Last year I had what society lovingly calls a mental breakdown, 29 years of accumulated OCD, panic attacks and anxiety had finally gotten the better of me. But thanks to a lot of amazing people, my friends, family, GP, therapist and counsellor, I somehow managed to come out the other side. It was then that I knew that something had to change and I needed and wanted to be a part of it.
I started the #itaffectsme campaign to encourage people who have suffered or who know someone who has suffered to post selfies on social media to prove that the one in four people who suffer from mental health issues really are everywhere. That mental illnesses are universal and have no prejudices about who they affect.
That's why weeks like this are so frustrating, to put it lightly. On Monday, an independent report said that around 75% of people with mental health problems receive no help at all. This finding left me outraged-- it's proof that mental health is still not taken as seriously as physical health. Prime Minister, David Cameron has agreed more needs to be done, promising £1 billion extra a year by 2020, but this cash is coming out of an £8.4bn pot the government already promised to the health service during this Parliament. It's not new money and it's not enough.
I never really understood mental illness until I went through it. Now I know first hand what it's like. My own experiences have affected my family and relationships throughout my life and no one should have to go through that without help.
When I was nineteen I suffered from horrendous OCD, intrusive thoughts inside my head telling me that if I didn't do or say or think certain things then those that I loved would die and that it would all be my fault. Since that first attack, I have suffered on and off from anxiety, depression, panic attacks and more OCD than you could sink a battleship with.
The response to #itaffectsme has been incredible. We have reached 3.5 million people worldwide and raised around £2,000 for Mind. Several MPs including Shadow Ministers for mental health Luciana Berger and Norman Lamb have offered their support as well as a host of celebrities. It's even traveled as far as the US, Pakistan, Australia, Canada, Holland and Italy and continues to grow.
I've since launched a petition on Change.org calling for mental health education to be put on the national curriculum. I'm a teacher and regularly come across students with anxieties and mental health issues. If they were taught to talk about their feelings in the same way they might if they had a tummy ache, it would help remove the stigma that's stayed attached to mental health for far too long.
We teach our children sex education, and physical education so why not Mental Health Education. We teach them the symptoms of chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, so why not OCD, depression and anxiety? One in four people suffer from mental illness - that is 25% of the world's population. It is staggering and we need to arm our children with knowledge, and compassion and build a world for them where mental illness isn't something to be ashamed of.
If the government wants a healthy and happy Britain it needs to flood the NHS with funding, and respect us by being honest, not spinning the truth about 'new funding'. People's lives are being ruined by lack of mental health services. We need to get mental health education on the curriculum to give our children a future where they too are unafraid to speak out and ask for help.
For anyone anyone suffering and afraid to speak out, I would say this: take it ten seconds at a time. Help is out there and only by talking and sharing can we find it. You don't know who else you may help by sharing your own sufferings and surely the one good thing that can come out of suffering is to help someone else when they experience it too. If we share our mental illnesses with people, they can be strong for us when we cannot.
If I could say one thing to my pre-treatment self it would be, "this is temporary," because when you are in the pits of mental illness, in a panic attack, an OCD spike, a black hole of depression, it feels like it will never end. But it does. I know that one day I may find myself attacked by mental illness again but I know that when and if that day comes I will be ready for it, fully armoured and unafraid because of the tools I've learnt to help manage it. By getting Mental Health Education on the curriculum we can give our children these tools and with that, a healthier future.
Sign my petition at www.change.org/ItAffectsMe