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Speaking out about mental health

It's Mental Health Awareness Week all this week and while more and more RAF personnel and veterans are seeking support for mental health problems, many still suffer in silence.

Sally*, a Reservist in the RAF, contacted Anxiety UK, which is working in partnership with the RAF Benevolent Fund to support RAF veterans experiencing anxiety or depression. She tells us why she is encouraging others to contact the service for help as well.

Woman looking at sky

I joined the RAF Reserves in 2011. I'd wanted to join the Regulars, but ended up doing a teaching degree but when an opportunity came up with the Reserves I took it.

About a year ago work pressures were becoming too much for me. I am an SAC but I have been acting up as a Corporal and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself for everything to be perfect.

My partner is also in the RAF and is away a lot and I was also concerned about his welfare when he was away and I was becoming more and more anxious. I started to feel overwhelmed but threw myself into work – I knew I couldn't break down there - and I began working later and later, just so as not to be home alone with my thoughts.

Things started to get too much for me and behind closed doors everything started to unravel. It started to impact on my relationship and as my partner and I were arguing so much I knew I had to do something about it.

I contacted Anxiety UK and I was offered cognitive behavioural therapy with a local therapist. I have had six sessions now and she is brilliant. She has taught me to recognise the symptoms and how to deal with them. I know I am prone to depression but I know now to ask for help when I need it.

There is still a stigma around mental illness. I knew deep down something was wrong but I did not want to start that first conversation, I had a fear of where to start. I spent a long time in denial. You have to trust your family or a loved one and talk about it. My other half was adamant that things could not be left as they were any longer but I had to be pushed to get help. I thought I was coping but I wasn't.

Without the therapy sessions, I would be in a far worse situation and I would encourage others to please seek help if they feel they are not coping and talk to someone about how they are feeling. If you, or a loved one, need support with anxiety or depression please visit www.rafbf.org/help.

*Name has been changed

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