World Mental Health day is a great way to bring awareness but here at Middlesbrough College, staff are keen to do a little more and help bring awareness of mental wellbeing to the forefront of conversation, any day of the year.
Jamie Donnelly, Course Coordinator and Lecturer at Middlesbrough College is sharing his story to help remove the stigma around mental health.
“I’d felt down for a long time at quite a young age and wasn’t quite sure why, my parents were the ones who suggested I go to the doctors and at the age of 14, I was diagnosed with depression and general anxiety disorder.
“It was obviously a big thing to hear for me but it felt good that I could finally link why I felt how I did to something. The doctor gave me two options, medication or counselling and as there was a stigma in my own mind around medication, I said I would prefer counselling.
“The doctor gave me the details on a piece of paper and as I left the doctors, I threw it straight in the bin. I thought I should be able to handle this by myself and ‘man up’, a feeling I am sure a lot of people can relate to.”
After that appointment Jamie tried to self - manage and it wasn’t until he became a student at Middlesbrough College and his tutor on a one to one asked if he needed any support he decided to take action.
“It finally clicked that actually, yes I did. I was able to self-medicate through music, food and even getting a new tattoo or piercing when I was going through a traumatic time. That was what worked for me. But it wasn’t the answer, this was essentially a form of self-harm.”
Jamie then received counselling but continued with his own coping mechanisms. After self-medicating with food for some time Jamie became obese which then lead him to try and gain back control and manage his weight, eventually developing anorexia nervosa and returning to his doctors for support where I was offered medication.
Not soon after this, a traumatic event lead to Jamie attempting to take his own life twice, feeling he couldn’t cope with day to day life.
“I was crying in the middle of my gym and didn’t know why, I called my doctors and eventually was able to speak to someone who told me I was having a nervous breakdown.”
After advice from a friend, Jamie got involved in local group that supported mental wellbeing, Jamie soon realised he wasn’t alone in what he was experiencing and there was a range of support available.
“The group was great, people were open and there wasn’t a stigma around mental health, everyone had experiences that you could relate to. I found it so useful to be part of the group and took an active role in sharing my story and supporting others where I could.
“I worked closely with the group to help them raise vital funds by taking part in Tough Mudder, I knew they needed around £800 to run for a year so I made it my target, I ended up raising over £1000!”
Jamie is now in a sustainable place using group therapy sessions to help him, he still battles with the ups and downs of mental health every day but feels in much more control in managing his mental wellbeing.
“I accepted that my mental health problems were a part of me and in order to live an enriched life, I needed to face them and accept them.
“Exercise is a fantastic coping mechanism for me, I do a lot of strength and resistance training and it really does help.
"If my story hits a note with anyone my advice would be to speak to someone, a friend, a relative, a colleague or a professional or if you feel like you have no one to talk to, talk to me, I am here to listen and I can share my experience and signpost to the support I have received. “