Mental Health Warrior, British Solider, TV Sensation: Natalya Platonova on Her Mental Health Journey
Natalya Platonova, a 32-year-old serving as a Royal Military Policewoman, is preparing to embark on a new career as a mental health nurse in September. Reflecting on her journey, she shares her thoughts on mental health, the importance of raising awareness, and her personal experiences.
Natalya explains that mental health nursing is a role she never anticipated. Having faced her own struggles with mental health, she found herself drawn to this career path: “In the military, they fund your degree, and after three years of study, you become a qualified mental health nurse,” she says. She would then serve in the British army, providing mental health nursing services in a Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) setting. Her role would involve acting as a liaison between various units, offering vital support.
Although mental health nursing has existed for decades, Natalya believes it is often overlooked and underappreciated. She served in the military for eight years without being aware of the profession and emphasises the need for more awareness, as many people may not realise that mental health nurses and support services are available within the military.
Addressing the stigma surrounding mental health in the military, Natalya acknowledges the expectation for military personnel to appear strong and resilient. “There is that stigma of asking for help because you think that you should be able to deal with it on your own. There are so many places and facilities that you can go to within the military. People don’t look for it necessarily and I think people don’t want to look for it,” she says.
However, she reveals that many individuals in the military struggle with mental health problems. Unfortunately, seeking help can be stigmatised, as some feel they should be able to cope on their own. Natalya highlights the importance of raising awareness and encouraging individuals to seek available support.
Natalya believes that, following the COVID-19 pandemic, people are gradually realising that it is acceptable to talk about their mental health. The conversation surrounding mental health is becoming more prominent and mainstream. However, she feels that there is still progress to be made in bringing mental health discussions to a wider audience.
Reflecting on her own experience, Natalya shares that after her participation in a reality TV show called "The Circle," she became very vocal about her mental health. However, constantly discussing it began to negatively affect her well-being, and she had to take a break from social media. She acknowledges that while social media can be a helpful platform for reaching out, it can also be overwhelming and exacerbate feelings of depression.
“Whilst it can be a helpful platform to reach out, personally, it made me feel very overwhelmed. I felt like I was drowning in my depression and I now use it a lot more carefully. I’d say I’m a little bit more detached than I used to be but if people want to message me then I’ll be there,” she says.
Regarding her upcoming role as a mental health nurse, Natalya explains that she plans to speak about mental health more openly. However, she also recognised the need to take a break from discussing it extensively, as she was in a dark place and found that people approaching her about it only magnified the problem in her mind. She describes the paradoxical nature of talking about depression, where excessive discussion can sometimes deepen negative emotions.
Natalya reveals that her most significant transformation occurred in January during a retreat where she learned mindfulness and meditation techniques. This experience provided her with a new perspective on the world and proved to be the most transformative aspect for her, surpassing any other therapy she had tried.
When feeling unwell, Natalya understands the difficulty of knowing where to turn for help. It can be a challenge to find the right support and resources when struggling with mental health issues.
After her time on "The Circle," Natalya says “I almost used it [her mental health] as an identity. It was depression and Nat, that was my identity. I didn’t want to get rid of it almost because who would I be without that label?”
She believes that she has always experienced mental health challenges but lacked the proper coping mechanisms to navigate them effectively. Participating in "The Circle" heightened her self-awareness and made her question her mental health, as public scrutiny and comments influenced her perception.
Looking back on her experience on "The Circle," Natalya cherishes it as a period of self-reflection and personal growth. It allowed her to delve inward and confront her mental health challenges.
Natalya expresses gratitude for the support she has received in the military. Contrary to her initial expectations, the military has been quite cathartic and supportive. There, she is not known as Nat from "The Circle" but simply as a soldier.
She is thankful for choosing to continue her military career rather than seeking further fame or recognition. Natalya believes that chasing external validation and constantly striving for more can prevent one from living in the present moment.
“I wasn’t happy with who I was. I was manifesting a different version of myself.”
Natalya acknowledges that she was dissatisfied with her former self and sought to manifest a different version of herself. However, she now realises the importance of accepting imperfections and embracing her human experience.
Although Natalya believes that few people truly live in the present moment and enjoy it, she emphasises the value of mindfulness. Despite misconceptions about mindfulness being "woo woo," she highlights the extensive therapeutic research behind it. Natalya encourages individuals to invest time and effort into practicing mindfulness as a way to find inner peace and reduce distraction and overwhelm in today's fast-paced world.