Time to End the Taboo

By Ceri Chick (RVC)

What do you think of when you hear the word depression?
For many people, talking about mental health is incredibly difficult. We seem to be set into thinking it's a taboo, and that getting help is a weakness. This especially seems to be the case in the veterinary world. We have the mindset that we must work through our problems ourselves, and work ourselves into the ground. This is exactly how I used think.

When my GP diagnosed me with depression and anxiety at 17, I was terrified to talk about it, because like so many other people, mental health was something not understood by most of my family. My mum was worried because she thought of how others would perceive me. She didn't know what to do, she only wanted the best for me. I felt completely hopeless with no-one to understand what I was going through, with even my own mind telling me I was overreacting and needing to get a grip. I refused to take medication because of the stigma attached to it. My parents tried to help me by changing my diet, getting me out of the house, and even changing to special daylight lightbulbs! Sadly this didn't work, but for their sake I pretended it did, and that I was fine. That in retrospect was the wrong decision.

When I was 19 in university, with my mental health reaching a plateau of nothingness, I finally broke down in front of my parents. My dad made a doctor's appointment for me straight away, and told me that I was going to get help because he didn't want to lose me to depression. I can't thank him enough for that.

Through Disabled Students Allowance I was given a mental health mentor. I was pretty sceptical about this, as I'd tried counselling at the start of the year and it didn't work for me, so I wasn't exactly expecting much from this.

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Mentoring was like a conversation. She would constantly remind me, in subtle ways that what I was saying mattered. We worked through the things that bothered me, and eventually found the source of some long term problems, just through having a chat. My sessions didn’t in any way feel formal, and I didn't feel forced to talk about my problems. If I just wanted to talk about my cat, that was fine too!

After just a few sessions I became much more confident. I was finally able to think through my problems in a logical way, so that I could work through them without going into a panicky spiral. I could see my problems for what they really were – solvable.

Thanks to the combination of antidepressants and mentoring, I finally feel like a person again. I'm finally ready to be me, without having to worry. I can't thank my mentor enough for what she's done for me. She gave me the strength to be able to help myself, and that’s something that I could never do in my previous 20 years.

Having a mental illness is one of the hardest things anyone can go through. It's not a sign of weakness to get help. It takes bravery and strength.

If you're suffering yourself, I urge you to get help. Find what works for you; I definitely recommend mentoring! We can change the way we see mental health, we are all strong enough. I believe in us.