Prince William discusses his past mental health struggles
In 2015 Emily Nuttall found herself in the depths of despair. Ravaged by an eating disorder she attempted to take her own life and was taken to hospital, handcuffed and under police escort. She could think of no other way out – until she was passed the number for her local Mind support line. Counsellor Emily Litten picked up. It was a conversation that set her on the road to recovery and unquestionably saved her life.
Emily, 28, from Guernsey, was diagnosed with anorexia in 2008 and recovered by 2013. Yet in 2015 she suffered a relapse.
She said: “I was stuck inside, my eating disorder behaviours were coming back and I was having suicidal thoughts again. But I had nobody to help me.
“I’d had a severe relapse with my eating disorder and my depression – and I’d attempted suicide.
“They found me and I was handcuffed and taken to hospital in a police van. I can’t tell you how terrified I was. I was at a complete loss.
“I couldn’t understand what was happening to me until one of the support workers gave me a number for my local Mind.
“Emily picked up. She listened to me speak, then just said, ‘I’ll be there in two hours’. Emily rescued me. She came to see me, twice a week, for my whole time in hospital. She helped me process how I was feeling – without feeling shame.”
On Friday, six years on from that initial phone call, the Daily Express reunited both Emilys in the Channel Islands.
Millions of people’s mental health has declined during the pandemic
The two have become firm friends and in the New Year Emily, who once thought herself so worthless she was prepared to take her life, will start training to become a professional counsellor so she can help those in the same desperate situations she once found herself in. It is proof that no matter how hopeless the situation, help is always at hand and recovery is possible.
Emily, who is single, says a perfect storm of physical health disabilities, family breakdown, trauma and bullying led her to feeling she had “lost control of everything in my life”.
Her eating disorder was a way to punish herself, she said.
Emily added: “I was fully prepared to end my life. I couldn’t deal with how I was feeling and for a lot of my life I wore a mask – it made me forget everything that was happening.
“But it slipped and led me to being sectioned after attempting to take my life. When I was sectioned I was left in a room with a leaflet for Mind. I called and was met on the other end of the line by Emily. It was such a massive relief and I remember her voice was so calm and warming.
“I was distressed and disorientated and she said she would come and see me and help. And she did. She sat and just said, ‘tell me how you feel’. We started a conversation, she listened and didn’t judge me – she just saw me as a human being and not an illness and that was so important. It was the phone call that saved my life.”
Talking therapies can help to alleviate stress and depression
The Daily Express and Mind have joined forces to put mental health front and centre of the national conversation.
Our By Your Side Christmas campaign aims to raise a significant sum so Britain’s leading mental health charity can continue to provide life-saving support.
Last year it faced its highest level of demand since it was founded in 1946, after being approached by 20 million – about a third of the UK population.
And each month the charity’s Infoline receives 8,000 calls, equal to 258 a day or 11 every hour.
Each of these calls could be another Emily – someone for whom a supportive ear is literally life-saving.
There are now 1.6 million people waiting for mental health treatment and around 800,000 adults and 450,000 children and young people for secondary services.
Three in five said their mental health had worsened during lockdown, but one third did not seek help.
Mind says millions more are now “living on borrowed time” and is calling on the Government to commit £1.5 billion to treat children and young people over the next three years as the Covid fallout continues.
No one is immune from the devastating impact of mental ill health and Covid has turned what was already a crisis into a national emergency.
Emily said: “I’m one of the millions of people who’s struggled with their mental health. Because of that, I know just how serious this situation is.
“We might seem to be just about coping, but for many of us that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The weight of everything we’ve been through – the trauma, the loss, the anxiety – is crushing us. But if we act now – and work together – we can make sure everyone can access support and information to help with their mental health, without the uncertainty of endless waiting lists. There’s no other option.
“If I can help someone else through the situation I found myself in then that would be the greatest gift I could ever give. People with lived experience like me know first hand what it’s like. It’s very hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been through similar situations. I would encourage anyone suffering on their own to pick up the phone and speak out. Taking the first step towards seeking help is difficult but the most important.
Social distancing had a devastating impact on people’s lives
“Since that phone call Emily has been by my side ever since. Without her, I wouldn’t have survived the pandemic, either. Like millions of us, the lockdowns took me to a really dark place. Losing everything – my routine, my schedule, my friends – hit me hard. The worst nearly happened.
“Emily told me, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’ Every single day during lockdown, she rang me. Without Mind, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
And in a rallying call for the public to support our Christmas campaign she added: “Your help really is needed more than ever because my story isn’t unique. And it breaks my heart. Sadly, it’s not getting better fast enough. “Waiting lists for treatment have risen. People are suffering in silence, because they feel they have no other option. It’s devastating and we can’t let this continue.
“Mind saved my life. And this Christmas, you could do the same for someone else like me.
Emily Litten said: “It’s really important to pick up the phone rather than struggle in silence. It’s important to speak to anyone. The first step is admitting you need help and that is the most difficult.
“But there is nothing to be ashamed of because we are all human beings and we are all vulnerable. In the same way we might go to the GP with sinusitis, support from Mind is available for people who need to speak to someone about what is going on.