21/09/2015 08:52 BST | Updated 17/09/2016 06:12 BST

Mental Illness Doesn't Make You Any Less Human - Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up


Last year I graduated with First Class honours, spoke in the House of Lords, received a national award from the Student Radio Association and started studying for my Masters. Last year I was also diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For years I was battling what I thought was the usual, complex demons of teenage life. When I started university I blamed my low mood, my lack of motivation and desire to do anything on the stresses of First year. Eventually I managed to ask for help - honestly it was one of the hardest things I've done, but it was also one of the best decisions I've made.

The support I have received from my University saved my life, in many different ways. At times I wanted to quit my studies, I wanted to curl up into a ball and hibernate forever. I was haunted by my past and terrified of my future.

It's often widely misinterpreted that mental illness changes you as a person; yes it does change how you live, that's the brutal, honest truth. However I am still the person I was before I became ill, I mean if anything I'm ten times stronger now. Mental illness is a daily battle, some days are better than others (without a doubt) and some days I'm left clinging to the prospect of happiness like it's the most important thing on Earth. But, now when I am struggling I have people to speak to. I can reach out to my University support system, I can reach out to my Community Mental Health Team and I can even blog about my experiences.

Despite the fantastic help I've received I have still, at times chosen not to disclose my illness, in the fear that people will treat me differently. I've been afraid that people will think I'm exploiting my illness - or 'milking it.' This is the consequence of stigma, of negative and degrading portrayals and a lack of support from the necessary official bodies.

Recently it may seem mental health is a topic that cannot be silenced. Personally I think the time is now to work even harder to break down the stigma of mental health. Stigma comes from the portrayal of mental illness. And, more often than not it is simple, everyday conversations which add to a negative perception. Mental illness may be a tricky battle, but stigma doesn't make it any easier.

With the new academic year starting and tonnes of students eagerly starting their University journeys it's more important than ever to raise awareness of the support available.

I also think it's time to acknowledge the ever-growing body of passionate and determined bloggers who are sharing their stories of mental health related issues. Reading the stories of people who have experienced mental illness allows others to realise that mental illness doesn't make you any less human.

I write about mental health and wellbeing over on my blog Dearest Someone,