With mental health problems being one of the main causes of overall disease worldwide, it is estimated one in six people has suffered with common mental issues.
In 2013 there were an estimated 8.2 million anxiety cases in the UK and in England women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders than men, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
In this week’s Enquirer Special Feature, Hazel Gibbons from Havering speaks about the mental health conditions that have blighted her life and stopped her from working.
For Hazel her issues started when she was in her thirties: “I was working in a phone shop when I began to have flashbacks of my life, they started to happen more and more until they got worse.”
Hazel was sexually abused from the age of seven years old until she was seventeen by a family member. The flashbacks were triggered by a memory deep inside Hazel’s mind.
“I moved into a new home and my family came round to see me. My niece was here and she tripped over and a male member of my family picked her up and this brought on all the flashbacks of the abuse I suffered as a child.
“This abuse has now left scars that don’t heal. My mother made it harder for me as when I told her what had gone on when I was younger, her response was ‘well it’s not happening now is it, so its all done with.”
Hazel was hospitalised in a mental health hospital in Brentwood for three months of which she says her family never even noticed her absence and the scars of her past have left her with damage that at times she cannot deal with.
“I struggle to sleep at night, there are constant reminders around, like children screaming that bring me to dark places,” continued Hazel.
Hazel suffers with PTSD and mood swings.
“People often associate PTSD with army veterans but it affects many people in our society. Sadly I have to deal with it in everyday life.
“It can make everyday life a complete nightmare, the slightest thing that happens can put you on edge.
“People often think I’m over emotional but it’s how I deal with things. I go to church a lot and I know I need to forgive him but I can’t, its not an easy thing to do,” said Hazel.
The PTSD and stress has stopped Hazel from working, “I can’t cope with stress anymore, I lost my job and then as a result I couldn’t pay my mortgage and lost my home. It’s my two therapy dogs Zach and Chelsea that make my life worth living” she said.
As a result of all her past horrific traumas, Hazel has tried to commit suicide twenty two times in two years.
“It is very hard to deal with and sometimes I have complete breakdowns when the stress gets too much. It’s something I know I will live with all my life.
When I was at school one of my teachers asked us to write a story and I wrote a story called ‘Scary at Nightime’, and I wrote at the top of my page that it was a true story, as a cry for help to my teacher but she told me not to lie and crossed out the true story at the top of my page.
“I knew if my teacher didn’t believe me nobody else would, so it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I actually told people what had happened to me”.
Hazel would like people to try and understand mental illness more and have more compassion. “I know what happened to me was not my fault. I would live in fear of that door handle turning at night time but mental health illness can often be a hidden disability, people don’t know what you are suffering and I believe all authorities should have training on PTSD to try and understand what they are dealing with,” finished Hazel.