Manon talks about her experiences of trying to access mental health information and services in Welsh and why it's important to be able to access services in your first language.
Manon is a PhD student at Aberystwyth and is of the founders of meddwl.org website.
My illness happens in Welsh for me. Trying to convey that in English feels strange and unfamiliar. Living with a mental health illness can be a lonely experience, and not being able to express how you feel properly can intensify those feelings of loneliness.
"When discussing mental health, one of the most important things is being able to communicate effectively in order to express feelings, thoughts and emotions. This includes the language used."
The lack of mental health services and materials in Welsh is a huge problem. During my conversations with the community mental health service, no one asked if I wanted to speak to someone in Welsh. At the time, I was not in a position to ask for someone who spoke Welsh or wait longer for this to be available. My priority was getting better, and I felt that I should be glad and thankful for getting any help.
Trying to express my personal feelings in a language that I don’t feel comfortable speaking was an extremely frustrating experience.
"It’s hard enough in Welsh. I think in Welsh, my illness happens for me in Welsh, and trying to convey that in English feels strange and unfamiliar."
Living with a mental health illness can be a lonely experience, and not being able to express how you feel properly can intensify those feelings of loneliness.
The counsellor and I often misunderstood each other, as I could not express exactly how I was feeling. Also, as part of the CBT therapy, I had to keep a record of my anxiety in order to identify the triggers of the panic attacks. Naturally and without thinking, I kept the record in Welsh. As the counsellor couldn't read it, I had to read the record to him in English, which caused unnecessary delay in the process.
Recently, I was lucky to have counselling sessions in Welsh through my university, although I had to wait longer to have them in Welsh than if I'd had them in English.
"Being able to speak in Welsh made such a difference! I was able to speak without having to translate everything in my head. I could express my feelings much better."
I was more willing to speak, and I could understand the counsellor without an issue.
The situation is slightly better in terms of information available online in Welsh, but there are more materials available for some conditions than others. My main symptom of anxiety is derealisation, which is a type of dissociative disorder. It feels like being in a dream and being disconnected from my body and the world around me. Things feel strange and unreal. It's horrible.
Although this is a common symptom of several mental health problems, doctors and mental health workers have little understanding of it, in my experience anyway. I always have to explain what it is to doctors, rather than them explaining it to me.
This is a frustrating experience, as I go to the doctor expecting answers. This also makes me feel less confident in the doctor’s ability and less hopeful of finding a suitable treatment.
As a result of this, I've had to learn about it and come to understand it by reading and researching about it myself. The only information about derealisation in Welsh is the information on the meddwl website. Being able to read about my condition in Welsh feels more personal, and I can identify with the description much better.
I’m part of a small group of volunteers that set up a website called meddwl last November to try and address the lack of support that's available in Welsh to people who are living with mental illnesses. Although there is some Welsh material available online already, it's hard to find, so the website brings all the information available in Welsh together to one place including the welsh language resources available on Mind’sWebsite. The website has contact details for charities, information about all the different mental health conditions, blogs, a news page and a forum – all in Welsh.
In order to enable people who are living with mental health problems to get effective treatment and give them a fair chance to recover, talking treatments have to be available in Welsh to all who want them. I really believe I would be in a better position if I had been able to speak to a mental health worker in Welsh years ago.
"It's more than a matter of right; having treatment in their first language really does have an effect on someone's recovery."
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