Fiona first met her partner, Sue, when the pair were in their twenties. However, after 30 years building their life together, they received news no one ever wants to hear - Sue had a brain tumour. The diagnosis has put tremendous strain on their relationship and their mental health – which has inspired Fiona to campaign to help end the stigma of mental illness.
Fiona said, “My dad died of a brain tumour when I was just 14. It changed our family forever and affected my mental health hugely – something I've struggled with ever since.
“To receive the news about Sue was total devastation, for both of us, and my worst nightmare come true. I've continued to be there for her, being her partner and her carer throughout this difficult time, but it's been tough and the impact on our relationship and mental health has been huge.
“Coming to terms and coping with this disease, seeing someone I love go through it, has put a big stress on our relationship, we're both struggling with the situation.
When mental health goes unnoticed
“That's why mental health awareness is so important to me – as someone who has already lost a loved one to this disease, and now as a carer for someone affected, taking care of mental health and promoting awareness is critical.
“And I've seen the devastating effects when mental health goes unnoticed or when stigma is so large people can't speak up. One of my nephews attempted death by suicide aged just 19 - thankfully, he was unsuccessful. However, years later, Alasdair, another of my nephews, wasn't so lucky. Alasdair unintentionally overdosed and died as a result of using drugs to cope with his mental health, and silence the thoughts in his head.
A catalyst for campaigning
“Seeing two of my nephews struggling with their mental health and then Alasdair's death as an indirect result of his mental health issues, was the catalyst that made me decide to do something and speak out about mental health awareness. I want to help end the stigma surrounding this important issue, because so many people don't speak up for fear of the stigma or feeling ashamed, but it shouldn't be that way.
“If we broke our ankle, we wouldn't just ignore it and hobble around untreated. We wouldn't hide it away hoping no one saw, and when asked if it was okay, lie and say we were fine. We'd go to the hospital, we'd speak to a medical professional, and we'd get the bone repaired.
“But, when it comes to mental health, the story is very different.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Those affected by a mental health condition may find themselves struggling to cope with day-to-day life, including things we take for granted such as getting out of bed, showering and leaving the house. If you find yourself feeling this way, you should seek advice from a medical professional, such as your GP.
One issue particularly prevalent within our community, and across the UK, is depression. You can find out more about this in our depression factsheet.
'There is no health without mental health'
A decade ago the Surgeon General of the United States said, 'There is no health without mental health.' Millennia ago the Romans said 'Sound mind, sound body.' There's a reason that, despite the amount of time between the two, the meaning is still the same – it's because they're right.
“Our mental health is so important to our overall health and that's why we must not be afraid to speak up and say 'I have a mental health problem'.
“I know how important your brain is, so when we get a problem with it – including a mental health problem – why would we not get help?
“The only way to raise awareness of this issue, tackle the stigma and help those affected is to talk about it. I was at an event once, and when we began the conversation people started to open up and share their own experiences, because there was no stigma. It became normal - like talking about that broken ankle.
“And that's the key, make talking about it normal so that when you need help, you don't feel ashamed because there is nothing to be ashamed of.
“It's also an issue that needs more funding to be able to help people who have mental health problems and give them somewhere to go and talk. Currently mental health struggles for funding but it shouldn't be this way."
Whether you would like more information about brain tumours or need help finding a specialist service for you mental health or would simply like to talk to someone about your own or a loved one's diagnosis, we have an array of support services available, free of charge, to help everyone affected by a brain tumour, at every step.
Please do get in touch by calling 0808 800 0004 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri), emailing email@example.com, or live chat.
If you would like to talk and connect with others who understand your situation, you can join our online Facebook groups. For those diagnosed, carers or friends and family, our Facebook groups provide safe spaces to talk through issues, share experiences and receive vital support during difficult times.
If you're a carer for someone diagnosed with a brain tumour, it can become overwhelming at times, and can have a huge effect on your emotional well-being and mental health. To help you during difficult times we have resources to help carers to get support, whether that be financial, emotional or practical, and to find information and self-care tips. We also have resources for friends and family to give support knowing what to say and how to help their loved one affected by a brain tumour.