Council leader Joe Harris opens up on his battle with mental health

council leader joe harris opens up on his battle with mental health - Council leader Joe Harris opens up on his battle with mental health
council leader joe harris opens up on his battle with mental health 2 - Council leader Joe Harris opens up on his battle with mental health

A district council leader says he has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in an online post talking about his battle with mental health.

In a social media post, Cotswold District Council leader Joe Harris said he has “struggled massively” with the UK lockdown since it started in March and has now been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder.

Mr Harris, who was the youngest mayor in the country at 20 years old, said he “questioned whether or not I wanted to continue living on dark occasions” and said his anxiety has “crippled” day to day life.

According to the NHS’ website, generalised anxiety disorder is a long-term condition that “causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event”.

Mr Harris continued to say he has undertaken cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) training, adding he is “asking myself why I didn’t do this ages ago” and a new route is leading him into “beginning to feel like a new person”.

‘Over the years it’s been crippling often affecting day to day life’

Writing on Twitter, Mr Harris said: “Some of you will know that at different times I’ve really grappled with my mental health and struggled to control it, it’s not really something I’ve spoken about publicly.

“During mental health awareness week back in May I sought professional help for my mental health and have now been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder.

“Finding out more about the diagnosis felt like a revelation and the following description about the disorder on the NHS website sums up 100 per cent how at times I’ve felt: ‘GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. As soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue’.”

“Over the years it’s been crippling often affecting day to day life, my friendships and relationships. If I’ve been short or grumpy with you or perhaps appeared a bit vacant the likelihood is I something on my mind I was anxious about. I’ve got a loving family and great friends and they’ve often borne the brunt.

“I’ve had some horrible physical symptoms like a dry mouth, shaking, stomach aches and even prostatitis.

“At its worst there have been days where I haven’t even been able to get out of bed and on a couple of particularly dark occasions I’ve even questioned whether or not I wanted to continue living.

“It’s fair to say that I’ve struggled massively with lockdown. I’m a social person and get my energy from being in the presence of other people.

“One of the ways I’ve coped in the past is escaping my surroundings for a few days and visiting friends and family further afield, not being able to do this made things particularly hard and coupled with trying to lead a local authority through a global pandemic lockdown was always going to stretch me thin.

“I’m pleased to say that today I’ve just completed a cognitive behavioural therapy course (thank you NHS) which I’m already reaping the benefits from. I’m under no illusion that it probably won’t be the silver bullet that stops me worrying and there are still days when I feel a bit fed up (aren’t we all) and get anxious but already I’m feeling better equipped to deal with it when I do feel this way. Already I’m asking myself why I didn’t do this ages ago.

“Coupled with eating well, drinking less, exercising regularly, a bit of meditation and building all of that into a new routine I’m beginning to feel like a new person.

“I don’t want sympathy and I’m not looking for it but rather wanting to raise awareness that there is help out there no matter how helpless you might feel. I’m taking back control, you can too.”

Locally and nationally, there are agencies and websites someone can turn to for help, which include:

Contact your local GP surgery if you are struggling with your mental health and finding it difficult to cope with everyday life

Let’s Talk – 0800 073 2200 or www.letstalkglos.nhs.uk

https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/

The Samaritans on 116 123 or https://www.samaritans.org/

Teens in Crisis – https://ticplus.org.uk/

Gloucestershire’s Rethink Self Harm Helpline on 0808 801 0606 or glosselfharm@rethink.org

Swindon and Gloucestershire Mind on www.sgmind.org.uk/

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