Charlie was in his last year at university when the stress of studying for his undergraduate degree became too much for him to handle. Trying at first to get on with things, Charlie realised quickly that he needed help. After opening up to his parents about his mental health difficulties, he received the counselling support he needed and got back on track studying for his PhD in physics.

Below he tells #IAMWHOLE in his own words about his experiences with mental health difficulties and how speaking to others can help…

“Throughout university I had been struggling with stress and anxiety, but I was the kind of person to just put my head down and not think about it too much.

“In my third year of university, around the third term, all the work piled up and it got to breaking point. I got a complete mental block with everything.

“I tried to hide it a bit from the people on my course and my flatmates and stuff like that. The only people that I really opened up about it to initially were my parents.

“It was almost like a weight was lifted off my shoulders talking to them. I’d been hiding it for such a long time, so when I actually spoke about it, I was like ‘why haven’t I done that before?’.

“Opening up with people around me was a gradual thing but it got better relatively quickly.

“I went from thinking I was not going to be able to do my exams, to still doing my exams at Christmas.

“It was a pretty tough time but by the time I got to my summer exams in June, I was like a different person. It was a really positive experience.

“Before I had experienced mental health difficulties myself, I was probably one of the naive people which is a hard thing to accept. There were probably people around me at points in my life that I could have treated better, had I had this experience before.

“My initial feelings towards mental health were that it could just be fixed by putting a smile on your face, being happy and bubbly and telling jokes and things like that. But it is a level deeper than that and I now understand.

“I was lucky that there were people around me who I did want to know. But if you’re not lucky and in that situation, then there’s still loads of people you can talk to.

“There are really nice people out there. The people that deal with mental health are dealing with it because they want to deal with it, because they know it is a problem and they want to help.”