A – Acceptance. Until you can accept that you are unwell, progress will be slow.
B- Belief. Not necessarily religious belief, although that helps some people. Believe in yourself. You will get there and you are worth the time, effort and energy which needs to be invested in you.
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
C – Coping. Find ways to manage your mental health and focus on the things that make you feel better. A cup of tea is the go to solution for the crisis team, although I’m more likely to curl up in bed with my cat, watching Waterloo Road.
D – Discrimination. Having a mental health diagnosis, can leave you open to discrimination, either through your workforce or through social harassment. You are within your legal rights to challenge this, should it happen and you are protected under the Equality Act 2010 (as long as your can prove that your mental health condition is a disability. The Equality Act protects you if you are discriminated against by employers, organisations that provide services and public functions, education providers (like universities and colleges), organisations that sell or manage property and private clubs and associations (Mind January 2015).
E – Equality. See above: never be sorry for something that is out of your control
F – Friends. Not everyone gets mental health, despite the fact that we all have it. The people who understand are the people who matter. Some people will stand by you, during the good and bad days and it’s a harsh learning experience that not everyone will be there at the other side of a bad patch.
G – Grief. Life changes with mental illnesses: it’s normal to grieve over how things used to be.
H – Happiness. You are allowed to have moments of happiness. That doesn’t make your illness any less valid or real.
I – Information. There were nearly 1.6 million (1,590,332) people in contact with specialist mental health services in 2012/13, the Office for National Statistics estimates that one in ten children and young people between the ages of 5 and 16 has a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder. Children and adolescents with poor mental health have relatively worse prospects throughout their adult life. For example, young people with a diagnosed mental health condition in adolescence are twice as likely to have no educational qualifications in early adulthood (Mental Health Network 2014)
J – Jokes. If, like me, you have a tendency to use dark humour to get through day to day life, so what? Although it’s best to work out when it’s appropriate to make jokes about your own death, it can freak people out.
K – Kindness. Be kind to yourself. Not everyday will be plain sailing and you will have days when you feel rubbish. Don’t beat yourself up. Getting to a place of longterm stability takes time, hard work and there will be slip ups. Allow for that. Put things in place which help you. Nothing beats a lazy day in your onesie watching back to back episodes of something on Netflix. Self care is such a buzz word, but until you learn to care for yourself, letting other people in to care for you is so much harder.
L – Little people. They are young, easily influenced and need people to look out of them. One of my biggest fears is letting down the little people in my life. I don’t want them to know the heartbreak of mental illness and whilst I can’t prevent that from happening, I can show them the meaning of true love.
M- Medication. Little magic tablets which have literally saved my life. I’m not ashamed of taking psychiatric medication. It’s not a case of one tablet is suited to all: it’s taken a good number of years to right the right combination of medication and what works for me won’t necessarily work for someone else.
N- No. It is okay to say no if you aren’t up to something. There’s no shame in having a bed day. Self care is not selfish.
O – Opportunities. If you had told 15 year old me that I would get some of the opportunities that I have experienced because of mental health, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was young, scared and had no idea how I was ever going to feel okay again. Having the chance to speak out about the stigma attached to mental illness is something I will always remain grateful for. Looking back, it’s pretty incredible that I have taken part in a debate in Westminster about the cuts to youth services, I have written articles for Sane and carried out research for other charities. People are interested in what I have to say and that is still somewhat surreal. I have been able to mentor young people and help them to gain a better understanding of mental health and most importantly, through blogging, I have given people, real people, who I mix with in day to day life, the space to talk about their experiences.
P- Pride. I’ve come a long way from the 15 year old who felt crippled by depression and anxiety. Aged 15, I knew very little about mental health, so I hadn’t twigged that I was struggling with mental illness. It hasn’t been an easy ride and I still have my struggles, but I’ve come on leaps and bounds in the last ten years.
Q – Questions. Ask questions about your mental health. You’re not going to know it all and professionals supporting you are there to (hopefully) provide answers.
R – Rest. Know when it’s time to stop and take a breather from the real world. It’s okay to need time away from the non-stop 21st century life. Turn your phone off, shut your bedroom door and allow yourself to just be.
S – Stigma. One day, I truly hope that the stigma around mental illness will lessen. I don’t think it will ever fully go, purely because it’s always going to be something that isn’t understood by everyone. Don’t be afraid to be honest and open, the world won’t change unless we make a change.
T- Talking. Fairly self-explanatory but by being open and talking about my mental health, I have helped myself and I think and hope that I have helped others. Mental health is not a conversation that should only be had on World Mental Health Day…Talk about it whenever you want to.
U – Understanding. Not everyone is going to get it. That’s a hard lesson to learn. But the people who do get it and understand are some of the most valuable people in your life.
V – Victories. Celebrate the small victories. And the big ones. You got dressed today? You’re fab! You left the house today? You’re winning.
W – Work life balance. The pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population. Make sure that you have downtime and do things for you, not for work.
X – Xeniatrophobic. Don’t like going to the doctor? There’s a word for that.
Y – You. No one knows you better than you do. Trust your instincts.
Z- zzzzzzz. Listen to your body and sleep if you need to sleep. We sometimes take good sleep for granted; lack of sleep can hugely impact on mental health. We all have our own ways of managing sleep, know what’s right for you.