It always seems impossible until it’s done. – Nelson Mandela
While another World Mental Health Day has now been and gone, not to mention the sheer passion, motivation and hard work that comes with it, part of me wishes that every day of the year was a marked mental health day. That the immense spotlight and focus placed on mental health on the 10th of October every year could be stretched to the other 364 days too. The progress we are making in shifting negative attitudes and encouraging conversations around the topic is undoubted, but I’d love more than anything for people to share the same sentiments on ‘non-special occasions’. Not just when the media latches onto the debate, or when celebrities litter their social media platform with positive quotes and messages. I for one cannot praise enough the introduction of days such as Time to Talk Day, WMHD, MHAW etc for highlighting key issues and the importance around mental health discussion, however, we should be aware that conversations should not be restricted to certain days. As cliche or obvious that sounds!
On World Mental Health day itself, I was fortunate enough to be involved with an event alongside some of my North-West Time to Change Campaign Group, as well as our co-ordinator Florence and another staff member called Simon. The event, entitled ‘The Virtual Library’, was staged at The Foundation Coffee House in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. Running from 11am-2.30pm, the purpose of setting up shop in this venue was to promote WMHD, the activities of Time to Change, share our very ‘human library’ featuring recordings of people sharing their mental health stories, not to mention encourage a number of great conversations around the topic of mental health. In preparation for the event, I was also tasked with the job of producing our event poster, as well as my own recordings for the virtual library mentioned above. Based on a variety of mental health topics, such as stigma and personal experiences, my recordings lasted between roughly 40 and 70 seconds. Should you want to listen, these are attached below:
Although the success of the actual event was not as great as I’d hoped nor anticipated, simply because many of the customers were busy doing work and did not possess the time to have in-depth conversations, the fact that a good group of us joined together in this venue for a few hours on the day meant our presence was not unworthy. As I say conversations were limited, however even if people walking in and out of the coffee house acknowledge our presence, noticed our reasons for being there, or collected some of the brilliant Time to Change resources available, I have faith that we will still have made a substantial impact. It’s easy to expect too much or want an event to run smoothly and perfectly, nevertheless, I’m determined to improve this and take each activity as it comes. Some things go good, others go bad. That’s just part and parcel of the world we live in; especially with sensitive issues such as mental health. A small difference is better than no difference. Bit by bit we are making progress- this is what we need to remember!
Finally, if you’re reading this and perhaps are slightly unsure about how to approach a conversation related to mental health, my advice would be to keep it simple. The majority of us are not trained professionals with the skills to medically support somebody with a mental health problem, however, what most of us do have is the ability to listen and be empathetic. Do not judge. Whether it’s a work colleague, friend, family member, neighbour or even a stranger, it’s important not to forget that everybody has their own struggles. No matter who they are or what their background is. You don’t have to be an expert to lend a helping hand!
P.S If you’re any need of any useful further advice/help, check out my support page 🙂
#TimeToTalk #EndTheStigma #WMHD2019
Thanks for reading,