ITV journalist Mark Austin has spoken candidly of the mental health problems that have affected his family firsthand.
The 58-year-old journalist and presenter said he still suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after reporting from the Rwandan genocide a number of years ago.
PTSD, which affects one in 10 people, is often triggered by particularly distressing life events and can leave sufferers reliving traumatic events through nightmares and flashbacks.
Speaking exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, Austin said: “We went to film there and we witnessed some of the most terrible things - children slaughtered by machete, maimed and mutilated.
“I still have flashbacks now and Rwanda was roughly 20 years ago.”
Austin, who was a judge for the Place2Be Wellbeing in Schools Awards on Tuesday 22 November, also spoke of a young family member’s battle with mental health issues and the lack of support available to her during this time.
“We watched someone very close to us go from a very bubbly, lively, bright person to someone that was hollowed out and dying inside through anxiety, depression and other mental health issues,” he said.
“It was so difficult to get help. The whole question of mental health is not given the right priority in this country, it’s not given the same priority as other physical health issues - and yet we’re fast entering a situation where there is an epidemic in children’s health.
“I just want to see mental health treated by governments as seriously as other health issues.”
Austin praised schemes like Place2Be, which provides emotional and therapeutic services in primary and secondary schools, and promotes positive mental health and wellbeing among children.
“They’re getting in early, they’re giving the right sort of help and it’s paying dividends,” he said.
Recalling his family’s experience of seeking help, he said: “We tried to get help, but we couldn’t get it soon enough. In the end, we did manage to find, on the NHS, a unit that would look after her.
“Two or three people were very special there and the counsellors gradually lifted her out of this terrible gloom.”
The ITV presenter also opened up about being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder after reporting from Rwanda.
“Witnessing this had a great impact on myself and the camera crew and it’s the one story where, I think because I had young children at the time, it had a huge impact on me,” he said.
When Austin returned back to the UK, he was quick to seek help to protect and preserve his mental state.
“I was lucky enough to have a very strong family and we managed to deal with it that way, I also went and saw counsellors,” he said.
“What I would say to anybody in a similar situation is that there’s no shame in going and getting help. In fact, I would say get help as early as possible because you don’t want to be in a situation where things just get worse.”