When someone asks Renee if she’s feeling okay, she won’t lie.
“My instinctive reaction is ‘yeah good’ but sometimes that’s a flat out lie – so if I need to, I say, ‘actually, I’m not good at all’. It might be scary, but we need to start giving the real answer and seeing what happens.”
Renee first realised she wasn’t coping with her feelings when she started self-harming.
“I was 14 at the time and that was really the start of my experience with depression. I reached out to adults at school and eventually got counselling which was awesome.”
Some of the people closest to Renee weren’t exactly equipped with the tools to be supportive, which was tough.
“Sometimes people can have an innate need to have answers, or to try and fix the situation, but asking ‘what’s wrong with you?’ isn’t always helpful.
“It was hard to come to grips with those responses reaction, but as I got older I realised everyone has limitations around what they can handle emotionally.”
When Renee left university and started working, she had an unfortunate experience with her employer.
“The start of a new job coincided with me hitting rock bottom. I attempted suicide twice in the space of a few weeks and ended up off work for a few days each time. Despite the fact they knew I’d been in hospital they pulled me aside and treated me like a naughty kid, asking, ‘Is this going to be a problem'?”
Thankfully, she now has an "awesome boss" who is very open to talking about mental health.
“I’d made some flippant comments on Twitter and my boss checked in with me. I made the snap decision to tell her I was feeling low and to let her know I had a history of dealing with it. We had several conversations over the coming months and she’s been incredible the whole time. I’ve never once felt like my mental health vulnerabilities have been a burden.”
As well as a supportive employer, Renee says the load of stigma and discrimination can be lessened by people treating mental health issues as something normal and acceptable to talk about in everyday conversations.
“I recently told my sister that I was on mental health leave and was thinking of going back on medication after a long period of being well and her response was, ‘that’s great, it sounds like a sensible idea’. It was just a normal conversation to have, and that’s exactly what I needed.”
Renee’s partner of four years has also been supportive.
“When I open up and tell him what’s going on inside my head he says, ‘you’re allowed to feel like that,’ he accepts me just as I am and isn’t scared away.”
Renee’s also found professional help to be hugely beneficial.
“I believe everyone should have a therapist, whether they have a mental health problem or not! Even if it feels scary it’s so worth it. Don’t stop looking until you find someone you like and if you don’t click with someone, try again.
“Everyone deserves to find the help the need – don’t give up.”