My name is Matt Woosnam, I’m 20 years old & I’ve just completed my second year studying Politics & IR at uni.
I was diagnosed with depression at 16 & then later anxiety which tended to cripple me throughout my teenage years. I felt alone & I didn’t get on with my parents. Who could I speak to? Was it ok to speak about these feelings of self hate? I tried to cope alone but it just wasn’t working. I felt alone & I didn’t know where to turn. I found internet forums which I used because I had nowhere else to go. They had nothing to do with mental health but I posted & got a lot of positive messages, plenty of people offering me support. Without this, I’d never have gone to my doctor. I visited the doctor & was dismissed a few times until I found the right one who really listened to me & helped me get counselling. So it’s important that people don’t give up if they don’t succeed to begin with.
At college I was struggling with my work & I spoke to my tutor about everything that I felt & was going on. She was brilliant because she found out about the counselling service & then allowed me to miss the start of tutor to go there. She realised that it was better for me to miss a little bit of something & get better through talking, than to have to go infrequently. She extended my deadlines as much as she could & we would often speak after lessons. Positive affirmation helped me a lot, she would often tell me how well I was doing in lessons & encouraged me to keep contributing.
I was accepted into Kingston University and found support from my course leader for the year in particular, he told him to get in touch if I needed anything, but also to keep him updated with how I was feeling. Those were things I appreciated. Furthermore one of my lecturers was happy to give me an extension on my work when I was struggling. It was little things like that which really helped me.
Over time, with the support of my friends & my perseverance alongside counselling, I began to see things more clearly. I could process rational thoughts more frequently; my mood was not so intense or deflated. Then in April 2012 I set up a campaign to eradicate stigma surrounding mental health but just as importantly, to encourage people to talk out about how they feel & know that it’s ok to talk. I have a penchant for having ideas & not acting on them. However one night I thought I wanted to make a difference. I had still been struggling with my mood but it was something I felt I could use my experience to make a difference. So I approached my friend who had also suffered from mental health issues, saying I wanted to do a twitter account & blog about mental health regarding how it’s ok to talk about how we feel. We settled on the name Talk_Out & although my friend no longer felt able to contribute I continued & a year on the account has over 2000 followers. We both gave an interview to BBC Radio York where I discussed self harm & my friend discussed medication in young adults and children.
With the support of a few people in particular, who never gave up on me, I have managed to come through and recover from depression. I still manage anxiety, but it is very much that, manageable. The most important thing is that people sit & listen to what we have to say, to try and understand the causes not just treat the symptoms. To listen. That means people must talk out when they are ready because it’s ok to talk.