It was comparatively recently that someone told me that one in four people will suffer from mental illness at some stage in their lives. It was at that very moment that I realised that what I had suffered some years previously was not as odd or abnormal or weird as I had thought. Nearly ten years ago I had been diagnosed as suffering from depression. Standing in a room crying for no apparent reason isn’t something a 30 year old bloke would usually admit to – but that is where I found myself at that time.

It was well hidden though. Only my wife-to-be was aware of my illness. I would always tell myself that it would pass and that I’d feel better tomorrow. But tomorrow never came. After endless months of trying to cope, hide and deny that I was ill I eventually accepted that I needed medical help. I saw my GP who referred me to my local community mental health team and after a long and tearful chat with my boss I started on the road to recovery.Llyr Huws Gruffydd and TTCW

Just talking about my illness helped lift some of the weight off my shoulders. But that talking was carefully restricted to the community mental health team and my wife. Even today most of my friends and family have no idea that I had been ill. Many will probably find out by reading this article. Most of all, my parents didn’t know either. It is this very article that has finally given me the courage to tell them about my illness. I don’t want them to be shocked, I don’t want them to be sad, and I certainly don’t want them to feel guilty in any way – I was ill, but now I’m better.

I’m one of that quarter of the population who will experience mental illness.

I want everyone to know that I am better because that will tell others with mental illness that they too can get better. I don’t want people to suffer in silence because they think it’s somehow unacceptable to be mentally ill. You’re not alone. One in four is a lot of people. It could be five or six players in your local rugby squad, 160 of the MP’s in Westminster or 15 out of our 60 Assembly Members in Cardiff Bay.

I’m one of that quarter of the population who will experience mental illness. And since being elected an Assembly Member last year I’m even more determined to help tackle some of the stigma and attitudes towards mental health and the services available to sufferers.

Just talking about my illness helped lift some of the weight off my shoulders.

I’m glad the Welsh Government has ring-fenced funding for mental health services, but I want to go further and introduce link workers to support patients and carers, train staff in A&E to identify any signs of mental illness and be able to refer people for support. I want to stop placing children in adult mental health wards. I want follow-up appointments arranged when appointments are missed so that people don’t fall through the net. I believe there should be mental health professionals in every GP surgery where demand for anti-depressants is high. I also feel strongly that part of the Olympic legacy should be about promoting and strengthening the positive links between the outdoors, exercise and mental well-being.

The more I talk about my experience the more it puts that whole period of my life into perspective. Looking back, it was fear that made me reluctant to face up to it. Fear of what people might think. Fear of what people might say. But now it’s time to talk – it’s Time to Change.

Llyr Gruffydd

Llyr Huws Gruffydd is Assembly Member for North Wales.

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