'When I was growing up, I wondered what a nervous breakdown was'

"I have become aware of the pain so many suffer and cope with, where they are unable to deal with the day to day of life."

When I was growing up, if someone was ill and were away for a while, I was always told they had had a nervous breakdown. I had no idea what that meant, but it never sounded good as it was said with such concern about the person in question.

I wondered what a nervous breakdown was. I gathered it was different from my parents telling me I was getting on their nerves.

Was there pain involved?

Did you sit about and shake?

It was a polite way of pretending it was a mental health issue but you never had to say it was so.

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In this day and age, we are more likely to recognise mental illness for what it is. The advantage is we treat people much more quickly than was once the case.

In my case, I have been lucky with my mental health. At least I think I have, though some may disagree.

When my marriage ended, my GP decided to help me by putting me on Xanax. I lasted a week or so before saying I couldn’t handle them; I felt worse, so I have never been down that track again.

In my teaching career, I came into contact with many students who were struggling with their academic studies. It came with the territory of working in an academically selective school where expectations were high.

I learned a lot about eating disorders, low self-esteem and the sense of hopelessness some students feel when they cannot compete with other students. I also learned that every mental health issue is the result of a variety of issues and no two people are alike.

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We had a lot of students who were classified as having Asperger’s Syndrome. A branch along the autism spectrum. I learned from a psychologist friend that we are all on the spectrum, just that some are further along than others.

My ex-wife once suggested I was on the spectrum as well. My kids thought it a great joke that their mother would suggest I was autistic and after that would delight in telling me I had an excuse for being who I was.

But I have become aware of the pain so many suffer and cope with, where they are unable to deal with the day to day of life.

I do not like being out in crowds; my social anxiety is becoming more and more acute as I get older. The only thing is, I am aware of where it’s come from, and I think being aware of the triggers and understanding their source is a start in dealing with them.

It’s true that life is not easy, it’s about doing what we can with what we have.

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It’s about being compassionate to those around us who have to deal with the day to day and being thankful there are many avenues by which anyone suffering a mental health issue can receive help.

Do you agree that help for dealing with mental illness is readily available?