By Julie-Ann Sherlock

My bestie Sarah bought me a sign for Christmas one year that said “Friends: cheaper than a psychiatrist“. And she’s not wrong. While I advocate for getting professional help when needed, I fully believe in the adage “a problem shared is a problem halved“. 

That said, I had psychological help to deal with my post-partum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an accident. I have seen family and friends benefit significantly from mental health professionals too. So I know, especially in this hectic, frenetic, often-stressful world we inhabit, seeking additional support for your mental health can be a game-changer. 

But sometimes, by the time we get to the stage of seeing a counsellor or doctor, too much damage is done, and it can take longer to repair and heal. Some people walk away from therapy or say it doesn’t really work and give up on it. In reality, these sessions shouldn’t be a quick “fix” but are a stepping stone to quietening the inner dialogue that is causing our stress. 

And we need to start talking about how we feel before it gets out of control. 

Start Talking!

Friends can help ease the burdens on our minds by enabling us to pick apart the jumble of thoughts while reminding us that they love us, are there for us, and support us as we find our inner peace. They may not wholly salve our worries, but the relief of unburdening yourself with someone you trust may just be enough to give you the strength to really face up to your problems and tackle them once and for all.

If you require further help, most therapies work on the principle of talking. Taking the thoughts in our heads, vocalising them, putting them on display and then dismantling the damaging ones while reinforcing the ones that help us flourish. Trained professionals bring us on this journey in a safe space and help us see things from a different angle, letting us know that we can solve things, repair the damage, and start to live a life of less anxiety or depression. 

But it’s up to us to do the heavy lifting and make the necessary changes, whether in lifestyle choices or thought patterns. 

Speak Up!

If something is causing you mental anguish or stunting your life in some way, tell someone. We can unravel the mess in our minds and start to reign in the chaos through talking.  

If you can’t afford a therapist or are not ready to go down that route, chatting with a trusted friend or family member can make a big difference in your life. Thankfully, we now live in a world where people are more aware of how the mind works and that having mental health issues is not a sign of weakness. In fact, speaking about your problems and facing up to the realities of your mind is one of the strongest things you can do. 

Someone I love is bipolar. They suffer from scary bouts of depression, and I have almost lost them a few times. But their main saving grace is the fact that they talk. They reach out when they are spiralling to the bottom, allowing those that love them to step in, listen and help where we can. 

Sometimes this help is simply in the form of an unjudgemental ear; other times, it has required medical intervention. But the only thing that truly matters is that this person comes through it every time. Rebuilds their life, finds the strength to carry on and fights the good fight every day. They are my hero. 

Mental Health = Human Health

For far too long, any illness of the mind was treated as something shameful, to be hidden away. For most of history, the world dealt with people with mental illness by locking them into institutions, experimenting on them and treating them as societal pariahs. 

Now, with a greater understanding of how the brain and its chemicals function and can sometimes become unbalanced, we are finally seeing a new dawn in mental health treatment and awareness. 

Taking care of your mind is a massive part of your overall well-being. Whether you choose to engage a professional, speak to a friend, or use meditation to quell the turmoil, acknowledging your worries is the first step to overcoming them.

As an asthmatic, some days, breathing is a struggle, requiring medication or complete rest. To me, mental health is exactly the same. Why would you shame someone when one of their bodily organs lets them down but not shame me for my dodgy lungs? 

If you are struggling to mentally breathe, it’s time to talk. Reach out to someone, tell them you are not feeling ok and let them help you find a way back to a better place. You are worth it.