Woman once suicidal urges others to speak out about their mental health

Frank Kirby features in advert for charity CALM

As part of a new national campaign tackling the rising rates of suicide in young women under 25, Milla has spoken out about her mental health struggles.

The 35-year-old London-based writer said: “I had been suffering from depression and intrusive thoughts, feeling unworthy of love and a ‘successful life’.

“I constantly questioned my ability to be successful (or ‘good at’) personal relationships and professional progression, and I had extremely low self esteem. This was rooted in my childhood and my sense of identity.

“My subsequent breakdown at 29 was rooted in a lot of the same feelings, but I was also under a lot of pressure in my job at the time. But most notably I was just incredibly depressed.”

Milla was only 18 at the time and didn’t have access to support materials or know where to turn.

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She said: “No-one that I knew at the time knew how to address it, and I felt ashamed to tell anyone else that might know how to support me.”

Milla had another breakdown at the age of 29, but with a lot more knowledge of mental health issues she was more confident in expressing her feelings of depression and suicidal ideation.

Medication and a change in career was a catalyst for change in her view of her worth.

These days, Milla is fully open about her mental health and is very encouraging of others to be the same.

She said: “I’ve written about my diagnoses, spoken about it on social platforms and even edited a zine about women’s mental health issues with stories from various contributors.

“I’m a mental health first aider and I never shy away from asking a person how they’re doing twice, asking more probing questions to try and ensure they don’t feel they have to give me the ‘courteous’ response.”

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Milla thinks it’s particularly important to raise awareness in the black community because of a “stigma deeply rooted in the community”.

She said: “The queer community is also battling prejudice and erasure in society every day. And with the constant barrage of attacks through systems and policies, it’s so important to give queer people the space to share their mental health struggles.

“Since being so open about my personal story, I’ve found so many more people open up to me about their own struggles with mental health.

“If you’re able to seek professional support, do it. If you’re not met with empathy and support, find someone else and never feel that your struggles are not legitimate.”

Almost a fifth (19 percent) of young women aged between 18-34 who have spoken up about a mental health crisis over the past five years felt either dismissed or invisible, according to suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) who is running the new campaign. 

The campaign aims to challenge the stigma and stereotypes that prevent women from being supported, and help equip people with practical tools to take action and help save a life.

To help highlight the issue, England Lioness and CALM ambassador, Fran Kirby, has teamed up with CALM.

New YouGov research commissioned by CALM suggests that stereotypes around women can lead to those in crisis holding back from speaking up. The data found that of the UK general population of women who have experienced a mental health crisis in the past five years, many have not discussed it with someone for fear of being seen as “attention seeking” (22 percent), dramatic or too emotional (33 percent) or because they thought they wouldn’t be taken seriously (31 percent).

When it comes to young women specifically, among those aged 18-34 who have spoken up about a mental health crisis, 27 percent were told it could be down to hormones, whereas one in five (20 percent) were even asked if they were on their period. A further one in five (20 percent) were told they were being dramatic, whilst a third (33 percent) were asked if they were ‘overthinking things’.

Some of the leading factors of mental health crises in women aged 18-34 were cited as body image (44 percent) loneliness (39 percent), relationship issues (32 percent), money worries (33 percent) and comparing themselves to others on social media (26 percent).

Shining a light on the rising rates of female suicide in the UK, Fran has starred in a powerful short film that shows how women can often feel invisible when feeling suicidal.

Fran said: “The statistics are hard to digest, as these tragic numbers can be prevented. That’s why I’ve teamed up with CALM to shine a light on this issue, and to tackle the stigma that prevents young women from getting the support they need when they’re struggling. Like any team, we all have our part to play in making sure young women feel seen when they reach out.”

For more information on the campaign or for practical advice on how to take action and help spot the signs, head to http://www.thecalmzone.net/unseen-signals.

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