Mental Health Awareness Campaign

Back in Blighty there is a campaign to raise awareness of mental health, its called ‘Stitching Out Stigma’ and was created by Natalie who wanted to “raise awareness and make a difference whenever possible”.

They need your help in creating a huge ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ like display of 10” squares of cross stitch. If you suffer from mental health problems then cross stitch is a good hobby to do as it keeps your brain focused on the sowing rather than other areas that you may not want to go to!

If you are a relative or friend of someone with a mental health problem then you will know that it is just as hard for you as the person with the illness.

The project needs people to create squares of cross stitch to add to the display planned for Mental Health Awareness week (11-17 May), as well as other help in terms of funding, materials etc. If you would like to be involved then please check out their web page – or their Facebook page – Stitching Out Stigma.

I have uploaded copies of their posters and leaflets in English and there is also a poster in French. If you could put one up in your local doctors, pharmacy, library, sowing shop etc that would be much appreciated. I will hopefully have the French leaflet uploaded soon as well! Please share with everyone you know!

If you think that mental illness won’t affect you then think again! 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health problem.

Below is my story; the story of a normal and healthy female with no previous mental health problems who now has SAD and PTSD. Neither of which I asked for or deserve.

At 32 years of age I was working too hard and started suffering from stress, which brought on severe depression. I was off work for 5 months and had to change jobs before my Doctor would sign me as fit to work again. For the last 10 years I have continued to suffer from depression, lately it has been restricted to a bad case of SAD.

It was a major shock to me to be told that I had a mental health problem, I believed that mental illness was for people in ‘loony bins’ and someone who relied on her brain to do her job every day could not be mentally ill. I wanted off the medication as soon as possible and I refused to accept that the problem would continue after I returned to work. So it was with great reluctance that I continued to take the medication because without it I was not in a fit state to work or function as a ‘normal’ human being.

It took me over 5 years to accept that I had a mental illness, and that I was not going to get rid of my vulnerability to SAD every winter. Stressful work environments also brought on the depression, and my tolerance of stress was dramatically reduced following my initial illness.

Moving to France helped reduce the impact of SAD as I was able to get outside on dry days and boost my exposure to the sun. I also finally accepted that despite this, I was going to be on anti-depressants during the winter months, although I was moving towards only taking a minimum dosage rather than double dosage as in previous years or triple dosage as in the UK!

So I was doing fine until late September 2013 when my sister and I received a phone call from my father to say that we had a half-sister that had been kept secret from us for our entire lives. Ok, so in today’s world half siblings are no big thing, and ours was from a previous relationship that my father had had. However, the shock of the news brought on severe depression within an hour of me being told the news. I was extremely ill for 6 weeks and my normal anti-depressants were not working. My doctor referred me to a psychiatrist but I could not get an appointment for 2 months. I finally got to the point that I could not cope with the suicidal thoughts, pain and mental torture any longer and went to the Urgences department and told them that I was not leaving until I had seen a psychiatrist. Her immediate prognosis was not depression but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). WTF? Only people who experience severe trauma get this surely? Well obviously not! A change of tablets helped to combat some of the more severe moods and paid and now, 4 months later, I have been 2 weeks without ‘the aliens’ invading my head.

What has been hard though has been the reaction from my parents to my illness. My mother’s first response was ‘what did you go and do a silly thing like that for?’ as if mental illness is a choice? And my father just thought I was feeling a bit down! They refuse to go to a support group for relatives of people with PTSD so that they can learn and understand what I am going through to be able to support me. So, they do not believe that I am suffering from the symptoms of this illness and do not understand what it is like for me. Phone calls and emails just result in them saying the wrong things; so I have had to break off all communication with them, which whilst very hard for me to do, is a LOT less painful than staying in contact with them.

So, if a normal healthy person like me can develop a mental health problem then why is there such a stigma around mental health? I certainly changed my mind about mental health once I accepted my conditions.

Please help us to combat the stigma of mental health, if I only change one person’s opinion then I have succeeded.





Hi Catherine,

Can't help with the cross-stitch.

I was interested in your story & thought my research might be of interest. During my training as a psychotherapist I went to a mental health workshop called 'Mental Illness-Mystery or Missed-Story?' I decided to research the phenomenology (complete personal experience) of 'madness' & 'spiritual experience' & the implications for practice.

I'll try & add the file that was part of the outcome in a separate blog.

All the best,


I am sorry that you have this problem, but having been the other half-sibling comes with its own set of problems . This can be a difficult situation for all those involved, but dependant upon acceptance and attitude it can also be joyous. If your half-sister had been looking for acceptance and trying to find her father, I can assure you that the fact that she was acknowledged was a big thing in her life.

There are more families than you probably imagine who find that they have a "new" member and if, as you say, it is no big thing, then your reaction seems extreme, apart from the fact that your sister was kept a secret.

You do quote the fact that one in four of us can suffer from mental health problems which I totally accept, as I am sure that I was clinically depressed after my adoptive father died when I was thirteen and there were no associations dealing with childhood bereavement in the early sixties. I just had to grin and get on with it.

We have also been through PTSD in our home as my husband was in the Paddington Rail Crash for which he had counselling.

Unfortunately, I am not a sewer, so cannot help with this project but hope you find some peace soon.