Matthew’s story: how Mental Health Foundation changed my life

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As you probably know, anyone can experience a mental health problem at any time.

In my case, I was in my second year at university, studying for a subject that I loved when I started to struggle. A close friend moved away, my grades were slipping, and my course work was getting on top of me. Yet I didn’t let anyone know how anxious I was feeling. I kept it all bottled up inside because I was embarrassed; afraid of what people’s reaction would be if they knew I wasn’t coping. Then one day, it all came pouring out.

Suddenly, I felt really emotional and at that moment, like I didn’t really want to exist any more

The crunch point came at university. My tutor and some of my peers were pressuring me to be class rep, which I didn’t want to do and I felt overwhelmed. I had a big emotional reaction and then crashed to a really low point.

I thought, I can’t carry on living like this, so I told my mum that I wanted professional help. She was so supportive – and so was my GP, who referred me for counselling, which led to some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

If I’d known about the Mental Health Foundation at that time, I think it would also have been really helpful – especially as all their online resources are available 24/7.

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As it was, I spent my summer holidays getting better, returned to university and achieved my degree. In fact, I left on a high. It was only after graduating that I started to feel the tell-tale signs of not coping. After 17 years in education, finding my feet in a competitive job market was tough; I kept getting shortlisted for roles I really wanted but nothing quite came off. I could feel the pressure starting to mount, so rather than letting things get on top of me again, I sought help for a second time.

I was referred for a different kind of CBT, which involved setting personal goals – and in a roundabout way, this is what bought me to the Mental Health Foundation.

I got involved with a voluntary group, working on a ‘social action’ campaign to educate 14 to 16-year-olds about mental health; what they could do in school to help themselves and support each other. I didn’t know it then, but this was a lot like the Mental Health Foundation’s Peer Education Project, which gives students the tools to manage their own mental health and support others.

This experience made me determined to raise money for a mental health charity. I looked at a few and when I came across the Mental Health Foundation, I was blown away by all the mental health self-help resources on their website. This then led me to their Challenges page and that’s how I ended up climbing Mount Snowdon for the Mental Health Foundation.

They were so helpful and encouraging, and I’m thrilled to think that the funds I raised are supporting an organisation with such fantastic community spirit.

The Mental Health Foundation gives you the resources and the knowledge for self-care

As I’ve now discovered, Mental Health Foundation guides and mental health podcasts give such useful and accessible information about the challenges we all face in life.

It’s not just that these tools are evidenced-based that’s so reassuring; it’s the fact that other people are willing to share their stories and talk on the podcasts, which proves to people like me that we are not alone. And when you’re dealing with your own demons, it can be so helpful to know that you’re not the only one who is going through it.

I’ve also found their mindfulness and meditation resources really useful and they have given me the confidence to try other things, such as yoga. I haven’t looked back.

My experience has made me want to tackle the stigma around mental health

Thinking about my own experience has made me realise, we need to do a whole lot better in terms of raising awareness and tackling stigma around mental health.

Knowing what I know now, I can see that my problems really started at the age of 14 but I didn’t have the courage to talk about them until I was in my 20s. I was worried about being ridiculed or seen as a weirdo. That’s why I really like the green ribbon symbol as it makes mental health a lot more visible – and just normalises it.

Schools have such a vital role to play. And while my generation just missed out on initiatives like the Peer Education Project, I’m glad that future generations are getting the benefit of that. I hope they will be able to talk more openly.

This is especially true for men. I know we’re not all the same but many of us struggle to express our feelings, so I’m pleased to see that the Mental Health Foundation has a focus here too. For example, by devoting a whole month to men’s mental health last November.

Right now, my mental health is really good. I’m looking after myself, using the self-help tools when I need to and preparing to take the next steps forward in my career.

We need your help

However, not everyone who has struggled is as fortunate as Matthew. Not everyone has the support network he has been able to tap into or has yet been able to access the resources that could prove life-changing. This is why your support is so vital. Our mental health resources are accessed by thousands of people daily. Help us put life-saving resources at the fingertips of those who need them, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  

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