A conversation with Hannah Murray

5th December 2023
Hannah Murray sat at table talking to Hayley Cook

Hannah Murray is a mental health and mindset coach who’s career began after experiencing her own personal mental health struggles in her early 20s. She talks to Hayley Cook about her mental health journey and the advice she would give to others who might be struggling with their mental health.

Content warning – this video contains discussion about suicide.

So, Hannah, tell me a little bit about when you first realised that you were struggling with your mental health?

I think for me, the realisation wasn’t until probably into my twenties and maybe more so into my thirties in really understanding it, I definitely struggled through education with kind of confidence, not knowing who I was.

I’m definitely not an academic, I’m more of a creative person. And peer pressure and bullying and those types of things have a massive impact as you grow up in those years.

But I really didn’t understand my mental health and the crux of those issues until I gained support for myself and spent a long journey in self-development through my late twenties and thirties.

And that gave me kind of the understanding and awareness of what really were the problems and and I guess a bit of acceptance that I’m okay and I’m here where I am now and I can’t change those things. But there is it’s quite powerful to have that understanding and awareness.

Did you did you feel like you wanted to get support at any point or not?

I think it’s very different mental health services now to 20 odd years ago and I’m nearly 40. But I think back then I was very much affected by then, not wanting to be a disappointment and not wanting to feel like I was struggling or not accept that I was struggling because everyone else around me seemed to be fine.

I also didn’t want to kind of impact the family dynamic because my parents lived very busy lives, so I kind of went under the radar and didn’t really say anything, kept it to myself.

I definitely became a hermit and kind of isolated myself at home. It was like my safe environment.

On reflection, I really wish that I had been encouraged and supported to do that.

But I now know that I made the choices to not talk about it based on kind of feeling that I shouldn’t, which kind of led into more crisis as I went closer to my twenties.

Was there a point then where you felt like you wanted to reach out?

I think I always wanted to reach out.

I think when you recognise something in yourself that’s very different from other people, I was in a group of friends in school who were really confident, very happy, and I knew that there was something inside of me that was kind of more low and very depressed that I really wanted to say something, but would I get bullied for saying something? Would people understand?

I think I always wanted to say something. I just never had a voice. I just silenced myself.

Do you remember what it was that encouraged you to to reach out?

So I had an amazing best friend who would has supported me through that journey tenfold.

And I look back now and realise that she was encouraging me and realised that there was something wrong quite early on.

But unfortunately, my depression became so dark and very deep that I didn’t believe anything anyone told me.

My confidence was non-existent.

I didn’t feel like I wanted to be here.

And in fact, probably the darkest part of my depression, was that my depression manipulated my brain to know that I didn’t deserve to be here any more.

And that led me to unfortunately attempt to take my own life at 21.

I, at a very dark time, wrote letters to my whole family saying thank you for the time that I had had, and that I was grateful for so many things up to that point in my life. And I had lived a very privileged life, and I handed those letters to my best friend and walked to the woods.

And…I was fortunate that I had that person in my life at that time, who was able to raise the alarm, probably maybe should have done it earlier. But on reflection, she also didn’t know what to do.

And then I was able to access the crisis support that I needed through mental health services, who enabled me to understand that this was just a moment in my life, that it wasn’t my fault, that many things had contributed to those feelings and emotions and gave me the time and the safe environment to be able to process that.

How important was it to reach out and talk to someone?

I mean, it was life saving.

It was invaluable at a time where I could not be sat here today and a period of of that gratitude, a section of that gratitude goes to my friend for raising the alarm because it could be a completely different story.

I think when I look back now and obviously had conversations with my parents and family members who after that scenario recognised the signs, but I did very much go under the radar.

And I think the most important part of that section of my journey was the understanding that I should have said and I should have talked and I should have expressed how I was feeling more because ultimately talking saves lives.

Do you find that you do a lot more talking now?

Probably too much!

No, I think there’s power in conversation. This power in conversations like this, there’s power in the conversations that I have with the community, in the work that I do through the job that I do.

And it’s just really important that people feel confident and listen to conversations like this that might inspire or plant a seed of hope for that person to think, ‘actually, I do need to say something to someone’.

And how do you identify that safe person to speak to?

Your safe zone I suppose, it all comes down to safety, confidence and being comfortable to someone that you trust.

It doesn’t have to be someone close to you. It could be someone, an an employee, a colleague, it could be someone at the GP surgery. It could be somebody that you regularly see walking on the beach. It doesn’t have to be someone in your household.

The most important part of it is that you do.

What do you think that person can then say?

I think it’s reassurance that they’re there and that they’re listening and they’re not going to rush off because they’ve got somewhere else to be that they…just, they’re just there.

There’s probably more words to not say than what to say, but I just think it’s reassurance that the person is okay, that they’re safe, that just just talk, just open up, just tell me.

And it’s that open door, the opportunity that allows people to release something that’s probably weighing them down more than we realise at that time.

What do you do now to look after your mental health?

Oh, a wealth of weird and wonderful things, probably. I’m like I said, I’m not academic. I’m very creative. So kind of art and music and cooking and those types of stress relief is a real big part of my life.

I run a charity locally to offer support for mental health to our community, and that re-checks in with myself and as a professional, we need that. And it’s an opportunity for me to remember inside my brain the things that I’m supporting other people with and teaching other people.

I spend a lot of time with my family because the dynamics for our family are very different now, and I don’t feel like I’m going to be a disappointment. And there’s been a lot of growth there.

But I walk every day for miles at about 5:30, 6:00 in the morning. And on the days when I don’t do that, I notice the difference with my own mental health.

Finally, if there was one thing that you could say to somebody who might be struggling with their mental health, but they just don’t know what to do. What would you say?

Reach out.

There’s a wealth of anonymous services that you can contact where you don’t you don’t have to give your details.

But there is that person that’s willing to give you some time to talk.

Use the community hubs we have in our city in particular to kind of raise the alarm and say you’re struggling.

But the key point of this is to talk and know that you’re not alone.

Stories like mine, there are a wealth of them in our city, but those individuals have experienced what you’re feeling like and have come the other side of the coin and are now on a journey of self development to improve their mental health.

But nothing changes if nothing changes and you really have to understand that you are the only person that can make that first step into positive change.