This Mental Health Professional Shared A Powerful Story About Her Breakdown

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Registered nurse and mental health professional Mandy Stevens knows all too well how devastating mental illness can be — and that's why she opened up about her own mental breakdown. In a LinkedIn post, Stevens, who is a director for the UK's National Health Service, shared a photo of herself amidst a breakdown, as well as a powerful story about the impact of mental illness and her subsequent recovery process. "Perhaps not the most flattering photo of me, but I'm sharing this awful picture and my story to help increase understanding of the impact of mental illness and to celebrate my recovery," she wrote. Stevens revealed that she was recovering from debilitating depression, and had been living at the NHS Acute Inpatient ward in Hackney, London, for 12 weeks. "As I have worked in mental health services for 29 years, one would think I would be immune to mental illness," she wrote. "But there is no immunity; mental illness can come out of nowhere and affect anyone at any time." "When I was very, very depressed, anxious and suicidal I was so ill I was almost monosyllabic, I could hardy walk properly, I couldn't shower or dress properly," she told BBC. "Eating and all the things that we take for granted were a huge struggle. I spent most of every day in bed, crying and wanting to be dead. I was absolutely terrible. So frightening and awful." And while Stevens wrote that her depression "disabled and incapacitated" her, she said that the stigma and shame around mental illness made it even worse. "If I had been in hospital with a broken leg, or a physical problem, no doubt I would have been sharing amusing photos of my drip stand, the signed plaster cast and the hospital food," she wrote. "Instead I have hidden myself away, scared of my own shadow and told very few people. Sad to say, I have also been embarrassed, shy, suicidal, phobic, anxious and scared of everything. "There is a huge amount of stigma around mental illness," Stevens told BBC. "For the past 29 years I have worked in mental health services and seen the negative effect this stigma has on people who use our services. She also told BBC that she has seen patients who were so ashamed of their mental health that they refused to accept diagnoses or treatment, and even refused to attend mental health community services in fear of being recognized while seeking help. Stevens now understands first-hand just how damaging this stigma can be, but she also advises anyone suffering to begin seeking help by starting small. "Speak to your close family and friends about your mental health, and start opening conversations about it," she told BBC. "Don't say 'I'm okay' when you're not okay." As she writes in her LinkedIn post, "there is no health without mental health."

If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.

More from Trends

R29 Original Series