A WOMAN who suffered a breakdown has spoken about her road to recovery.

Today is Time To Talk Day, staged by Time To Change, a national social movement organisation.

The day encourages organisations, employers, schools and individuals to have a conversation about mental health to help break down stereotypes, improve relationships, aid recovery and take the stigma out of something that affects us all.

Abbie Mead works for Southdown, based in Lewes, one of many organisations across Sussex providing mental health support.

She works at the Preston Park Mental Health Recovery Centre as well as Southdown’s Recovery College in Brighton.

Abbie said: “I’ve been a peer trainer at Southdown’s Recovery College since January 2018.

“A peer trainer is someone who has lived experience of mental health challenges and uses their experiences to help support others going through similar difficulties, sharing aspects of their recovery as inspiration.

“When someone shares their difficulties, it takes away the shame that someone experiencing something similar can feel.

“It helps them find words to talk about what they are experiencing.


“Finding words and finding meaning to your experience is really crucial to recovery.

“It also enables students to see their experience as a strength.”

Abbie has previously been on courses at the college.

She said: “I think it’s a really empowering approach to mental health.

“I’m a trained mindfulness teacher and teach the introduction to mindfulness course at the college.

“I’ve also taught managing anxiety and a workshop called ‘working with voices’.

“At the moment I’m writing a new workshop on self-compassion.

“I happened to see the recovery college was advertising for peer trainers. It came at a good time because I’d recently gone through a breakdown and so it seemed like a good way of sharing my experience of the techniques that got me through a really difficult time.

“My issues were anxiety and serious insomnia.

“I was quite lucky I had mindfulness skills that I could use and so I could see the value of them.

“I got into meditation about 15 years ago before I had more serious problems.

“Mindfulness is a way of responding to your thoughts and feelings.

“It’s about choosing to create a meaningful response to your experience, and standing back rather than being caught up in your thoughts.

“It gives you a bigger perspective, you notice your habits and don’t let them rule or control you.

“In the past I would never say anything about my difficulties, but now I do.

“I feel things are changing and being upfront means I can ask for the support I need now.”

Abbie says there is still a lot of stigma for people with serious mental health conditions.

She said: “I hope for less stigma and for an increasing acceptance of the diverse ways of experiencing the world.

“I’m lucky to have very good friends who were on the whole accepting of me and who have experienced difficult times themselves which was helpful.


“A big part of recovery is being compassionate towards yourself; being your own best friend; standing beside yourself and staying with yourself especially during a difficult experience. That’s the most important thing.

“When difficult things happen, we tend to turn against ourselves.

“If we can stay with ourselves, that’s going to change everything.”

Lynne Thomas is the lead for local housing, care and support provider for Southdown’s mental health recovery services across Sussex.

She said: “Good mental health enables us to make the most of our potential, build resilience to manage the stresses and challenges of daily life, form and maintain relationships, and connect with our communities.

“When we asked people using our services, ‘what are the causes of mental ill health?’ the most common response was life

experiences and life events, particularly relating to past trauma.

“Additional factors cited were physical health and socio-economic problems such as poor housing, lack of employment and financial difficulties.

“With one in four people experiencing mental health challenges in the UK, most of us are affected, either directly or because we know somebody who is.

“Whilst we know talking about things can be therapeutic, it is not always an easy thing to do.

“Time To Talk is a fantastic initiative to help make that conversation easier.”

Useful websites to find out about services include: www.southdown.org, www.eastsussex.gov.uk/socialcare/healthadvice/mental-health/directory and www.pathfinderwestsussex.org.uk