grasp why friends on the edge, those taking anti-depressants or, closer to home, people who didn’t want to get out of bed, needed help. I was in the school of ‘think positively, pull up your knickers and get on with it – this is the real world.’

Of course, it’s not that simple.

Some of you may know that my son Oli had a stroke when he was 13. I’ve been shouting about it on social media as Friday marked ten years to the day, and we’ve been celebrating that he’s here, he survived and – fantastically – he recovered with little deficit and has gone on to do marvellous things.

(I still touch wood – I’m tapping my desk as I write this.)

Not everyone is as lucky as we’ve been. Running a Facebook support group for almost 600 parents of young stroke survivors, I witness on a daily basis the pain, suffering and unconscionable terror that my fellow ‘stroke parents’ contend with. You can’t understand unless you’ve spent a night wide awake at your child’s bedside, focused on every breath for fear its their last. To some degree I counsel these people when they join the group – and my main message is to look after themselves too, as shock and horror catch up with us eventually.

At the time, a few friends suggested that I should speak to a counsellor. I dismissed the idea as ridiculous, after all, I’m a strong woman, fairly wise, well educated, respected enough to have been invited to a reception with the Queen and various events at parliament. I’ve spoken on the radio, appeared on TV and given presentations (mainly on social media marketing) to audiences of hundreds.  I’m the one who counsels everyone else and people turn to for advice on any number of things, from business to love to health to baking – and everything in between. In fact, I had one appointment with a counsellor after I ended my marriage and she told me I was the most well-balanced person she’d met and not to bother making another appointment.

I’m going to skip a few years here, as your time is precious and I appreciate you reading this article. It took almost nine years for me to accept that I needed professional help.

Anyway, my point is that everyone suffers from stress on some level at some point in their lives, and there’s no shame in admitting it. We can all stand up and be counted and, by doing so, maybe one extra person will ask for the help that they need, and that will make it worthwhile.

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