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Mental health – It’s time to talk.

Anxiety, depression, suicide. Three things that seem to be hitting our community hard.

Over the last few months I’ve seen so many stories of people speaking out, I’m pleased mental health is finally getting the attention it deserves, it’s about time.

The world is changing, with the way we interact on social media, hook up apps and dating sites. It’s become so common for people to become isolated. These sites can almost trick you into thinking you’re being social, when in fact it can have the opposite effect.

It’s become the norm to live your life online, creating a virtual world alongside disposable friendships, relationships and sex. But we need more. We need real interaction with real people, we’re social beings. You can’t replace everything with a virtual reality.

I can’t lie, I’m guilty of doing the same myself. I shut myself away too much, mainly socialising online or at events I’m involved in. It wasn’t until last year I realised how big a wall I’ve put up not letting anyone in. You can get caught up in a social media web, almost creating a character, seeking validation from strangers.

Society has changed so much over the last couple of years, not just with the way we interact but the way we look at each other and put people on a pedestal. Telling ourselves ‘this is how I should look’, ‘this is the body I need’. We often set ourselves up for failure with unrealistic goals. This with isolation and the feeling of inferiority is such a dangerous combination.

All these factors create the perfect environment for mental health issues to creep in and take hold. And when they do, let me tell you it’s hard to escape it.

I’ve suffered with depression since I was young. I came from quite a violent home which had a major effect on my life. That and dealing with my sexuality was tough, it had lifelong effects on who I am now. I still suffer from anxiety and low self-esteem, one minute I can be a social butterfly and the next I’m running home because it all gets too much.

The feelings of being unworthy, ugly, a failure, unlovable all come flooding back. It’s like I’m back at square one in a split second. But these moments do pass. Something I’ve learnt is know your triggers, know what puts you in that frame of mind and in time you’ll get more control and be able to prevent getting that low.

Now let’s talk about suicide…

The suicide rate in the LGBT community is shockingly high. Mental health issues, depression, anxiety and isolation are hitting us hard. I’m not going to lie, I’ve thought about taking my own life a number of times over the last couple of years, but that’s as far as it got.

But that’s not the first time I’ve thought about it… I’ve acted on those thoughts in the past. When I was 15 I tried to take my own life. I took a bunch of pills, enough to put a horse down. Drank a whole bottle of vodka and that was that. I thought I was done.

One thing I’ll never forget is waking up in the hospital and seeing my mum’s face when I came round. The look in her eyes will never leave my mind. That alone is enough to stop me from doing that again, but that doesn’t stop the thoughts.

But the difference is now is I know what to do. When you’re feeling that low you forget about everything else and can’t see a way out, but there is. There are people to talk too, people that have gone through the same situation and feelings. It’s important to recognise what’s going on in your own head and act before it gets too much. Remember this, you are not alone.

Recently I had a message from a close friend telling me he’d tried to take his own life. The sadness I felt, that feeling of helplessness. All I could do was tell him I was there and if he ever needed anything. Thankfully he’s in a much better place, it broke my heart to see someone close to me in that much pain. But that’s the thing, you can’t always see it.

Just because someone’s smiling, that doesn’t mean they’re ok. Just because someone’s in the room, doesn’t mean they’re comfortable. We all need to be a little bit kinder, a little bit more considerate to others. There are people going through battles we know nothing about.

No matter your place in life, how much money you earn or how popular you are. We all get down; we all have our low points. Just remember there is always someone out there fighting your corner and there for you, whether you realise it or not.

Surround yourself with the right kind of people, people who lift you higher and support you. I made changes to my life and my surroundings and I’ve never been stronger. I still have my moments, but I’m human. You’ve got to seize the moment when you’re in a good place to protect yourself for when you’re not.

I know it gets said a lot, but it does get better. Once you’ve accepted it, once you take back control you can get through this. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with the right help, with the right people by your side you can come out the other side stronger than ever. Take it from someone who knows.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this opinion piece, there is always someone who can listen and help.

If you’re worried about depression, or want to talk about any other issues, Switchboard LGBT+ helpline are here to listen. You can read all about them on their website, switchboard.lgbt, and you can phone them on 0300 330 0630 between 10am-11pm every day.

LGBT charity Stonewall also have a section on their website full of advice and plenty of other information at stonewall.org.uk/help-advice

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