Today's blog is written by Fliss Baker who had a great experience training and learning with the MHFA. Here's her story:
Receiving a diagnosis for a mental health illness is a life changing experience. You feel relieved to know 'you're not going mad' but at the same time confused, fearful and alone. After a lengthy period of stress due to relationship breakdowns, work and attempting to cope through an eating disorder and drug bingeing, I lost the ability to cope and was diagnosed with bipolar in 2008. After a lengthy hospital admission I felt lost. Where did I start? My confidence was shot but I wanted to help others. Volunteering with a mental health charity gave me the opportunity to share my story during some Mental Health First Aid courses.
I can't put into words what attending the first MHFA training course felt like. I was shaking with fear and my medication made me anxious. However, I received amazing feedback and felt a sense of achievement. I also learnt things I never expected to.
Statistics showed me I wasn't alone and the reinforcement of symptoms relieved my anxiety - I wasn't the instigator of my challenging struggles! Primarily, I learnt I could recover. I could access professional support and use cognitive behaviour techniques recognising how my thoughts impacted by feelings and actions. In addition I could call helpful numbers, talk to family and friends and try to rediscover things I enjoyed. Finding stability started to give me a purpose. I was spurred on to continue sharing my story and four years on I have assisted in changing the attitudes of thousands of people.
I now talk to undergraduate mental health nurses and I write about mental health issues. I owe much of my personal development to increased learning and understanding from MHFA England. Pre-diagnosis I lived in a world where mental health was hidden and only for the weak minded but I fight this stigma now. My life isn't easy and I have had a hospital admission since then but with acceptance, understanding, using coping strategies and accessing support I know however hard it gets, there is hope and MHFA helped me to understand that.