We’re All In The Boat Together

Issues with mental health (MH) are something that many of us will encounter at some point in our lives, some sooner than others. I’m hoping to share my experience with MH issues in this piece as a way of shining a light on common real-life scenarios involving MH issues. As I write this the day is drawing to an end and I’m hopeless at getting things done, so excuse if all of this is a vacuous waste of your time.

My first experience with MH issues came a few years ago when I began seeing a girl called Amy (not her real name) with depression. She was slightly insecure when it came to speaking out about her mental wellbeing. “Stephen Fry has it.” Amy said, as we walked along the river, taking the clue-based approach to revealing her situation. I like to think I did everything I could to help her feel more comfortable, although, if this was true then we’d probably still be together. No, don’t make that noise! It’s all fine now! Clearly there was a problem with her confidence to speak openly about MH and equally there were problems with my education around the subject. Shortly after discovering Amy’s struggles with depression; I and a few classmates at the time learned of the MH issues that plagued one of our teachers at sixth form. It was also a form of depression. In a way I was very grateful of this knowledge as it meant I had another direct line of contact with a person suffering from something I clearly needed help understanding.

“You’re talking to someone with a recognised mental health disorder!” Our teacher exclaimed, with an air of softness to a classmate of mine after he had used the word ‘mental’ in a derogatory sense. Amy and I were together for the best part of a year. We ended it when a manifestation of my lack of understanding of MH resulted in a selfish suggestion which to put it lightly, wasn’t well received. The blame is all mine.

Since leaving sixth form I’ve taken to Twitter and championed the idea of regular visits to schools from MH care professionals and sufferers in order to help educate children and young people about the subject. I strongly feel that this would go a long way to eradicating the stigma by which MH is surrounded. Goodness knows it would’ve helped my peers and me, both in sixth form and throughout school. Many people may not even know they’re suffering from MH issues, they may need some explaining to help them realise the available options such as visiting their GP for advice or a possible diagnosis. In recent months, after doing plenty of reading and learning from the individuals mentioned above, I have cultivated suspicions that I myself may even be suffering from depression and/or anxiety.

“Come to think of it, I’ve been like this for years.” I thought to myself. These thoughts began a few months ago. I am yet to see a GP. Due to my own trepidation I can’t seem to pluck up the courage to book an appointment.

When you’re not surrounded by the subject or integrating with others that suffer from MH disorders it can be difficult to realise that you may be in the boat with them. That’s the point – we’re all in the boat together (that’s how the phrase goes, right?) You don’t have to feel alone or empty or full up from all the biscuits you stuffed in your gob that afternoon when you just couldn’t face leaving the house (Christ, I’ve been there.) There are people who will listen to what you have to say, there are friends and family you can visit, there are websites into which you can pile your thoughts (*cough* Twitter *cough*) and they all go a long way to helping people come to terms with the state of their mental health.

Stephen Tovell (@MrStephenTovell)