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"With mental health issues affecting so many of us, much more needs to be done"

Rachel has been a mental health advocate since she was young, seeing the impact that bipolar I had on her mother. Having now been diagnosed with bipolar II herself, Rachel champions looking into preventative measures and opening up a dialogue about mental health. 

“One of the most damaging misconceptions about mental illness is that there’s such a thing as “normal”. And that only certain people are “mad” or “crazy”,” Rachel told us.

Rachel has been a mental health advocate since her mother was diagnosed with bipolar I in 2003, which sent her on a long journey of discovery and understanding.

She continued: “Once you start openly and honestly discussing mental health with people, 9 times out of 10 you will find yourself talking to an advocate for better mental health care.

“They might not identify themselves as advocates at first because mental health isn’t something that is normally discussed. A lot of people may know about mental health in theory – but they may not have a deeper understanding of what it actually means to live with a mental health condition.

“But once you’ve begun the conversation and have given the person you’re talking to the time and space to come to an understanding of the difficulties and nuances that arise within complex mental health conditions, they usually see similarities in their own behaviour and emotional difficulties – and want to know what more can be done to help.”

Rachel has been suicidal since she was around 10 years old. Through subsequent discussions with family members across four generations, she has learned that many of the women on her mother’s side began experiencing mental health disturbances, in greater and lesser degrees, from the onset of puberty. 

Both Rachel’s mother and her mother’s sister experienced severe depression throughout their lives before they both died by suicide within 18 months of each other in their early 40’s. Both were receiving treatment and both had spent time within mental health institutions.

Rachel has been managing her mental health for 18 years and sought an official diagnosis two years ago – rapid cycling bipolar II.

Since then she has attempted suicide once, been close to suicide a second time and was on an NHS waiting list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for nearly a year before being given her first appointment. She has rejected two therapists as not being the right match for her and is currently awaiting a replacement therapist. 

Rachel believes that the way forward is to look into preventative measures: “With mental health issues affecting so many of us, much more needs to be done. 

“I believe that yoga and other holistic practices are hugely beneficial to mental and emotional equilibrium whether you have a mental health condition or not. 

“We live in a very demanding and judgmental society where there are very few spaces where we can simply sit and breathe. 

“Our state schooling could be used for so much healing and good in society. I think that all teachers should be trained so that they can better serve and educate the future leaders of our world.

Mindfulness should be the phrase of the day and let’s introduce yoga into P.E. classes! Not everyone likes to run around chasing balls and if you’re self-conscious or overweight then not being able to participate comfortably in exercise exacerbates the problem and alienates the child. This can contribute to myriad problems later in life.

“The idea of mental health research for me, means looking into prevention.”

Last updated: 7 March 2017

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