It’s an unfortunate reality, but some mental illnesses are still stigmatised. But as Katie Houghton, 32, found out, that doesn’t mean there’s not a huge benefit to speaking out…
My mental health issues started when I was about 14. I had depression and would self-harm. From there, into my late teens, I then developed anorexia and had three hospital admissions before I recovered from it.
But the problems with my mood never really got any better, and after a couple of years fighting with suicidal depression, manic episodes with psychosis and delusions, I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
What turned things around for me is finding a good doctor who listened to me.
But I do think about how much of my life I’ve spent being ill. It took so much away from me – I never went to uni despite getting great grades at school – but I didn’t want it to be a huge negative hanging over me.
So, I decided to use my experience to help other people.
I set up Mental Health Journey, a website where I send ‘happy posts’ to people who are also struggling, and the impact and feedback from that was massive.
More recently, I created a project where I hand-wrote 150 notes of hope and attached them to a bridge that was a well-known suicide spot in the local area.
And for World Mental Health Day I launched Hearts of Hope, where I filled the entrance to a local park with notes for people to take away if they needed them. By the end of the week, almost all of them had been taken.
I’ve also got two more lined up for Christmas – a display at the library in Redditch, and a tree of hope in the park.
I feel opening up really frees you. Mental illness can thrive on silence, but once you’re open about it, the embarrassment you may be feeling disappears.
When you’re ready, try to open up to the people you have around you and be as open as you can. It doesn’t even have to be someone you know – not everyone has a huge support network. But charities can be really helpful, too.
Nobody’s journey looks the same, but opening up in any way that’s possible for you is such an important step.
Lloyds Bank is working with Mental Health UK to help end the silence and stigma surrounding mental health, encouraging us all to #GetTheInsideOut.
To find out more, visit lloydsbank.com/gettheinsideout