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Look around where you are now. Your office, the coffee shop you’re sitting in, the supermarket. How many people are around you? Ten? Twenty?

 

Now think of this.

 

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue this year.

 

1 in 4.

 

25%.

 

A quarter.

 

At any given time, 1 in 6 working-age adults will have symptoms associated with mental ill health. A sixth.

 

Look around you again. How many of those who are surrounding you, seemingly getting on with their lives, may be dealing with a mental health issue?

 

Kind of shocking, isn’t it?

 

For some, poor mental health can be a consequence of a one-in–a-lifetime event; a death, divorce, issues at work, the birth of a child. For others, it can be a constant presence, an undercurrent to everything they do, just waiting to rear its head. No matter what form it takes, its frequency or severity, it can be debilitating, scary and, quite frankly, soul-destroying. For both the person experiencing it, and those around them.

 

And since we're all members or allies of the LGBTQIA+ community, the figures get even more scary.

 

People who identify as LGBTQIA+ are at increased risk of developing anxiety disorders and are more likely to self-harm. Symptoms of depression are more common and severe in young people who identify than in those who do not. 16% experience symptoms of an eating disorder. 11% - 32% of young people who identify within the community have attempted suicide in their lifetime. 

 

Take into account that half of mental ill health starts by age 15 and 75% develops by age 18 and that 13% of young people aged 5-19 meet the clinical criteria for a mental health disorder, and the outlook is even more concerning.

 

I myself live with anxiety and depression. I'm not afraid to talk about it, when I'm having a good phase. It's life-long for me, the realisation that I'll more than likely be reliant on medication to keep my mental health steady, one which has been difficult to accept. Sometimes the periods of poor mental health have been triggered by something; the birth of my first child, the COVID pandemic (surprise, surprise). Other times, despite my best attempts and silent reassurances to myself that I've got a handle on things, it will creep up and then smack me around the head. In those times it's not so easy to talk about it, the feeling of having no self-worth convincing me that no-one wants to hear about it (again) and the shame at allowing myself to slide back to that dark place telling me that I will be judged. Sometimes I can pinpoint the trigger (the time we took the kids out for the first time after lockdown lifted, and people just didn't understand the concept of 2 metres), other times there seems to be no one defining moment (when I had an anxiety attack in the middle of a book event). Some are quick to recover from, others can send me on a spiral which can last for days or weeks. My experiences are unique each time, just as everyone's are unique to them as well.

 

When I put a call out for members of the sapphic author community to share their stories, I honestly didn't think I would get much of a response. But in the upcoming days, you'll hear from a group of authors who all have experienced the effects of mental ill health in one way or another. Each piece is different, some may resonate with you more than others but all are equally as valid and true. Later in the week, Katherine Blakeman will be sharing a list of sapphic fiction books which feature mental health in some way, showing the importance of writing about it in our work. Just like everything in life, representation is important; sometimes it can be seeing a fictional character experiencing the same things you are, which can open your eyes to the truth. Other times it can just be the knowledge of being seen, of not feeling like the only one. Sometimes when we write the characters and stories we do, we do so with the intention of that representation. Other times the characters are telling us themselves who they are without us even realising it. None of us are trying to be experts, or define our experiences as the only way, merely just telling a story. We hope that someone out there will connect with it in some way, just like with any part of our stories. 

 

Each piece in this collection is unique to the author. You may resonate with some more than others. As I've read through them I've felt a range of emotions, seen myself in the experiences of another. They're heart-breaking, raw, painful but also inspiring and uplifting. As I'm writing this I find myself struggling for adequate words to describe the impact they have had on me. All I can say is thank you to these authors for taking the leap and exposing such a vulnerable part of themselves for my little project. I hope that in reading them it allows us all to have a tiny fragment of understanding, a little empathy in a world which often seems so harsh, to either yourself or others. And if it opens up a conversation, then don't be afraid. Let's have it, let's talk and take the power out of the beast which likes to lurk in the darkest shadows of our minds, be it through social media or books, songs or art, phone calls or text messages. 

 

Thank you once again for reading these people's words. It seems cliché to say, but we all have a state of mental health, and it's so easy in this world to neglect it. Take care of yourself, and to those around you, be kind. 

 

Mental health matters, and so do you.

Statistics sourced from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/publications/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016

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