Talking About Mental Health United Interview

Who is Vanessa Unsworth?

I am a mother of three beautiful children; I am a writer and a published poet. I have a great love of words and how they can inspire and motivate. I am a huge animal lover and have worked with a number of charities; recently adopting my little dog Teddy from Romania. I'm the person that can't walk past someone sitting out in the cold without buying them a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows because everyone has a story.

When did you begin to suspect you were suffering from a mental illness?

My mental health started to decline about two years ago. Open and honest I didn't understand what was happening. I just knew I was constantly shaking; I had vivid nightmares at first that felt real. I became constantly on edge like something bad was going to happen.

It wasn't until I was watching the Invictus games in 2018 that an army medic opened up about her mental health that suddenly I realised that I wasn't losing it and that there may, in fact, be a reason that I am struggling. I burst into tears because I could empathise with what she was saying and also because I realised this wasn't just me.

How did/does your mental illness affect your day-to-day life?

I have severe anxiety and there were times that I could not leave the house. I can't explain to you what that is like to go from a social person to shaking visibly just walking out the door. I have physical side effects of my anxiety such as shaking all the time and a high startle reflex however my medication does help with that a great deal. I will often be tired as I don't sleep well as I still even now will have nightmares which really affects my moods. So some days are a struggle to get up and go but I have a self-care plan in place.

What was your experience like with the mental health services in the UK?

The preventative mental health care is very much lacking and this is why I believe and have experienced why so many people are committing suicide. I asked for help so many times; I had meetings upon meetings and was just passed from person to person. Every meeting you have to open up and explain what is happening and it's very traumatic only to be passed to the next person and the pattern repeats itself. However; you are not supported once you leave that door. So you are feeling emotionally vulnerable and then told someone will be in touch.

There is such a massive break in the chain of the referral process. Better training needs to be given to GPs; as a first point. Front line services like the police need more extensive practical training on how to deal with people in crisis. I have spoken to friends in a number of front line services to get an idea on how they feel the mental services are in that particular area as well as other mental health patients. The answer is always the same: it's like there are black holes in support and treatment in early prevention.

There needs to be an advocacy group that is solely there to support the Mental Health services and can be that web that catches people who are in that limbo-land. We have so many amazing charities in local authorities that can help and there is just not enough knowledge about what help is there.

It was only once I had been admitted into the hospital that I became accessible to secondary services that there was a lot more support in my recovery.

It shouldn't have to take you surviving a suicide attempt to finally get the help you need.

Where/when did your campaign #TimeToTalk starts?

I actually saw #TimeToTalk as a mental health awareness day on Twitter and I was trying to come up with a hashtag that could match what I was trying to do. I thought why is this only for a day! This should be something that is talked about all the time!

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