We couldn’t let World Mental Health day pass without giving our own little piece. SickleKan believe that mental health is very important and needs more than a day to shine light on this topic. However, we have to start somewhere and are overjoyed that we have this platform to tackle this stigma head on. Part of our mission is to give people with Sickle Cell anaemia a voice, we are more than just patients, more than just people who need medicine. It needs to be acknowledged that Sickle Cell anaemia is not just a fight with your blood cells, it’s a spiritual and mental fight to continue to stay afloat. As someone with Sickle cell it’s easy to succumb to negative thinking, depression and anxiety. Think about it, we live our lives one day at a time doing our best to stay healthy, hoping and praying that another crises will not come along. It’s hard to live to the fullest when a little exertion here, a little infection there, could lead to your body shutting down and other complications. You have to find something within you that keeps you positive, something that keeps you going and anchors you to positive thoughts.

In life there are many struggles, yes with Sickle cell and other chronic diseases the burden can be heavier than most but mentally we have to be strong. Sickle cell has hindered myself and others in many ways however, it has also been my driving force to push us forward. Nobody wants to be known as the person who has Sickle cell anaemia and can’t do anything. Instead we push ourselves to be greater than that, to achieve and succeed through the trials and tribulations of life.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” Brad Meltzer

The theme for this #WorldMentalHealthDay is mental health in the work place. The best way to delve into this deeper would be from my own experiences. I’ve been working full time for two years now and so far I’ve been healthy. I’ve had a few minor crises, but I’m literally doing the most to stay well. While at university and college I always had a part time job to fund things I wanted to do, like my driving and car expenses. I can recall on a few shifts where I’ve had a crisis and still managed to do the work. I’m too stubborn for my own good, I look back and I’m like how did I do that? How did I lift boxes when the pain in my arm was so bad it would tremble? If I ever had to take time off I would lie and say I have the flu or stomach pains, I couldn’t ever bring myself to say I have a Sickle cell crisis. I feel like this is the same for mental health, would an employer grant me time off if I said I was feeling depressed over my Sickle cell? Will they understand? Will they treat me differently? It has always felt laborious to explain what it means to have Sickle Cell, I wanted to avoid the: “Oh what’s that? Do you always have it?” Saying I had the flu was easier, less complicated, I mean everyone knows and can relate to what that is. Talking about anxiety, suicidal thoughts and Sickle cell anaemia? Not so much unfortunately. Fast forward to now and I’ve finally put on my medical form that I have Sickle cell! Trying to describe it to the occupational therapist was really tedious. The questions were so annoying; how often are your pain episodes? How long do they last? What do you do when you’re in pain? For most of these questions all I could answer with is it depends or it varies. It’s so unpredictable that there is no solid way of predicting when, how long, or how severe it will be. I don’t think the therapist fully understood what I was trying to get across but it’s not down to ignorance, more a lack of understanding and available knowledge. I admire those who have had mental health issues that are strong enough to take the appropriate steps and speak up about their mental health. This is so important, we have to make our voices heard, for mental health, sickle cell anaemia and other health issues which are brushed under the carpet.

If you have Sickle cell anaemia what issues have you had to deal with at work? What mental health issues have you faced? How did you overcome it? What can we do to raise awareness for both Sickle Cell and mental health?

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