Today (7 Feb) is Time to Talk Day 2019, a mental health awareness day aiming to challenge the stigma around mental health and encourage people to start talking about mental health issues with someone, whether it’s with a friend, family member or colleague.
In 2015, a report conducted by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) found that 44 per cent of people living with sight loss were ‘feeling more than usually depressed’. This is not surprising, as blind and partially sighted people are likely to become isolated from day-to-day activities due to their sight loss – especially if their sight loss is recent. Additionally, a mental health condition can delay a person from asking for support.
When I began to lose my sight seven years ago, I was in denial. I wanted to continue living a ‘normal’ life. The thought of losing my sight completely terrified me and this made me feel anxious all the time. I would wake up in the night with panic attacks and my mum would have to come into my room and comfort me.
I had just graduated from university and I felt that my life was over before it had really started. I thought I would never be able to find a graduate job. I used to think, ‘why me?’ I felt angry and depressed, so I started to stay at home all the time. My friends would encourage me to meet up with them, but I would always think there’s no point because they wouldn’t understand what I was going through. I felt truly alone.
It wasn’t until I had to leave my part-time job at the time, and referred to my local job centre that I was first forced to talk about my visual impairment and the impact it was having on my daily life – as well as talk about the support I would need to find work again. To my surprise, my Employment Adviser was extremely understanding, and he referred me to an organisation called Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB).
At the RLSB I was able to meet other young people with sight loss who I could relate to because they were going through a similar situation as me. I no longer felt alone. I learned that it was normal to feel upset, angry and frustrated about my visual impairment. My time at the RLSB were the best years of my life and I’ve made lifelong friends. And as the years have gone by, I have grown to accept my feelings about my sight loss, and I am thankful for receiving support when I truly needed it.
The Royal London Society for the Blind is now known as the Royal Society for Blind Children, and they are one of many organisations across the UK that provide talking support for anyone living with, or at risk of, sight loss. The NHS website lists several sight loss organisations you can get in touch with, find out more here.
I want to leave you all with a lasting thought: it’s normal to feel angry or depressed about your sight loss, but you don’t need to feel alone – there is a wider support network out there to help you to cope better.
Written by Raymond Calamaan