Poor mental health is something I have struggled with for a long time; now in my final year at University and preparing to enter the "real world", I would like to be in a far stronger place than I am. I'm depressed, anxious, and have a difficultly complex relationship with my eating, food and weight. This is nothing new.
When sufferers are trying to fight but are struggling, it isn't simply a case of being "scared of food" or "scared of gaining weight", often it is also a fear of what they will lose, of throwing away everything that they think they are, the removal of their core identity, leaving a hole they have no idea how else to fill.
It's about time we looked beyond our individual eating habits and considered the wider social and cultural drivers of the ways we consume, and stop placing responsibility and blame for obesity or ill health solely with the individual. Like much else, obesity is a collective issue that needs a comprehensive response...
My relationship with depression and anxiety is much harder to decipher, perhaps because I still feel in the midst of these disorders. I manage a social, professional and personal life, but I'm plagued by defeating thoughts. Anxiety makes minor setbacks or small tasks morph in size. Yet I take it slowly, remembering things I've learnt to make me feel better.
Thinking of a solution to these concerns brings us back to how professionals need to treat people as people first. The same comes to therapy and treatment. Whilst research into evidence-best practice is vital in the immensely under-researched sphere of mental health, the biggest source of evidence as to what might work for any one person is the person themselves.
A warning isn't synonymous with creating 'Generation Snowflake', it's giving autonomy. An alcoholic can choose not to walk into a pub as they're signposted, a soldier with PTSD can choose to avoid a fireworks display if the explosions traumatise them with memories of war, someone influenced by online content deserves to choose what they see before clicking.
True acceptance means welcoming all shapes and sizes. By banning an image of a slim woman, what message are we then endorsing about being slim? Is being thin wrong as well? Instead of demonising just another body type, we need to take control and responsibility of our own reactions. Why not refuse to buy magazines or watch programmes which diminish women, snub diet talk in the office, reject the diet industry and its product and advocate self-love.
A lot of people tell me that I am "brave" for being so open about my mental health problems. But one of the reasons why I am open is because I don't want "brave" to be a connotation for opening up mental illness anymore. I want people to talk about their issues without being scared of people's reaction.
Mental illnesses are horribly isolating at times, this is a message for all those who are struggling right now. Whether you are someone I know or a stranger far away, this applies to you. Heck, this isn't purely for people who are finding their mental health a challenge right now, but includes all those who are struggling with life or situations being put their way.
The movement for change must be met by more than warm words from those with the power to write legislation and apportion budgets. We need our politicians as well as the public to champion mental health at the highest level, with genuine commitment to the humanitarian as well as economic arguments for better services.