Bring mental health issues into the open

This year’s Mental Health Day on October 10 coincided with National Chocolate Week.

There’s a connection, which I’ll explain later.

If you haven’t experienced mental health issues personally or through someone you know, you’re lucky, because statistics reveal that one in four of us in Wales will at some point have a mental health problem.

That means, out of a population of approximately three million, around 750,000 of us have had, will have, or currently have mental health problems.

That’s an astonishingly high proportion for a country our size. Some mental health problems, like becoming stressed during a challenging time in our lives, only last until the matter is resolved.

More serious problems can last years or even a lifetime. They all have a debilitating effect on sufferers and the people closest to them.

Our bodies are designed to withstand short periods of stress, but not constant stress, ‘the silent killer’ which can develop into physical symptoms like high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks – or into mental problems like severe depression.

Post-natal depression is something we often hear about, but until the wife of a friend developed it a few weeks after giving birth, I had no idea how devastating its effect could be.

It can last up to a year, even if the new mother takes prescribed medication, and as long as three years if she doesn’t.

During the first important weeks when a mother needs to bond with her child, the young woman I know was deeply depressed and completely disinterested in her baby.

Such was her bleak state of mind that, even after being prescribed strong medication, she attempted suicide. Thankfully, she survived, was given expert, sympathetic counselling, eventually accepted her baby and now lives a normal life.

I mentioned National Chocolate Week because it’s been proven that chocolate (the dark variety, in particular) is beneficial to people’s mental well-being.

So, we should eat some dark chocolate occasionally, but not too much. Otherwise we’ll gain weight. Not good for anyone prone to depression.

If you ever become severely depressed, the first thing to do is to tell someone exactly how you feel. Whether that initial talk is with a counsellor, friend or relative it doesn’t matter.

It’s a major step towards your recovery. A problem shared really is a problem halved – because it’s been brought out into the open.