According to Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
I am one of those people.
So if you are at the stage where you have recognised there is a problem, but you’re not sure where to start, I’ve put together a guide based on my personal experiences.
1. Seek professional help
Make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to advise you about a referral to your local mental health team (in some areas, it’s a self-referral system involving filling in a form). It’s important to get this process started as soon as possible because unfortunately, waiting lists can be long, depending on your area.
2. Establish a support system
Have an open and honest discussion with your family and/or friends about your situation. Try to be as truthful as possible and avoid downplaying what you’re going through. It’s important that they know exactly what’s going on so they can best support you. Let them know what you need from them as specifically as you are able to. If you feel unable to have this conversation with a large group of people, either talk to each person individually (however this may be difficult, as you will have to repeat yourself many times) or have the conversation with the person that you trust the most, then ask them to explain your situation to everyone else on your behalf.
3. Slim down your schedule
Seeking help for mental illness is likely to involve treatment, which may include therapy. It’s important that we make time for this, as it will be crucial to your recovery. Now I’m not saying you need to quit work, quit your social groups, and hole up in your house until you’re better. But, it may be a good idea to reduce any overtime that you’re working or take a step back from non-essential commitments in the short term. Put your recovery first and the rest will fall into place.
4. Increase self-care
Mental illness is draining. It’s exhausting. It attacks our energy levels, our motivation, and sometimes our ability to look after ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to use what energy you have to look after yourself. Whether it’s maintaining good personal hygiene, making sure you eat well, or trying to get outside for some fresh air for a few minutes each day (even if it’s just stepping outside your back door).
5. Pick up some books
Since there are often long waiting lists for mental health treatment, it can’t hurt to start doing your own research and looking into self-help options. Of course, this is not to be used in place of professional help, but it’s a positive step forward in the meantime. If you already have your diagnosis, search for books that offer support and information on this diagnosis. However, if you are not yet diagnosed, start with a broader mental health and wellbeing book.
If you are just starting out on your recovery journey, I’m not going to lie, you’ve got a tough road ahead. But it is possible. And I hope that by following this guide you will avoid the issues that I have experienced, and your path to wellness will be slightly less bumpy.
Do you have any advice for those at the beginning of their recovery from mental illness? Let me know in the comments.