Ben shares his experience of battling with mental health.
“It's been amazing for me to see the fantastic conversations and awareness raised for mental health in our workplace”
It's been amazing for me to see the fantastic conversations and awareness raised for mental health in our workplace as it’s a subject close to my heart.
I’m now in a strong enough position to admit that I’ve struggled with my mental health in connection with my sexuality. Did you know that people of the LGBT+ community are 50% more likely to experience long term mental health problems?
After starting high school I was targeted & bullied by groups of people for being 'gay'. I didn’t identify as gay at that point in my life, but it taught me to associate being gay with something that was wrong and caused me a lot of emotional pain.
As I went through my teenage years I was bullied, attacked and victimised for something that I didn't even identify as. As I got older I realised that I was attracted to both men and women, but my past experiences made me reject my feelings. I also didn’t have any gay role models or peers to draw strength from; the only constant in my life at the time was the hate and abuse that I got. I kept quiet and internalised what was happening which led to me being a scared and depressed teenager.
Scared and depressed teenagers often turn into damaged adults and as I got older the self-hatred I had cost me friends, opportunities and happiness as I became self-destructive and sabotaged myself on a daily basis, for a number of years.
Things did get better though – I was able to make some amazing friends, I fell in love and learnt to accept and love myself for who I am. I like the person I am now, and look back at my teenage years with immense sadness as it took me a long time to get to this point.
For every person that’s made it through a difficult time, there's someone who hasn’t – we need to change that. The LGBT+ community talk a lot about 'allies' and I believe that mental health can be helped through support from others. Also, standing up and challenging homophobic behaviour can change the statistic that I shared at the beginning. It doesn't have to be much, you don’t have to carry a rainbow flag around with you or attend pride marches (I haven’t done either of those things), but supportive words can make all the difference and even save someone's life.
If you’re struggling with your mental health please speak to a friend or family member. If you feel like you haven’t got anyone you can talk to, call the Samaritans 24-hour advice line for free on 116 123.
-Ben, Customer Experience Leader