27 January 2023
When people talk about the stigma attached to mental health issues, I can really relate to that.
I had a mental health crisis as a young person in the late 1980s when the subject was even more taboo.
My crisis involved two self-harming incidents in close succession which resulted in me being sectioned and sent to a psychiatric hospital. People were cross with me and couldn’t understand why I would want to hurt myself. I was encouraged to cover up my scars and quickly move on. The language was different too back then, with phrases like ‘nervous breakdown’ and ‘mental hospital’ contributing to a sense that I was at fault.
I was left with a pervading sense of shame, a feeling that I should keep what happened to me a secret, a fear that if people found out it would be a really bad thing.
I kept what happened to me a secret for 33 years, only telling a handful of people closest to me. So, it was very hard opening up about this mental health crisis in the autobiographical book, ‘Autumn Epiphany’ I just published. But it felt like the right moment to share my story for three reasons.
Firstly, at the time, I felt like I was the only person with a mental health issue, that I was abnormal, and my peers, and those who weren’t experiencing negative thoughts, were somehow better than me. It’s horrible feeling like that and I want those who are experiencing challenges to know that even if things seem really hard, you are not alone. There are people that can help, and there are others who have had similar issues and come through it.
Secondly, I wanted to reclaim what happened to me, to understand it from my own point of view, rather than someone else’s negative perspective. Writing about it was cathartic and amongst other things, helped me to understand the role that sport played in helping me to come through the experience.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, young people’s mental health has deteriorated significantly since the pandemic, and there aren’t enough resources to offer the support that’s needed. It’s the sort of crisis which needs us all to roll up our sleeves and try to help in any way we can. At London Youth, we know that youth workers could be a crucial part of the solution. Young people trust youth workers and feel like their local youth club is a safe space. If youth workers have the right training and support, they are in a position to offer support around young people’s mental health, to intervene early. Over 1,200 young women took part in London Youth’s recent Good for Girls programme, and as a result of the training offered to youth workers, 81% of the young people felt comfortable talking about their mental health in a youth club setting. But of course, as always, this sort of support needs funding.
I felt at fault for my mental health crisis for decades. I hope the conversations and signposting generated through Great Mental Health Day 2023 helps to stop others feeling the same.
– Gareth Price, Head of Development at London Youth
About Great Mental Health Day 2023
Great Mental Health Day 2023 is celebrating the power of community kindness and telling the story of how we’ve come together for one another across London. It aims to help get us talking about our mental health and wellbeing and to help break that stigma that so often exists around the subject. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the great local initiatives and support services that are available right across London. Learn more about GMHD 2023