Benj's story: My university experience with depression
We've come such a long way in improving mental health. But unless we can tip the scales, people like Benj will still be left on the brink.
Since our charity was founded nearly 70 years ago, pioneering researchers and forward-thinking supporters like you have helped to change the landscape of mental health for the better.
However, despite considerable progress, compared to physical health, so little is commonly known about mental ill health. That must change.
This isn't just about treating mental ill health, but preventing it too
I first experienced depression when I moved to University
"I didn't realise it at the time," he says, "I thought it was a natural part of the experience - trying to establish social networks and getting to grips with my studies. But looking back it's clear I became very isolated."
Benj started to spend long periods alone in his room, anxious and fearful of meeting new people. He struggled to sleep and make decisions, even to remember that he'd put a pizza in the oven. Away from home and his usual support networks, there was no one he trusted to confide in and, looking back, it's now clear that he became very unwell.
Accessing support for my mental health
Benj struggled on for three years at University with the support of his girlfriend, but when that relationship ended, he hit rock bottom and was forced to take a year out:
"That Christmas, I was too unhappy to get out of bed and couldn't even feign interest in opening my presents. I was clinically diagnosed, but despite receiving medication, I was suicidal and realised I couldn't carry on."
Eventually, thanks to the support of his mum, Benj managed to get counselling through his University: "I received 10 sessions, which I often say was one of the best things I have ever done."
Today, Benj still sometimes relapses, but he is able to manage. "I think it's a positive step that more attention is being given to the fact that the university experience puts young people in stressful situations," he says, adding: "It's important that the support is there for young people leaving home for the first time and entering a completely new and demanding environment."
Mental health is an issue that affects us all and it's going to take all of us to tackle it
While Benj's experience is unique to him, he is not alone as depression remains one of the most common mental health problems in the UK.
One in five people in the UK aged 16 and over are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression right now.
On average, around 16 people end their own lives every day due to mental ill health - that's around one person every two hours. And if we don't act urgently, depression will soon be the most common health condition experienced globally.
Mental health problems are just as important as physical health problems; just as devastating and just as life-threatening - just not so well-funded. That's why we need your help today just as much if not more than we ever have.
We need your help
Every pound you give is helping to tip the scales in the right direction towards good mental health for all, just as Dr Derek Richter intended when he set up the Mental Health Foundation back in 1949.