What I wish I knew… how to seek help, support and advice from the University.
My name is Abi Marsden and I am a Talent Acquisition Specialist at Enterprise. I have worked for Enterprise for 7 years, after graduating from the University of Sheffield where I studied Sociology. At the age of 13, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and have been medicated since then and received numerous forms of therapy. I struggled for many years with my depression and found it very difficult to be open with people about it, due to the stigma and misunderstandings surrounding mental health.
Throughout University I struggled in silence, and if I could go back and speak to my younger self, my biggest bit of advice would be to seek help, support and advice from the University. This would have helped me access the services available and made my life at University much easier and more enjoyable.
I chose to disclose to my colleagues and managers at Enterprise about my illness which has allowed them to support me in the best way possible. I have received lots of support after being open about my depression and asking for help, which is why I wish I had done the same at University!
I also reached out to my GP and told them exactly how bad it had become, as I was having suicidal thoughts and tendencies. In the past, I had always said I wasn’t OK but was doing OK plodding on with it. This meant that I suffered in silence and actually made it worse. My GP was very supportive and instantly referred me to the local NHS mental health team, who referred me for intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy. I was able to have the time off work to go to therapy, and also time to recover.
This has led to me being able to work full time and perform to my highest capacity. I now enjoy life and am able to manage my depression and use my story and experiences to help others. I work within Enterprise to educate people about mental illness and support my peers who are going through similar struggles.
Having depression has made me a much stronger person, as I am able to empathise with people on a much deeper level and support them. I think it is very important that anyone suffering from a mental illness tries to do the same. It is not a weakness, and it does not make you a lesser or inadequate person. It is also very important to speak to people and take the time to allow yourself to get better. If you had a broken leg you would have a cast and not walk on it. When you have a mental illness it is important to do the same. You need time to heal, to be kind to yourself, and let everyone know that you need help.
If you have a friend, family member or colleague who doesn’t seem to be quite themselves, it is very important to keep in contact with them, ask how they are and just listen. You don’t always have to have the answers, but they will need you there to support them. Some good things not to say to that person are – “Why are you sad when your life is so good?”, “Can’t you just think happy thoughts?”, “Why are you not hanging out with me?”. Mental illness can affect people from all walks of life and situations. It is an illness, not a choice and I wish it was as easy as making yourself think happy thoughts! Sometimes people who are suffering from a mental illness withdraw from their social circle as they don’t feel able to speak to people or are feeling too anxious to go out. If a friend starts cancelling lots of plans, ask them if they are OK rather than feeling offended.