The first steps are often the hardest in life That’s true when you develop a mental health problem too. Instead of obvious physical symptoms, like a rash or a broken bone, it’s your feelings, your way of thinking, and even your behaviour which is affected. It’s no wonder that when people first experience symptoms – anxiety, depression, or psychotic symptoms, for example – they often think, ‘that’s just how life is – nobody else sees it.’ Having severe symptoms for the first time can be a disturbing and traumatic experience too. Many mental health problems first become obvious in late teens or early twenties, and it is especially challenging to be told at that age you have a condition which may need to be managed for the rest of your life. It’s no wonder that many people are reluctant to see a doctor, fearful of being told they have a mental illness. This fear and misunderstanding about oneself can be the most harmful form of stigma, causing delays in treatment and accessing support. This situation is confusing and distressing for family and friends too, and it’s important they get help for themselves as well. Many people say that receiving a diagnosis is a relief – that how they’ve been feeling finally has a reason and a name, and can be treated. Accepting that one has a mental health problem and needs help is the courageous first big step to take. Everything else follows from that. The next steps Understand – find out as much as possible about your condition, what can trigger symptoms, the best treatments, and how to help yourself. Knowledge is power. Find out more.Connect – make an effort to talk to others and keep up connections with family and friends, even if you don’t feel like it sometimes. There are days when people are the best medicine. Find out more. Find your path – as well as getting the best treatments you can, discover what support is available in the community that suits your individual needs. We are all different and it’s important to find the kind of support that helps you best at any one time. Find out more. Understanding your condition, staying connected with other people, and accessing the best treatment and support, will not only help you recover from symptoms more quickly, you will also feel more in control and better able to get on with your life again.