Mental Health is something we all have. It doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone regardless of demographic. It is important that we look after and understand our mental health in order to live a happy and healthy life.

The Importance of Mental Health Awareness and First Aid

Nicola Jarvie
Registered Mental Health Nurse

Raising awareness, reducing stigma, providing first line support and facilitating access to sources of further help and support.

Mental health is something that we all have. Just like physical health, our mental health is changeable and we all have our own individual experiences. It exists on a spectrum. Our psychological and emotional wellbeing just like our physical wellbeing is not fixed and can move up and down this spectrum in varying degrees and at different stages of our lives. Just as no one is immune to experiencing periods of poor physical health, no one is immune to experiencing periods of poor mental health. In tackling stereotypes, stigma and pre conceived ideas of what mental health is (what someone experiencing ill mental health or living with a diagnosed mental health condition is “meant to look like”) it is important to remember that mental health does not discriminate. Anyone can struggle with their emotional and psychological wellbeing regardless of for example gender, age, religion, race, ethnicity.

Leigh, 37

As a male there’s always been a stigma attached to depression and anxiety. Living with it and masking it is difficult but admitting it was the hardest thing for me. Talking and being open is a vital part of it and in order for people to understand mental health properly everyone needs to be able to feel like they can be open and honest about how they feel.

I was in my mid 20’s just sailing through life with no worries. I had a decent job with good money, great social life and loved playing football and taking part in things with my friends and family.

Over the course of a few months the activities that gave me joy seemed to be more of a effort than they used to be, getting up and finding that energy for the day was so much harder and that love for going out and socialising and being part of a great friendship group just didn’t seem to be there any more. I had lost my appetite for life.

Emma, 36

I have suffered with anxiety all of my life. I was massively bullied as a child, from junior school all the way through senior school. I spent most of those years ultra paranoid, watching people like hawks and seeing if they were speaking about me, and genuinely having self-worth issues.

Since a young age there have been numerous traumatic incidents that have occurred which have made me feel exceptionally anxious. When I was about 8, I went on holiday with my parents, to a little cottage in Devon and we went to a pub and my brother (who was 3 at the time), went up to a dog, put his arms around the dog and the dog bit his entire lip off. I was there, right alongside him. I still remember the screams and the pure panic of my parents.

At a young age I lost my nan very suddenly. My nan was like another mum to me, it was an upset that stayed with me for years and made me become quite aware of ‘tragic’ occurrences and also triggered health anxiety.

Clark, 58

I was married to my first love for over 33 years, we had two children, good careers, a stable family life and a very happy set up. Over the years we had experienced the usual ups and downs in life. Then about 6 years ago we had the most devastating news my wife had secondary cancer in all the major organs. Her prognosis was devastating, my life imploded she was in her early fifties too young to die.

Nothing else mattered but my wife’s survival. This was not possible. So for over a year we just made the most of it. It was so hard but we just tried to enjoy every minute.


I noticed something was different after I had my first child. I thought this was normal due to hormone changes and I had heard people talk about ‘baby blues’ and ‘low mood’. This seemed to get progressively worse and go on a lot longer than I was expecting. I started to isolate myself, I didn’t want to meet up with my friends and family and tried to avoid making too many arrangements. My mood didn’t ever seem to pick up and I could not find joy in anything. I tried my best to smile when I was around others. I was extremely up and down and felt so low. I felt a massive sense of guilt because I had a new baby. I should be happy and grateful that I had such an amazing gift, but this wasn’t how I felt inside.

Samantha, 54

I have had 2 episodes of mental health crisis. The first one was a complete mental breakdown at 40 that left me unable to get out of bed, make a decision or go outside. I was diagnosed with depression brought on but acute stress. One morning I just felt like everything in my head went black, no emotions or feelings, just dead.

I walked out of my house leaving my family believing I was in the bath, it was raining very hard but I have no recollection of this at all. I was eventually found and taken to the doctors who sedated me to keep me calm. At this point I slept continually. It took 3 weeks before I could be weened off of the strong sedatives, this was when my recovery began.

Jill, 19

In 2011 I was 11, it was the first day of the summer holidays and the summer before I started secondary school. Unfortunately, the start of my summer didn’t begin like most of my other school friends. On the 23rd of July we got the call that my oldest brother David had died after his four-year battle with cancer.

I remember that day vividly and what I was doing at the time; my mum answering the phone and hearing my dad cry and fall to his knees. My brother is 19 years older than me and lived in Northern Ireland (along with my second brother Richard who is 16 years older). We didn’t have the closest of relationships mainly because of the distance but that isn’t to say that the loss of David didn’t hurt deeply. I fondly cherish the memories I have with him.

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