Stop the Silence

Did you know that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week? I didn’t. Not until Facebook started showing me regular posts on mental health. Facebook is clever like that – it has realised that this is a subject I am now ‘interested’ in and therefore want to see more of. And it isn’t wrong. I might not have chosen to be interested in this topic, but by having a daughter with a mental illness, by default…I now am.

My daughter has a mental illness.

I don’t really feel comfortable saying that out loud or writing it down. Why is that? If she had a chest infection or a broken leg, it would be entirely different. The reason? These illnesses have no element of shame or mystery attached to them. There is no stigma that seems to go hand in hand with a mental illness and nothing that stops people from talking about them.

Don’t for one minute think that I understand her illness. I don’t. Unless you have experienced a mental illness yourself, I just don’t think you can. But I’m trying to learn about it because she’s important to me. I want to try to understand her better; to learn to help and not to hinder. It has become my duty as her mother.

The most important thing I’ve learnt so far? Anxiety, depression and eating disorders are just like any other illnesses that with the right medication and support, can be recovered from.

Did I mention that she still has a sense of humour?

It hasn’t escaped my notice that Mental Health Awareness Week began on the same day as my daughter’s GCSE exams. Funny that. I’m not saying that her current situation is a direct result of the exam pressure she was under, but the fact that she is taking them in a psychiatric unit, hasn’t escaped my notice. She’s beginning to see the funny side of that:

“We all laugh when we’re walking down the high street, wondering if people know that we’re from a mental institution”.

It’s strange what people assume when you say that your child is suffering from anxiety and depression. “Does she ever laugh any more?” “Is she rocking in a corner, unable to form a sentence?” (ok no one actually said that but you get my drift). Whilst I know that does happen to some people, this is not the norm. And it certainly isn’t her experience.

Education and an open dialogue is what needs to happen and it has to start in the home. I’m beginning with my home.

Mental illness happens in ‘normal’ families too.

If you’re reading this and thinking that I’m being too open, too free with my words, struck down by the classic blogger’s curse of ‘over-sharing’, I’m doing this for a reason. I’m using what I have in my hand (a blog with an audience) to tell people that there’s no shame in admitting they are suffering, it’s ok to say out loud that someone in their family is struggling to fight a mental illness.

Why is depression an illness that we keep locked away? Why do we not talk about it? Why is it any less worthy of sympathy than a broken arm or pneumonia?

I am pretty certain that if my daughter had felt able to tell her school that she was feeling under pressure, or tell her friends that she wasn’t up to going out because she felt anxious, or tell me, her mum, that she was simply struggling to function day to day, she wouldn’t be where she is now. She might have got help sooner.

If we stop the silence now, perhaps one person will get the help they need. Today.

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If you’re a young person who is struggling or you know a young person who you think might be, Young Minds is a good place to start. Their free, confidential Parents Helpline is what prompted me to take my daughter to the GP.

And then the fun began...

21 Comments on Stop the Silence

    • Suzanne W
      May 18, 2016 at 9:18 pm (9 months ago)

      Thank you Kim. I appreciate your support. x

      Reply
  1. amiecaitlin | findingourfeet
    May 18, 2016 at 9:47 am (9 months ago)

    Beautifully written Suzanne and really powerful. Brought tears to my eyes. I hope your daughter is getting the help and support she needs and comes through her GCSEs with flying colours. I completely agree that we need to remove the stigma around mental health.

    Reply
  2. Sarah MumofThree World
    May 18, 2016 at 9:48 am (9 months ago)

    Thank you for sharing this. It is so important that young people feel they can speak up, but so many are just embarrassed to do it for fear people will judge them or think less of them.
    Keep being an amazing mum and raising awareness! x
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…The high scoreMy Profile

    Reply
    • Suzanne W
      May 18, 2016 at 9:17 pm (9 months ago)

      I think we’re all a bit the same aren’t we Sarah? We fear that people will think less of us if we admit to not coping all that well. x

      Reply
  3. Natalie
    May 18, 2016 at 10:01 am (9 months ago)

    Such an important post thank you for writing – it is a subject in my circle of friends that is becoming spoken about a lot more. Good luck to your daughter with her exams xx
    Natalie recently posted…Finding your tribeMy Profile

    Reply
    • Suzanne W
      May 18, 2016 at 9:17 pm (9 months ago)

      I don’t think it’s happening more often, I just think that at last, people are beginning to put more importance on mental health. We’ve still a way to go but anyone speaking out about it helps.

      Reply
  4. Janet T
    May 18, 2016 at 1:30 pm (9 months ago)

    I admit I don’t know much about mental illness and I’m aware that I need to learn. Thanks for such a clear and educational post and best wishes to you and your daughter.

    Reply
    • Suzanne W
      May 18, 2016 at 9:16 pm (9 months ago)

      Thank you Janet. I think we all have a lot to learn but we have come so far in the last 50 years or so!

      Reply
  5. Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)
    May 18, 2016 at 10:27 pm (9 months ago)

    I’m so sorry to read about your daughter’s struggles with anxiety and depression and hope that being in the psychiatric unit is helping her to get through it all. It is so sad that there is so much stigma attached to mental illness – it can happen to anyone and people shouldn’t be judged if they suffer from him. Sending a virtual hug your way and hope your daughter gets better soon. Have shared to help raise awareness x
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    Reply
  6. Siobhan (Everyone Else is Normal)
    May 19, 2016 at 12:47 pm (9 months ago)

    You are so right to be open about this, Suzanne. My husband, i think you probably know, has suffered from depression for years and we felt it important to be open about it to break the taboo. I couldnt’ understand what would trigger bouts of it as it wasn’t related to current circumstances but I learnt to accept that. He’s alot better overall and suffers from fewer bouts thanks to long-term medication and prayer. He will always have some form of depression, he feels, but we’re not in the same place we were 5-10 years ago, thank god! And how cool about her sense of humour – love that. Hang on in there, you’re doing a brilliant job!

    Reply
  7. Plutonium Sox
    May 20, 2016 at 6:15 am (9 months ago)

    You’re doing amazingly to raise awareness. I hope your daughter is doing as well as possible and that she’ll soon be home to the gorgeous bedroom you decorated for her.
    Nat.x
    Plutonium Sox recently posted…Thursday Photo #106My Profile

    Reply
  8. Isabel O
    May 20, 2016 at 3:13 pm (9 months ago)

    I just had a look back at your previous post about this. It struck a cord with me. I’m 26 now. I suffer from mental health issues. What a lot of my adult friends don’t know is that this all started when I was a young teenager. I spent two years straight in a psychiatric ward, suffering from anorexia and depression.
    It is hard to read your posts- it shows me how awful it must have been for the people left at home, my mum, my sister. I already knew in abstract, but it’s hard to see it written down.
    I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, other than to say that I am so happy (wrong word? can’t think of better one) that you are not ashamed and that you are still proud to say she is your daughter. You are a blooming amazing mummy. She wouldn’t be ashamed of going to hospital for a broken leg, so why should she be ashamed for this.
    I wish I could offer some good advice. My best piece of life advice ever came from watching Finding Nemo with my key nurse when I was an in patient- ‘Just keep swimming’ has been my mantra ever since.
    Much hugs.

    Reply
  9. Sam
    May 24, 2016 at 9:03 pm (9 months ago)

    I don’t know a young person who I think is suffering but I think this must be so much more common than most of us realise – there is so much pressure on young people these days – to be popular, do well at school, be attractive to the opposite sex, etc. etc. and it seems more intense as the years go by. Maybe it’s not, maybe it was ever that way – being a teenager is never going to be easy – but you’re right, no-one has been admitting to those feelings and its time that changed for sure. Xx #thetruthabout
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    Reply
  10. John Adams
    May 24, 2016 at 9:40 pm (9 months ago)

    I had read about your daughter’s situation. I hope she is getting the treatment and care she needs. I also hope the rest of the family are getting the support they need as it must be a trying time for you. I think you’re in a perfect place to speak up about mental illness and should be applauded for doing so. It shouldn’t come with any stigma. #truthabout

    Reply
  11. teacuptoria
    May 25, 2016 at 11:22 am (9 months ago)

    Well done Suzanne. Mental Health awareness week is such a great idea and it was amazing to see the young Royals getting involved to raise awareness on the news. I wish I’d had help when I was younger and having the ‘tools’ to cope makes a huge difference. Talking and sharing is paramount to mental health so is listening to your body. My son had his last counselling session last night and I got to hear what they’d worked on together. It’s been a really positive experience for him and he now knows it’s always available to him when things get too much. Sending love and huge admiration for your daughter. xx
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  12. Tracey Williams
    May 25, 2016 at 9:37 pm (9 months ago)

    I remember watching a documentary years ago with Melinda Messenger who was talking about her struggles with mental health. She talked about if she had a broken leg it would be easier to fix it. But because she had depression people would judge her for being depressed. Mental illness can affect anybody and at anytime. I have seen my mum go through a breakdown 8 years ago, and thankfully her mental health is fine now. My teenage son also suffers from social anxiety, and we need more people talking openly about the subject. You and your daughter are never far from my thoughts Suzanne. Love and hugs xx
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    Reply
  13. Thea Jolly
    July 4, 2016 at 9:10 pm (8 months ago)

    Totally agree that we need to stop the silence. It’s such a shaming silence. Shame can’t live out in the open, so we need to be open and honest about mental illness and talk about it.
    Thanks for being honest and sharing. It’s not over-sharing at all.
    Thea Jolly recently posted…Watch and LearnMy Profile

    Reply

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