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I know how hard it is to find the right mental health treatment – we need a better approach

[Trigger warning: this post talks about self-harm]

I missed out on most of my twenties because of my mental health and I do sometimes wish I could relive those lost years.

I was 19 when I started experiencing problems – it was a mix of highs and lows.

When I was depressed I hated everything about myself. I was numb and I used to self-harm as a way of trying to counteract that feeling of nothingness.

During the highs, I get this overpowering need to save the world. I’ve experienced visual and audial hallucinations and during one of these “episodes” I wrote an 8-page plan on how I was going to change the world. 

I’ve been in hospital six times and nearly sectioned twice.

I’ve tried countless different concoctions of medication and it took about 11 years to get the right one for me. 

Mental health is not an exact science. I’ve been diagnosed with depression in the past, but later, I started to show signs of Bipolar Affective Disorder. This opens up another door of medication and treatment. Waiting for my medication to kick in regularly took so long that I’ve often wondered if I would ever feel better. 

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough evidence to be able to personalise treatment and that’s where research could really change the lives of people with mental health conditions. Through conducting appropriate research, we can start to come away from this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and focus more on the individual.

Research should be working towards making mental health equal to physical health – both in how treatments and in people’s attitudes towards them. I also have a stoma and for me, this really demonstrates the stigma that people facing mental illness encounter compared to people with physical health problems.

If Cancer Research UK hadn’t been funded and supported like it has been, we wouldn’t have the breakthroughs and treatments we have for cancer. The same needs to be done for mental health. 

Although the medication I’m on at the moment is good, it’s not perfect. Over the years mixing and matching different psychiatric drugs has caused a cognitive impairment which will probably never improve. This has affected my career. If research could find better treatments with less side-effects, that could be life-changing for so many people in the mental health system.

So in the next 10 years, I want MQ to find a better world for people like me facing mental illness. 

At MQ, we’re working to better personalise mental health treatments with numerous projects including our work with Dr Miranda Wolpert getting young people the right care, Dr Bronwyn Graham investigating hormone levels, Dr Robert DeRubeis creating an algorithm to get people to the best treatment and Dr Claire Gillan matching people to the right antidepressant for them.

Last updated: 14 November 2017

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