I can look back at my experiences and have a level of understanding and acceptance. I can also admit that I wouldn’t want other people to go through what I’ve been through. Unfortunately I can’t stop people from developing mental illnesses but maybe I can be a part of something that can campaign for better understanding, that can reduce the stigma of mental illness, and that can ask businesses to think about how they treat people suffering from mental ill health.
Last year I became a media volunteer for Gofal and now I’m campaigning for Time To Change Wales. Like I said, I can’t stop people from getting mental illnesses, but maybe I can help to change the way society thinks about mental health, and the way that people with these illnesses are treated. I want to stand up and say that “yes, I have a mental illness, but no, that doesn’t make me a ‘freak’ or mean that I’m worth less than anyone else”.
If campaigns like the ones that Time to Change Wales are putting in place can open up a public dialogue about mental illness then it will hopefully make it easier for people to admit to themselves that they’re ill, and subsequently to go to the doctor and get the appropriate treatment, and to speak to their family, friends and employer about their illness. Talking about it can make a big difference.
In the past year I’ve done some exciting things. First I spoke about my experiences with mental illness on camera for a video message to the new Assembly Ministers, then I got to attend a media training workshop which included being interviewed by an ex-ITV reporter. Next I did another video as part of Gofal’s annual report, following which I was asked to help present this report by giving a speech to Assembly Ministers and charity representatives in Cardiff Bay.
More recently I was asked to do a telephone interview with the Western Mail for an article on the launch of the Time to Change Wales campaign then I attended the actual launch event where I spoke to lots of different, and quite important, people.
It’s been really interesting and the people from both charities have been so supportive along the way. I think that doing this work and talking about my experiences has been really positive for me and it’s helping me with my own journey of feeling better about myself and my condition. I really feel that I’m doing something useful and that I’m actually making a difference.