THIS time last year, mental health didn’t mean much to former Bournemouth University student Alex Geraghty.

But following a traumatic experience in his first year, he started having panic attacks and was afraid of meeting new people.

He explains: “One year ago I had heard of conditions like depression and bipolar but could only hazard a guess at what these terms meant.

“But following a traumatic experience in my first year I started experiencing panic attacks when meeting people for the first time.

“I would even find it difficult to maintain conversations with friends and family, fearing that I was weird and my character dislikeable.”

Following an intensive course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), along with strong support from a close network of family and friends, Alex has been able to regain control of his life.

According to local consultant psychiatrist, Dr Laurence Mynors-Wallis, a medical director at Dorset Healthcare, mental health issues are very common.

“Around one in four will suffer with a mental health problem at some stage in their life and most of those people won’t go to their GP, let alone a psychiatrist.

“People develop mental health problems for a variety of reasons. Some people are more vulnerable than others to developing psychological symptoms, either as a result of their upbringing, we know a difficult childhood can leave you vulnerable, and mental illness also runs in families.

“It’s often the stresses and strains of everyday life that can tip you over the edge into mental illness or it can come out of the blue.

“The problem with mental illness is that people often don’t realise it is happening as it can come upon them very slowly – they start feeling withdrawn, notice a lack of energy, they’re not sleeping so well.

“Secondly, there is a real issue of not getting help.

“But there is a service in Dorset that lots of people aren’t aware of called Steps 2 Wellbeing. It is a self referral service offering a range of options where someone can direct you to self help information or groups or activities or maybe one to one treatment.”

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Alex puts his mind to it

ALEX has just spent seven days hitch-hiking around Europe, raising £1,835 for the charity YoungMinds, which supports young people with mental and emotional health related issues.

If you would like to support him please visit: /weonlydealinthepound