When Sam was finding it hard to cope, he found help in Elefriends, our supportive online community.
2012 was a tough year. I've been wrestling with depression for well over a decade, and generally doing ok. Not great, but ok. I was holding it together, doing well in work, getting on with things. Then, over the course of a few months a number of deaths and serious illnesses in the family left me feeling raw.
Still, I managed to pick myself up and carry on, thinking I'd be ok. Finally, some issues at work pushed me too far. I was left in an awful state, my depression spiralling out of control. I had severe sleepless nights and dreadful nightmares in the moments I was sleeping, combining past horrors with new pains.
I was signed off work for two months, and needed help. The local mental health team were great, reassessing and adjusting my medication. My family were wonderful, particularly as I was changing medication over the Christmas period. My friends were supportive providing distraction or a listening ear as needed.
However, what these people couldn't all provide was somewhere I could simply be open about having an awful day. Where there are friends of mine with personal experience of mental ill health, they had their own issues to deal with, and I didn't feel able to burden them further. My family were going through their own feelings of loss, so I didn't want to add to them with my own issues - foolish, I'm sure, but let's face it, my mind wasn't running on full speed.
What I wanted - what I needed - was somewhere I could talk to people going through similar experiences, people able to empathise, not just sympathise. Thankfully, Mind had provided just such a place through The Elephant's online community. This provided somewhere I could discuss my concerns about work, to discuss my fear of returning to work after being signed off, and to discuss what I could expect from my new medication.
This small society of people providing mutual support has been vital to my recovery, to helping me realise that I am not alone. I don't think I could have got through this without the Elephant and friends.
Now that I'm on my way to recovery, I still go to the community regularly. When I feel I can offer someone else some support I do so. This is not out of some sense of duty to pay back what I got out of the group, but because I want to. I want to be able to help others the way they have helped me. This to me underlines what has been achieved here, that it is not simply a help forum, but a true community, of people supporting one another.
People say that in the modern world we don't know our neighbours any more. I for one do, it's just that next door is no longer somewhere in London, it's somewhere in cyberspace.