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It's time for a revolutionary approach to tackle mental illness

Claire Eastham is an MQ ambassador and mental health advocate. Here she shares her reasons for supporting MQ and argues for a more radical approach to tackling mental illness. 

When I was first diagnosed with social anxiety and for quite a few years afterwards, I always got the feeling that this was basically as good as it was going to get. There was a sense from medical professionals of: ‘You’re on your own now. There’s nothing else we can do.’

With any other health condition – any physical health condition – that would be unimaginable. But it just seemed accepted that there was nothing else people could do to make it better. It was a closed mindset, and when you’ve just been diagnosed with a health problem, that’s hugely distressing.

I was left feeling that way for many years. And then I discovered MQ.

I can still remember the first event where I heard people talk about the work they were doing with MQ. It was a meeting of MQ scientists, and my jaw just hit the floor. I always say that knowledge is power, because if you understand something you take the fear out of it, and here were people doing everything they could to increase our knowledge.

There was absolutely no sense in that meeting that this was as good as it was going to get. Instead, people were trying to find answers, trying to break through. It felt completely revolutionary. I spent the day wanting to jump on stage and hug everybody and left the event absolutely buzzing!

Now as an MQ ambassador I do everything I can to help other people have a similar lightbulb moment to the one I had. I encourage people to really think about what research can do and to question why mental health research is so far behind research into other illnesses like cancer or diabetes.

Having the chance to meet more MQ researchers in 2017 only increased my determination to help inspire progress. I interviewed Professor John Powell for MQ’s podcast, and we discussed E-Couch, his experimental online programme to help people with social anxiety. I was left feeling so positive about what the future could bring.

That’s a very refreshing change, and sums up why MQ means so much to me. This organisation is all about people saying ‘We can be better’. Everyone who works for and supports MQ is passionate about the potential to transform mental illness, and I think that’s why the We Swear campaign resonated so much.

We know change might not happen immediately, or even in our generation. But we also know we can achieve so much for future generations.

I’d love for us to be in a position where a child experiences a mental health problem and speaks to a doctor who replies by confidently saying, ‘This is what’s happening to you, this is why it’s happening, and this is what we can do’.

That would be such a step forward from the painful sense that this is as good as it gets – and I’m proud to be part of an organisation that refuses to accept that the way things are is the way they will always be. 

This Mental Health Awareness Week Claire is hoping to raise a massive £1,000 for MQ. To find out how, and to get involved, see her blog. 

Last updated: 17 May 2018

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