"When I was 10 years old, my dad died very suddenly. It had a huge effect on my family. My mother became depressed and my two older brothers moved out and left me to deal with some very difficult situations. We went from a bustling house with three very loving and present men, to an empty house with a mum who was unable to cope with her remaining child.
"I struggled with mental health problems for many years, but they weren’t recognised until 2003, when I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression (PND) after the birth of my first child.
"After my diagnosis, I began to receive support, which made a massive difference to my mental health. When I discovered I was expecting my second child, I was offered counselling and was supported through the pregnancy.
"However, after I went back at work, my mental health began to deteriorate. A combination of long hours, repeated deadlines and regular travel away from home took a toll. I began to experience panic attacks and felt that my life was spiralling out of control. Eventually in 2010, I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. With the support of a very empathetic GP I was offered counselling and worked with her on mindfulness techniques, which I practiced every day.
"In 2016 the company I worked for developed an internal training network called Mental Health Matters Champions. The aim was to support staff and their families who might be experiencing life-changing events or struggling with their own mental health. I was a very enthusiastic volunteer, I wanted to use my own experience to help others. The company has over 50,000 staff and before I left last year, we had trained almost 2,000 people to become Mental Health Champions. The training gave people the tools and confidence to offer support to the people in their workplace and at home.
"The training network was so well received that I was asked to host presentations in external offices. Part of my anxiety was speaking to large numbers of people. It’s something that would have terrified me before, but with the support of a fantastic network of people and a growing understanding of my own mental health, I successfully planned and delivered a mental health training session to over 30 people. This was life changing for me.
"Being involved in the network not only helped me my gain some useful self-care techniques and sources of support – I also felt that by sharing my own lived experiences I was helping myself and my family. I met a lot of people who were struggling, just like me, and we developed friendships that made some days so much easier.
"My experience of mental health problems gives me the confidence to talk about it to loved ones as well as to a packed room - something I never thought I would be able to do."