This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week, a week were people recognise mental health issues and hold events/ share their stories in order to raise awareness, however why should this be once or twice a year? Mental health is just as important as physical health but the stigma around having a mental health condition is everywhere and it can destroy lives of those who do suffer.
This week DYHC. Just Straight Talk and Fixers celebrated Mental Health Awareness week with the launch of my postcard packs and film! For those who don’t know, I dragged Faye (DYHC project coordinator) along to an arts exhibition at school where my artwork was on display and she decided I needed to do something with my art and therefore decided I should make a set of postcards. With mental health being a subject close to my heart because of my own experiences, I thought it would be a good idea to use my artwork as a way of portraying different emotions and feelings. About a week and a lot of paint later I had 11 different designs in-front of me each representing different emotions, all with narratives on the back explaining the emotion portrayed, with a positive quote at the bottom. I have also created a card with distraction techniques on, a card about how to cope with flashbacks and disassociation, and the final card is a list of useful helplines and websites.
Some organisations including Just Straight Talk and The Princes Trust had the chance to trial the packs before the launch so they could share their experience using them on the day. Tuesday 15th May 2018 was the day and 79 people from organisations and services across Dudley attended!
Here’s a run down of what went on during the evening:
To open the night, we had general housekeeping and warm welcomes from Jayne (Chief Officer at HealthWatch Dudley) before DYHC Aaliyah performed one of her original songs around mental health and becoming a better person. We then had Debs Harkins (Director of Public Health) who gave us a brief run down of the project and what work she does with young people and we heard more about the DYHC project and the different types of individual projects that are going on from Faye (DYHC project coordinator). She also talked about my experience and parts of my story, and introduced Blank Canvas. DYHC Demi kindly read out my speech after this as at this point- anxiety was ruining me however I got through it!
Cllr Dave Tyler aka the Mayor of Dudley spoke about what mental health means to him and why he chose Dudley Mind as one of his charities and recognised another inspirational man within the audience (exboozehound) who then mentioned how we both work togther. Wes from Fixers then took to the stage to speak about Fixers and then introduced my film which everyone had to hold their tears in to! Mission accomplished! We then had another song from Aaliyah before table activities were a go ahead- these were to capture peoples thoughts and ideas but to also allow people to make a ‘pledge’ to use the cards and put in their order for packs. We then heard feedback from each table and lets just say- I was overwhelmed with all of the kindness from everyone!
To close the event, we had a performance from another young person- Alice who plays the ukulele and sang some beautiful cover songs.
During the evening we also had Eileen and Helena from Dudley CVS interviewing people about the packs to create a podcast and Dudley Rocks UK joined us for some fun ways of connecting people.
I never thought I’d come this far in my journey, I’ve had struggles and relapses, and truthfully I wouldn’t have made it this far without the help of those who attended who’ve supported me and nudged me when I wanted to give up. But also the strength I have found within myself has meant I can focus on helping other people whilst helping myself and that’s what matters. If someone told me at the start of the year that I would have my own set of postcards, a film and a room full of people who have come to see my work I would probably have laughed in your face with disbelief. But now that’s just what happened and I’m forever grateful to everyone for supporting my project and showing interest in my work. We all know mental health is becoming more of a problem within young people, which is the reason I put this pack together. It’s about time we all came together and helped end the stigma around mental health issues as well as recognising the issues around support and services for those struggling and make a change.
Thank you again to everyone who came on the 15th, thank you again to those who have supported me in my darkest times, but also to those who have supported me in my better times because without you all, this pack wouldn’t have happened, let alone reached such big audiences.
Not only did the launch happen, but on the following day- Wednesday 16th, Just Straight Talk held an event to recognise mental health and raise awareness, there we had performances, a story teller, work from a photographer, beautiful saris and my packs and artwork were displayed. Everyone that walked through the door have or are currently experiencing poor mental health or even been given a diagnosis and for that reason makes the events more realistic because people have their experiences and are able to share if they feel comfortable enough doing so. For more information about Just Straight Talk and their amazing team, go to their website below. If its supporting other organisations with raising awareness, or holding events yourselves, get involved, do something and help make life easier for those battling their demons, because every one of us will be affected by a mental health condition at some point in our lives.