Jake Mitchell's column on the importance of addressing mental health issues

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Abbeygate Sixth Form College student, Jake Mitchell is studying A levels in Business, Psychology and Sociology. Here he talks about the importance of addressing mental health issues.

According to the mental health charity ‘Mind’, one in five people will have suicidal thoughts during their lifetime. Furthermore, one in 15 people attempt suicide. Even less severe mental health issues are experienced by one in four people in England each year. Harrowing figures like this remind us that many illnesses are invisible. Anybody around you whether it be family, friends, colleagues, may be going through a difficult period in their life, and you won’t necessarily be aware. If you are experiencing these feelings, it is crucial to speak up and seek help.

Unfortunately, some consider there to be a stigma attached to speaking about mental health and how you feel, especially as a man. It supposedly makes you less ‘manly’ - I for one think this is wrong. Speaking about how you feel is not weak - it’s smart. Logically speaking, if you break your leg, you will visit the hospital with no sense of shame. So why is this any different for your mental health? The words physical health are not seen as negative, and neither should the words mental health. Being open is empowering and liberating and vital for you to be a healthy person.

I am fortunate enough to have experienced an amazingly happy childhood, being surrounded by many who care for me. Despite this, I have still had my own mental health battles.

When I was six years old, I was diagnosed with complex motor and tics disorder and OCD.

Complex motor and tics disorder is a condition in the nervous system causing involuntary twitches, movements or sounds that are done repeatedly with no real control over them which are often referred to as ‘tics’. OCD (standing for obsessive compulsive disorder) is similar and is defined as a mental health condition where you have recurring thoughts and repetitive behaviours that cannot be controlled. These may seem like minor things that I should just ‘get over’ but during middle school they consumed my life leading me to see a psychologist and undertaking CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). This is, put simply, a form of talking therapy and is based on the principle that what we think, how we feel and how we act are all interrelated. During this process the psychologist, myself and my family helped me form a treatment plan to attempt to reduce the severity of my conditions. Within the treatment plan included ‘triggers’ which made my ‘tics’ and OCD worse such as not getting enough sleep or staring at a screen for a long time. I was advised to practise meditation and continue to engage in sport in order to relieve the stress my conditions were causing me. Throughout the two years of my treatment, my condition became more controlled, and I was discharged from my programme.

I hope my story reinforces that anybody can have mental health struggles, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or any other characteristic. There is no shame in seeking help and there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about things you struggle with in any aspect of life. I never lost the respect of friends and family who I made aware of the details of my treatment. I was supported through a challenging time in my life and if I had not taken those steps to help myself my conditions would still heavily impact my life to this day. In future, if I ever have children of my own, I will be sure to pass on the same message about openness about both physical and mental health.

If you have been affected by this article and would like to seek further information and support, please visit: www.suffolkmind.org.uk or call 0300 111 6000