Kelly Boylin from Flintshire was admitted to hospital due to mental health problems. This included self-harm so severe that she was taken to an A&E department. The 21-year-old has now set up a campaign called Kim’s Voice in memory of her sister who committed suicide in 2009 at the age of 20. Here, she explains why mental health stigma is such a huge issue:
Until I was 15, I didn’t get any help and suffered in silence. I knew I was in pain and wanted it to stop, but my family didn’t understand and neither did I – so I didn’t get help.
People often don’t understand mental illness. I’ve been shouted at for certain types of behaviour and reacted to that. Even now, I get flippant remarks – ‘get a grip’, or ‘you’ll be fine’. Sometimes I think mental illness isn’t taken seriously, but, just like physical illnesses, it can be life and death. You just can’t always see it.
People sometimes think I must be unpredictable or even dangerous but I’m not some monster. I’m quite Zen – I’m into Buddhism and Tai Chi, and I love animals – I’ve been into horse riding since I was little.
People need to hear stories like mine at first hand if we’re all going to change things. When I start a conversation about mental health I get weird looks – as if I’m talking about the plague coming back. The way people look at you can be damaging, because mental health conditions can feed off those kinds of reactions. But the more I talk about mental health and help people understand, the better I feel.
I’m a strong and intelligent person. If I didn’t have mental health problems I wouldn’t be this strong. I campaign for mental health issues, so in a way, I’m thankful that I know what I do.
Editor’s note: Kelly is a champion for Time to Change Wales. It has just launched an advertising campaign featuring print, television, radio and outdoor advertising along with real life stories from people with mental health problems to encourage people in Wales to talk about mental health. National Lottery-funded Time to Change Wales is the first national campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems in Wales.