When giving becomes too much

(This blog is about mental health and putting yourself first. If you are worried about yourself or a friend I urge you to reach out and get professional help, through a hotline, a counsellor, an adult you trust, your doctor etc. I hope you enjoy this blog.)

We often emphasise the importance of checking on our friends, checking on our family, starting conversations and being “available to talk to for anyone who is struggling”, and to people who can do this effortlessly, I admire you endlessly. I in no way want to demean how incredibly helpful and important people who take this task upon their shoulders are, but I want to talk about something that we always seem to forget:

Ourselves.

It is so difficult to not feel an incredible amount of guilt if we have to take a step back from helping or being there for our loved ones but it can be damaging to your mental health to give everything you have to others, always being there for everybody but yourself. There is no way to give and give and give if you’re mental health is deteriorating yourself. In my experience, I am ashamed to say, I can become snappy and impatient when my mental health is poor and if I give everything I have to push that to the side to be there for others, I often find myself sacrificing my own wellbeing in order to improve other people’s. You can be the most helpful and loving to everyone else once you have worked on yourself and your recovery first.

I also find ourselves sometimes using other people’s problems to distract us from our own. I often try to forget about my anxiety and help others when in fact it actually perpetuates and heightens my mental health problems. So look in the mirror (metaphorically but maybe physically as well) and ask yourself if you’re mental health is where you want it to be before you try to help others. You also have to remember that if someone reaches out with a problem you can’t cope with or that you get very overwhelmed by, you do not have to deal with it alone. Talk to that person about who they would like you to pass the problem on to, be it a teacher, a trusted adult, a family member, a manager at work who can direct them to mental health support or a school counsellor. They will understand that their problem may be too much to deal with and if you are very concerned the best thing you can do for them is to direct them to someone in a position to help them, and I promise it is okay if it is not you. I want to remind you that it is never your fault if someone is suffering with their mental health and you cannot carry the weight of everyone’s problems around on your shoulders everyday because that will inevitably cause you more pain. 

I am in awe of every single person who’s job it is to bear the weight of other people’s problems but that’s exactly why I am saying this. Many people are trained to deal with serious issues surrounding mental health and if it is not healthy for you to do this then you are not obligated to. I would still encourage people to reach out to your friends. Start conversations. Help boost each other and support each other. Make sure your friendships are two-way relationships and you can receive the same amount as you give. I understand how hard it is to take a step back when things are hard, to unfollow unhelpful instagram pages, to stop a friend from talking when it all gets too much in your brain and to take some time to intentionally start or make progress on the journey of your recovery; however it could do you the world of good and ensure you can be a better friend and be a part of a bigger support system for friends in the future. A good support system is built of many people, I would advise you to not try and be a whole support system by yourself. 


“You can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first.”

,Lucy x (I have not blogged on here in forever but I am writing a lot more now)

Life is for living.

It’s a common thing in the recovery community to not feel “ill enough”. As if we need some sort of validation to be struggling. As if your struggles are suddenly worth less because you haven’t done x y or z. It’s a common misconception, that you need to be the “illest” to get help.


You don’t.


I have known functioning people who have been at rock bottom, and I’ve known people who aren’t physically seen to be functioning at all. I have seen people dangerously underweight and those at a healthy weight struggle with the same plaguing thoughts and the same dangerous side effects of there illness.


What I guess I am trying to say, is if you are struggling, you are struggling. That’s it. You are just as worthy of love and help as anyone. We are all as worthy of love and help as each other. There is no sickest or iller, there is only people. And each and every person deserves to feel okay. Each and every person deserves to know there worth. That they are loved. They are cared for. And if they are struggling, that they are so worthy of recovery.


So if you watching those around you falling apart and staying quiet because you aren’t “as bad”, speak up. You deserve to. You are worthy. And people do care.


You got this.

Finding the positive...

Recently I have been looking through the pictures on my laptop and phone in order to sort them all out. I came across some from my room in the flat this time last year. To be more precise my room covered in post it notes, and it instantly brought a smile to my face. I looked through the photos remembering the time that Lucy, started covering my wardrobe and mirror in positive quotes and sayings.

It started with just the wardrobe and mirror, and little messages from Lucy and quickly spread. My friends would come over and after they had left I would find a post it note with a positive message hidden somewhere in my bedroom. They never failed to make me smile.

I guess what it made me think about is the well known and shared quote:

 

“Enjoy the little things for one day, you may look back and realise they were the big things.”


So recently I have been on Twitter and Instagram trying to share 3 positives or good things of the day and encouraging others to do the same. Like the quotes on my walls reflecting on the positives helps ground myself when it has been a hard day, and reading others generally makes me smile.

Thinking about 3 things, no matter how small help you to remember that despite what is going on in your life, there is always something there. Whether it is as simple as getting out of bed, petting a dog or something as big as going on holiday.

It also acts of a nice reminder of what matters to you as a person, I have found that my positives are often around a moment spent with a friend or a family member. Most often doing something simple, nothing completely out there, but the time has made me smile and therefore served as a positive memory. Something that isn't always remembered, that often the best memories don't require a lot of money, going somewhere fancy or anything like that, they just require spending time with people that make you happy.

Depending on the day you have had finding 3 positives can be a struggle, and there are some days when I have had no idea what to write. However, using time to sit there and think about it makes me realise that even in the most rubbish of days, there is usually something good. Its important to remember that that is completely ok, life is full of its ups and downs.

Its also so important to remember if recovering from mental health. I often watch people give themselves a hard time because they are struggling and nothing is going right, or they feel like they are going backwards in recovery. But it is so important to remember that this is just part of recovery. Each times you do something, no matter what size, that makes you happy or is simply for you, you can feel a little stronger.

The little things in life, actually are the big things, and its so important to remember them, reflect on them and be proud of them.

So, today, I ask you, tell me 3 positives of your day?

The end of a chapter...

If you had told me I would make it, i would have laughed.

Dropping out of uni 2 weeks in came as both a shock and a punch in the face. A message to myself that maybe I couldn’t do everything I thought I could, and whilst I tried to be weirdly positive about it (read:https://www.youthmentalhealthmatters.net/laurenandlucy/2016/10/10/university-its-okay-to-not-be-okay) it was one of them 1 step forward 10 steps back kind of moment.

Yet, here I am 6 weeks off finishing a degree.

Wow.

And whilst it has been a journey of ups and downs, the past 3 years of my life have taught me a lot. A lot more than I can write in a blog and share, but here are just a few.

Firstly, I have learnt that being a uni student is both all it is lived up to be, but also is not. That sometimes you can feel like university is the time of your life, but also that some days it really really isn’t. And thats all okay.  That lecturers aren’t dissimilar to teachers, there will be some that you love, others that you can’t stand and some that are just mean. You will write essay after essay, and sit through seminar after seminar, and really its just like being at school, except you are in debt for being there and probably horribly hungover.

That like school, there will those times when you feel like you are buried under work, yet have no motivation at all to complete it, and suddenly you wish you had listened a little more in those using mindfulness lessons that you were forced into in year 10. Remember the ones that claimed to help you know how to deal with exam stress? Yeah, that “how to deal with stress thing”, still working on that.

Ive learnt about friendship, and the importance of it. Of having friends of every kind in every place you go. That making friends at uni doesn’t mean that you will lose your old ones. Those that are destined to stay will, and if they do, grasp them with both hands. Joining late to uni, making friends was something I fell behind with, yet now when I am so close to leaving, I suddenly find myself within a group of lovely, funny and caring people. And I realise how much easier the past years would have been to have them. For the lectures where i wanted to fall asleep, and the seminars that I felt like I was being spoken to in Chinese. Friends, whether from university, school, sports or elsewhere really will be your backbone in those hard times life throws.

And I’ve realised the importance of hobbies, and there place in your life. From sport to music and everything in between. The need for something constant and the family of supporters that it brings. I can safely say that both my friends at rowing and choir have made the past 3 years 10x easier. Whether its the hugs and the singing on a Wednesday evening with Bee Vocal or the coaching the kids at rowing, hobbies are those things that remind you that university isn’t everything. That outside of that lecture hall or seminar room you are also succeeding, or dancing and prating around with Georgie. That you are far more than a grade, you are a whole collection of things.

And finally about self belief. When I dropped out of uni, I lost a lot of confidence in me. Confidence in “the girl who always smiles even on a bad day”. I wasn’t someone who gave up, I was the one who pushed on through. Yet looking back, I wouldn’t have changed what I did for the world. I have learnt that its okay to be a little fragile, to show the world your cracks , for everyone has them, its what makes us human.

What Im really trying to say, is next time someone tells you “You can do it”, remind yourself that its okay if you can’t. Because it isn’t a can’t, more a can’t in that way or can’t yet. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be able to, when really its okay to not.

But no matter what you believe, one day you will, and believe me, it will be worth it.

 

-Lauren x 

'I weigh'

There are so many campaigns floating around on social media at the moment about mental health. From sport and celebrities speaking out to petitions and letters to the government it really does seem like there is a lot going on to try and improve and change the way the world deals with mental health. Our voices are getting louder and it is slowly becoming easier to speak about mental health. 

In this blog, I wanted to talk about the ‘I weigh' campaign on Instagram. Highlighted to me by one of my friends I went on to explore this social media campaign and loved what I found and wanted to share it with you. 

The ‘I Weigh’ campaign was started by Jameela Jamil.  Its purpose is to remind us to feel valuable and show us that we are much more than the flesh on our body and our weight. Its a page aimed at helping women fight back against societies expectations and to help them take pride in their life beyond their exterior. To remind us that the number on the scale, is simply just that, a number and that we are far beyond that. The campaign has over 350 thousand followers and support from a number of big names, press and more. 

The idea of the page is for you to share what you weigh. And when I say that I don’t mean a number, I mean what makes you you. The campaign is so simple, yet so effective. It is empowering, challenging societal norms and something that really gets you thinking.

So whilst yes, it is sometimes difficult to look beyond the outside or even praise yourself at all, I challenge you to have a go. As someone who can’t take compliments well i understand the difficulty, but give it a try. 

Show yourself, and the rest of the world, what you are made off because I am sure it is incredible. 

I went to ask the members of Youth Mental Health Matters what they ‘weigh’ and these are the amazing things these brilliant individuals shared: 

What do you weigh?

- Lauren x

My choir- Bee Vocal🐝

My choir, am I allowed to call it that?

As you may have seen I’ve written about in previous blog posts, I am part of an amazing group of people, who together form Manchester Mental Health Choir- Bee Vocal.

We came together thanks to musical director Dan and charity Triple C. (Apparently over a glass of gin but that’s another story) And since then have grown more than ever imagined.

Following my first meeting with the choir I wrote a piece on here about my experience, that was back in march last year, and now I’m back to tell you more.

To tell you how this group of people has had a profound impact on my life. A group of people who I have known less than a year but yet every Wednesday manage to cheer me up and put a smile on my face no matter what else is going on.

Wednesday night is my time for me. A time where I sit on the back row (with the cool kids) laugh, smile, occasionally cry and sing. And it is perfect.

The choir is aimed at those struggling with mental health, or support someone who is. There’s so many stories floating around. So many people willing to listen. People willing to care. And the best hugs going.

There are people at the choir who make me laugh, no mater how down I feel. Those who know exactly the right thing to say. And those who know when you just need a hug. And for that I am forever grateful and thankful.

The choir is simply a light in my life. And the people there, each bring there own glow.

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Yes, I am a girl.

Definition of girl: a female child.

Growing up over the years, I like many other girls have had the comment “But your just a girl” thrown at me in all sorts of scenarios. 

Playing a sport. 

Climbing a tree. 

Lifting something heavy. 

You understand where I am going…

The term girl has become almost a derogatory term used to describe a person when they do something that isn't stereotypically them. For example in this instance, play football, get muddy, liking science. 

Growing up in an all girls school, luckily for me this term wasn't something that I heard very often. If I wanted to play football, I could play football. If I wanted to be a scientist, well there was no reason I couldn't be. And for this I am very grateful. This however, didn’t mean that I wasn't told these things in the outside world. 

Sadly across the world, the gender of a person is holding them back. 

Education. 

Underaged and forced marriage.

Period poverty. 

Street Harassment. 

And much more.

All problems, faced by girls across the world. In numbers you wouldn't believe: 


41,000 girls are forced into marriage every day. 


70,000 girls die in labour every year because there bodies aren't ready for childbirth.

15 million girls will never have the opportunity to learn to read and write in primary school. 

Two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world are female.

In the UK, one-in-ten girls have been unable to afford sanitary wear.

66 per cent of girls in the UK have experienced unwanted sexual attention or unwanted sexual or physical contact in a public place.


*all stats can be found on the Plan UK website*


These numbers are shocking, but what is important to remember that behind every statistic is a human being, a person struggling with this problem. Whilst some of these issues are going to take time, resources and a lot of education to fix there are things that we can begin to do right here and now. 

Start something.

Look up your local Red Box project  or similar scheme near you. These schemes work at tackling period poverty by providing those struggling with the cost of sanitary products. 

Donate to them, or even set up a similar scheme in your own school or work place. It isn't difficult, get a small box or basket in the bathrooms, and ask people to donate sanitary products to it. 

http://redboxproject.org/about/

Campaign. 

Recently I joined Plan International UK as a member of the youth advisory panel. I had my first meeting over the weekend, and met the other amazing young people that I will be working with bringing problems like those I have spoken about and more. Over the next year we will be working on campaigns on these areas, bringing to light the problems that girls across the world face, and campaigning for change. You too can campaign for change there are many organisations like plan that you can get involved with, or you and some friends could even set up something in school or a local youth group. Have a google at some organisations for inspiration.

Educate. 

Whilst you cannot change the world around you over night, every little step in the right direction makes a change. Perhaps you could ask to run an assembly, start up a conversation or even just share a tweet sharing these issues with the world. Every little bit of education you can give, share or take in will help make a difference to change attitudes and behaviours of those around you. 

And next time someone tells you “But your just a girl” 

Take pride in telling them “ Yes, I am girl.” 

Because, girls, you should never be afraid of being who you are.

More than a diagnosis...

I recently lost a friend to mental health. I knew of her struggles but I also knew of her. She was the girl who made amazing cakes. Was incredible at craft. Sang. Danced. She was the one who always had the right words no matter the situation. And the one who’s smile well and truly lit up the room.

She was a fighter, despite her struggles she was there no matter what.

She will be missed from mine, and others life’s greatly and I can only hope she found the peace and happiness that she deserved.

A poem for Faye, my friend with the brightest smile in the room.

Faye:

Because of you I will sing a little louder

With a little more meaning in the words

I will fight a little harder

So that all our voices will be heard.


You wanted to make a difference

You wanted to make a change,

Despite all your pain,

You wanted take others pain away.


My head can’t seem to believe that your gone

But I know your fighting spirit,

Your determination and your voice

Will live on.


It will live on in all of us

In the work that you did

In the memories you made, the stories you told

And in the love that you gave.

-Lauren 💛

What next??

Recently I’ve been stressing a little (or a lot) over what to do when I finish uni. Do I do a masters, do I chose a career, an internship, a grad job? There’s so many options, so many decisions.

If you read my previous blog, you might have seen I even got offered a scholarship to a grad degree in America and a fast track to a masters over here. But truthfully, I don’t think I can hack another year of education right now.

And I’m kinda disappointed in myself for that because THE OPPORTUNITY but I know that something else will come up and that sometimes it’s ok to say no. People may think I’m crazy, but more education isn’t what’s right for me right now. And I think that’s ok?

The ultimate goal is to be happy, to follow a career in something I enjoy and want to do. And right now, I’m not sure what that is. So I’m going to take some time, to figure that out before jumping into something.

It feels like only yesterday I finished my GCSES, then a-levels, then went to uni, then dropped out of uni, then went back again...it’s been a whirlwind of learning and growing both in education and myself.

So some time to process it might be needed. And whilst I know this might disappoint some people around me, I know that they ultimately want me to happy and this is me figuring that out.

I’ve decided firstly, to go back camp this summer. It was a place where I learnt a lot about myself, had a lot of fun, and met some amazing people and I’m very ready to see them all again. Some time in the forest is also the perfect opportunity to have a think about the future. I’m so excited at the prospect of being back somewhere that I miss so much.

(big thanks to Steve for reassuring me)

And the plan after that, to try and get a job or internship for 6 months. Some experience in something I would like to do, but nothing too long term...and then after that. The exciting part.

TRAVEL

Since camp and summer, I seem to have caught the travel bug. And whilst I’m not “tied down” seems the perfect opportunity to do this. The list is long, far to long for the time and money I’ll have but I hope to adventure a little around the world. Hopefully, should the plan go ahead with Jessie by my side.

It feels weird, and a little scary to have made a decision. Once again, I’m filled with anxiety about disappointing someone. But my parents and friends say they just want me to be happy and I think, that a more chilled year, with lots in it for me, will be just what I need.

Like one of my previous rowing coaches once wisely said:


“You’ve got to make it work. Your at a junction. You cannot go back. Pick a path and stick to it. If needed you can start again. There’s no right or wrong, just a path or direction to choose.”

 

So if like me, there’s many paths and decisions coming up in your life. That’s ok. Remember, choices are just choices. And whichever you make, it can and will work.

But for now, I’m busy drowning in university work, charity work and rowing. The way, that only I would be.

- L x  

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Stop being so hard on yourself

The past few months since Ive come back from camp, the feeling that Im not doing life the right way seems to have snuck back in. For some reason watching everyone enjoying university, has again led me to believe that I am not doing something ‘right’. 

Im not sure if its the fact that I am back living at home, which actually has a lot more positives so I don't think its that, or the fact that I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Does anyone though? But I am feeling a little stuck in the past, like | am watching everyone around me grow up and become an adult, whilst I am still very much not ready for that, thank you very much! 

What I guess I am saying is that, once again the not doing things the ‘conventional way’ has got to me a little. And I don't want it too, because different doesn't mean wrong and so, like most things that get stuck in my head, I thought blogging it out..would help. At least a little. 

I re-read my post, ‘University: It’s ok to not be ok” ( https://www.youthmentalhealthmatters.net/laurenandlucy/2016/10/10/university-its-okay-to-not-be-okay) and the words in that reminded me of 1. how far I have come and 2. that its ok to do things a little different. 

So here’s a list of positive things that have happened in my life recently, and yes they aren't ‘conventional’ but there things that I should be proud of: 

  1. An offer of a rowing scholarship to study in a American university.
    Anyone who has ever seen me row is probably laughing a little, but this offer reminded me that Im not actually that bad at rowing, I just row at a rowing club where everyone is far above average. So, if i was advising someone that wasn't me in this situation, I would tell them to stop comparing themselves.

  2. The charity growing leaps and bounds.
    The charity that I started. Something that is helping people, is becoming so well known I on average have 6 meetings a week, plus over 100 emails, and all this interest is leading to grants and funding and EXCITING things. Including BBC and ITV coverage. So yes, lauren, you are allowed to be proud.

  3. An offer to go back to camp.
    A contract to go back and spend summer with the incredible people I met and meet new ones, in a beautiful corner of the world. A place which although difficult at times, I made many happy memories.

  4. A space on fast-track route should I want to study a post-graduate at manchester.
    An email I got today, that even my parents don't know about yet (although maybe they do now?) to continue studying IF thats what I decide to do. 

  5. I got asked to maybe contribute writing a book. A book on surviving and thriving at secondary school. I love writing, especially to help others and I have been told I can do it.(Thanks Jess)But I’ve never quite believed it, but this is a good way to start believing.

So, although I may not be living in a student house, making lots of student friends or making decisions about my life. Lots is still going on. 

I have incredible family members, and friends from all sorts of places. Rowing, choir, old school friends, and yes this might be a little different to those I grew up with but that is nothing to be ashamed of.

I guess, what I wanted this blog to say was this:

If you are going through a time, where nothing seems to be going right or you don't know if your on the right path, don't worry. If you can’t make a choice about what to do next, or you feel a little stuck. Thats perfectly ok… 

Opportunities pop up when you least expect them, and even then you don’t have to say YES to everything. ( blog post-https://www.youthmentalhealthmatters.net/laurenandlucy/2017/5/21/learning-to-say-no) and it is also especially important to remember that whatever is going on in life right now. You are not a failure. 

Queue Lucy’s blog -https://www.youthmentalhealthmatters.net/laurenandlucy/2017/3/21/why-im-not-a-failure

So with the help of my friends, my family, my rowing coach, my own blog posts and Lucys’…I have come to the realisation. That I need to stop being so hard on myself. And maybe, this is a good place to begin.


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A plea to the professionals telling me there is no money to spend to improve mental health.

‘There’s limited budget.” “We’ve run out of funding.” We've got to make cuts.” 

I am tired of hearing these words. Tired of hearing that money is the solution to the crisis. Tired of hearing that funding is a barrier. 

Call me naive, call me young but young people who are struggle aren't asking for life changing sums. We aren't asking for million pound run services with swanky waiting rooms and top notch technology. We quite frankly couldn't care less about that. I am exhausted of shouting from the roof tops that someone just needs to listen. That we want a voice. That we need a voice. That we deserve a voice. 

Take off your finance head. Your job head if you have to. And put back on the one that has a son or a daughter, or a nephew or a niece, even a friend. Think of them struggling with there mental health. Think of them being told that things are going to improve. But seeing little improvement. And again try and tell me that there is nothing we can do. 

Yes, our world seems to be obsessed by money. The ideology that money can fix our problems. Climate Change? Pump some money into the funding and we can claim its getting better. Transport? Lets just give train companies a slight rise? But, this is me begging you to listen that so much can be done without money. Theres no denying that it can help. Because yes people need paying. Things cost money. But there are things that cost nothing. Nothing but time and a listening ear.

Since the age of 11 I have campaigned and fought for a voice. In particularly in mental health services. I couldn't possibly count up the hours of my life I have put into making a difference. The hours of my time that I could have been sleeping, partying or maybe even studying a bit harder. (sorry mum and dad) But I haven’t. I have attended meetings, campaigns, conferences. I have sat there in my dungarees and demanded to be listened to. Demanded that we think outside the box. Look at those volunteering around us and utilise there work. 

To me, charities are incredible. Charities are where the world is changed. Because charities look at the person not the cost. Charities have people like myself who volunteer there time because they are that passionate about making a change. And yes we need funding. But watch us spread our funding thinly and create change. Because we do. Every single day. 

Im not one to blow my own trumpet but I am going to give you an example. 

My charity Youth Mental Health Matters recently ran a conference. We brought together over 100 people, over 10 organisations and so many voices. And you want to know how much that cost us? Under £300. 

We brought together struggling teachers who together came up with solutions. We brought together young people from across greater manchester who creatively came up with ideas to help them. There voices came together, they told us what they needed. And now we are responding. 

Responding with projects; sports and creative arts, with resources; assemblies, lesson plans, wellbeing ambassadors. We are a small group. With very limited money. But with a huge passion. And it is that passion that is driving the change. 

And yes, we aren't fixing the mental health crisis. But we are helping young people feel less alone. Helping schools use what they already have in a young person friendly way. We are helping young people feel hope. Hope that there are people out there, fighting alongside them.

Not one person who works in the charity is paid. Not one young person has come to a meeting and expected anything but the opportunity to have a voice. Having a voice. Costs nothing. Listening to that voice. Cost time. And responding to that voice. Can be simple. 

And now, I am begging with you to stop using funding as a barricade. To use the young people willing to speak, listen, give time and make a change. To listen to our ideas, our sometimes crazy plans and think about what you can do.

Because we as young people, as people, really can do wonderful things.

Continuing the Conversation...

A write up on the Youth Mental Health Matters Event that took place on the 5th October 2018, by one of the wonderful young members of the team, Jessie Leigh.

Schools and provisions from across Trafford came together, all with one aim in common, to talk about how Youth Mental Health Matters. To say the day was a success is very much an understatement, it was incredible! From starting off the day with “Human Bingo,” which allowed young people to overcome those first nervous barriers and get to know the people around them better. And with the prize of a tangler there was not much that could go wrong!

The day began with a morning of three sessions, with the young people and adults split into sessions tailored to them. The young people workshops gave an insightful look into mental wellbeing on a personal and social level. We worked with Gorse Hill Studios to create “mental health” emojis, which were emojis that communicated emotions such as anxiety. These emojis will hopefully be used by Gorse Hill in a new project to help young people communicate what they are feeling without the use of words. This is just one example of one of the incredible workshops that were run through the day.

After a lunch of pizza which was a success, and the fruit maybe not so much! The afternoon was also full of engaging workshops. Including a workshop, ran in conjuction with Youth Focus NW, in which young people learnt what they can do on a community level how to change something. Whether it be running a campaign on mental health stigma or teaching their community about mental wellbeing. Learning that the more voices shouting that Youth Mental Health Matters, the more powerful it will be!

The day ended with an inspirational speech by Anna Jackson, an incredible person who shared her story about how she turned her life around and is now coaching wheelchair basketball and proving that you really can achieve anything in your life, no matter your barriers. 

Hopefully here is to many more years of creating awareness around youth mental health, and the small actions we take as a society can create a huge impact. Lauren really has sent the message to hundreds of young people across Manchester not to be ashamed of your story because it will inspire others. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more honesty, more courage and more unashamed conversation, Youth Mental Health Matters are slowly making this happen.

“You are not broken, you are breaking through”

A summer at camp, a lifetime of memories.

On the 11th June I started a journey that to be quite honest terrified me. Camp was something I had always wanted to do, but being away from home and everyone I knew for 9 weeks wasn’t as appealing. Yet here I was at Heathrow sat with 3 girls I had met just moments earlier about to board a plane to spend 9 weeks in the woods at an all girls camp in New Hampshire. 

What I knew getting on this plane was that I would be homesick. That was in inevitable. I would have fun. Also inevitable. And that I would make some incredible memories. What I hadn't quite realised was how much camp would impact me and teach me along the way. 

The first 2 weeks were staff training, and I'm not going to lie they were hard. The woods was a new environment, the people were new, the food was new, the time difference was new and the beds were new. And yes, I did get homesick. But I also had some moments that were the reasons that in that first week I stayed, because yes there was a day I wished I could go home. The first week was different and new, the second became homely and exciting. I found myself people I clicked with, could laugh with and cry with. These new people started to become friends, and the woods a second home. 

And then the children arrived. Placed in a cabin with the juniors and someone I already felt as comfortable as friends I had known for years I was excited. And I was right to be. The kids were loving, kind and caring. It was tiring but rewarding and my co-counsellor was a dream. Someone I clicked with instantly and hope to stay friends with for a long time. Teaching rowing seemed easy, the girls keen to learn and me keen to be surrounded by what I knew and loved. Being on the crew dock with Hannah, my new found crew friend, didn’t feel like work at all. And when i watched two girls who had never rowed before seamlessly row across the lake in a double, I felt an incredible sense of pride.

As I got into a routine, camp became more like home and my co workers became friends and family. They were there experiencing the same things, going through the same emotions and it was an incredibly supportive and loving environment that I already miss a lot. Each and every single one of the members of staff there became a friend, some became best friends.There were days off full of singing on the coach, catching up with the co workers who I now saw less and visiting different states. I strengthened friendships, worked on my tan and smiled a lot. The time flew by each day the kids making me smile in their own individual ways and the bags under my eyes growing bigger- yet it didn’t matter because I was so happy. We spent days in the water, on the field, playing games in the ark. Mealtimes were loud, a little crazy but full of singing and laughing. And night times became flashlight time and story telling. Camp became a world away from home, but now it wasn't as scary because I felt at home too. 

Thats not to say there weren't hard days. There were plenty of them. Days where being in charge of so many children left you so exhausted you could only cry. Days where the tan was instead sunburn and heat stroke was all to real. I think I cried more than I have ever cried in front of people. But that was ok because 10 minutes later one of the kids would make you smile with a comment or a joke. And of course there were the bug bites. That spread to a rash that covered my face and legs. But hey, at least the doctors had wifi and Hannah the nurse became an incredible friend! Silver linings. 

What I am trying to say was that whilst camp was a place to escape life, it became just like life. Full of smiles and tears, and inspirational people. There were amazing memories: seeing a shooting star, watching fireworks, watching the girls row, story time with my 7 year olds, days off, climbing mountains, ice-cream trips and so many more. There were the hours that made the day easier, mainly those spent on the boat teaching ski with Kaitlyn, and there were moments I never want to forget- a list of which I began to save on my phone. I learnt a lot, how to make a friendship bracelet, how to go a few days without a warm shower, and how to braid 6 girls hair in 10 minutes. I also found resilience in myself, and patience. It was a whole great learning curve in a jam packed 9 weeks of fun and friendships. 

My summer at camp came to end all too soon and a large part of me wishes I could go back there straight away. The friends I made with the staff and the campers I already miss, and I cant wait to reunite with some of them soon. My time at camp showed me that surrounding yourself with the right people is the best way to find the right you. And I can only thank every single person I met along the way. 

*A special thanks to the leadership team, firstly for there belief in me, and also there support over the summer. And to Hannah E, Hannah G, Emily C, Kaitlyn, Helen, Evie, Niamh, Cailigh Shiv and May, for making me smile and laugh as well as putting up with my tears when the bumps in the road came. I can’t wait to see you all again soon.*

 

Youth Mental Health Matters is 1 today!

Its crazy to think that just over a year ago, YMHM was born. Expanded from work I had already started on Mental Healths Schools Network the charity wanted to take that and go further into the world of helping young people. Since then I think it is fair to say that we have made leaps and bounds. Our team of 4 expanded to a group of 20, young people and adults alike all with the same passion- to make a change. 

In our first year we wanted to make an impact, show the world that although we were young, we had a voice and we were going to fight for that to be heard. What we didn’t quite expect was the crazy journey that was to follow. We have since been linked up with some huge charities in the world of mental health, worked with Manchester’s mayor, been involved in decision making on a Greater Manchester level and most importantly reached out to hundreds, maybe thousands of young people not just in Manchester but across the UK. We have ran our own event, run days in schools, attended many meetings, spoken at conferences, helped schools set up groups of young people to have a voice and so much more. The past year has been crazily busy and we can only hope this continues. 

The support we have received whilst doing this has been unimaginable, there have been many a time when we have turned up to meetings we have been invited to, to a shocked face at the fact that we are young people. I can’t count the number of times people have asked how we possibly fit all the work we do in whilst battling with university, school and other teenage life battles. But we do. Because we are so passionate about making this work. 

For me the charity is all about helping young people, and as I often say if it gives just one young person a better experience in Mental Health care, helps one friend feel more educated about her best friends illness, or helps one family find support for there child, it is more than worth it. 

As the first year of being established comes to an end, it is important that we look back and realise how much we have done. With little funding but strong voices, we have come a long way. But we are also excited about what is to come. In the next 6 months we have 2 more events planned, we have more meetings to attend, we will be opening our applications for new team members, we will be sharing our newly created education resources and also working with more schools across Greater Manchester. Whilst we are celebrating the past year, we are working hard on ensuring that year 2 is even bigger and better. 

We as a team wanted to thank everyone for all the support and help we have received. The number of people who have made this journey so much easier whether that is through donations, through messaging us to tell us what an impact we are having, or by cheering us on in many different ways. We are so thankful for that. 

So lets continue with this crazy journey and keep shouting to the world that ‘Youth Mental Health Matters!”

If you would like to make a donation to help our team continue the great work we are doing please follow this link: 

https://www.gofundme.com/youth-mental-health-matters-charity

Website link: www.youthmentalhealthmatters.net

Twitter/Facebook/Instagram: @youthMHmatters

 

Some quotes from some of our team: 

“I think this charity opens up so many doors for young people and I’m grateful for being apart of this charity to raise awareness on such an important matter”. Meera Saravanan

“I believe that inadequate mental health support is one of the greatest issues facing young people today, and this charity is doing a vital service in bringing youth mental health to the forefront”. Jade Calder

“Mental health is something which affects 1 in 4, it can be incredibly taboo and under funded across the UK. I am beyond excited to work for this wonderful charity and I believe we can always be doing more for the greater good.” Anna Parker

"Sing the song you were born to sing"

Manchester Mental Health Choir

On the 14th March at 6:30pm I set off ready to attend my first meeting with the newly formed Manchester Mental Health Choir. I was excited, but nervous, but the excitement of meeting a group of people with the same passion as myself took over. 

The choir was set up by Triple C, a collective of creative individuals who want to make a change in the access of the arts for the next generation, alongside Dan McDywer, the current Musical Director of several choirs with support from Cherylee Houston and Elaine Craig, a graduate psychologist. The aim being to create a safe, fun and non-judgemental environment in which to raise awareness about mental health whilst also having a positive impact on members own mental wellbeing.

I saw the choir advertised on twitter and instantly decided it was something I wanted to be part of. Despite to fact I would never describe myself as a good singer, singing in a choir is something that over primary and secondary school, I really enjoyed being part of and understand psychological impact research studies show to have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.  We all know there is nothing better than car trip with the radio blasting singing along, or a long shower singing like you just won the X-Factor. And research now proves that point.

From arriving at the venue, the beautiful Bridgewater Hall, I was filled with both anxiety and excitement, I was stood in a room of people i didn’t know however everyone there had something in common with me. They wanted to raise awareness and break the stigma around mental health whilst doing something fun. And that was something so so powerful. 

I walked in Hira at my side, and we looked like a lost puppy caught in headlights. The anxiousness took over both of us, but we didn’t let it win. Over we went and introduced ourselves to Cherylee, who made us both feel so welcome, that it wasn't long before we were talking to many other members of the team.

The night began with a buffet and getting to know each other, whilst also coming up with names for the choir and taking part in some optional research with Elaine. And then we went onto the singing. Despite being my first time, the choirs first meeting was the previous week, and thus they had learnt a song already. However, all this new were given the chance to catch up and soon the room was filled with the amazing sound of a powerful voice singing ‘Imagine, by The Beatles’, (what a song). 

The night certainly left me filled with endorphins with a smile on my face, and the want to fight the stigma even more. I got home, around 10pm, I was exhausted but the smile on my face knew that this exhaustion was different. It was an exhaustion worth while.

I attended the evening with Hira, another member of the Youth Mental Health Matters team, and we were soon discussing how much more this has made us want to start up a similar group for the young people we are working with. We are looking forward to finding out more about how we can make this happen, who we can work with, and how many young people we can help through this. It certainly isn't the end of what you will be hearing from us about this. So watch this space!

But for now, I look forward to seeing where the journey of being a member of the choir will take me. How it will help me with the important and often talked about topic of self care, and most importantly enjoying myself surrounded by inspiring people every wedneday evening. And singing, what can only be described as some fab tunes- good song choices Dan!

Find out more about the choir here: 

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/showbiz-news/coronation-street-corrie-mental-health-14367054

"You cannot save people, you can only love them"

I think everyone has someone they want to save. Someone they see struggling, and want to wave a magic wand and make it all better. After all everyone has a bit of superhero spirit in them. 

But, its important to remember that whilst you can help you can’t always fix what is going on in someones life. 

Thats not to say, they won’t get better if they are ill, or not make the massive mistake you keep warning them not to take.Its not to say you shouldn’t be there and try and help. It just means that you have to remember that you can’t fix others. And its unhealthy for you to think that you can. 

Whilst I loved my school and wouldn’t change going there for the world it sadly seemed to be a bit of a ‘breeding ground’ for mental health problems. 

Throughout the years I was there I watched and supported several of my friends going through a range of illnesses- eating disorders, depression, anxiety and self-harm to name a few. Friends all around me were struggling and I wished I could wave a magic wand and make it all better. I became obsessed with being the person to make them all better. I wanted it to get better. But no matter how little sleep i had trying to find ways to fix them, I couldn’t. Only they could. 
And it took me a long time to realise this. 

But when I did finally figure this out in my head, it helped me to help them more. Instead of trying to fix them, I was there for them. I was a friend, a stern voice, a hug- whatever they needed. 

I also worked and continue to work crazily hard on something to try and make that change- Youth Mental Health matters. 

And whilst, these little steps may not make the massive change I know was needed. It was a start, and if it helped one person have a better experience of life then the hours of work that go into it are all worth it. 

Saving people, isn’t about fixing them. Saving people, is about loving them. 

Something we should all do a little bit more of.

 

-Lauren x

You are enough.

As the christmas celebrations come to an end and the end of the year draws ever closer, my social media is filled with resolutions and people looking back over the past year trying to determine what will make 2018 more successful. 
Now, I may be a little bit biased but to me New years resolutions are pointless, stupid and dangerous. Many of the people I know who've been in hospital for things such as eating disorders all started out as a new years resolution. And not only that but what is the point in promising to do something like go to the gym simply because it is a new year?

Nothing annoys me more than the diet and gym new years resolutions, the ones that nearly all of us make. Yes, I may hate them but it doesn't mean that in the past it hasn't been me making them, I'm just as guilty. It makes me sad to see friends and family around me decide that to be more successful they need to diet, or that in order to be happier they should exercise 24/7. It particularly frustrates me when they feel the need to do it because of what they have eaten over christmas. 

Im not one who's against exercise or even healthy eating for that matter, but if ur choosing it as  a new years resolution I just don't believe that your in the right mind set. Exercise should be fun, something you want to do and something beneficial towards your mental wellbeing- not the opposite. And I especially hate it when people believe that losing weight or getting fitter is the only way that they will be successful over the upcoming year. 
Because at the end of the day, what is success anyway? 

Is it as we are told by the media, a stick thin body?
Is it having the latest iPhone or gadget?
Is it being better than all your friends at sport?
Getting top grades? 
Getting the most Instagram likes?

Or, is it simply being happy in ourselves?

I guess it looks different to everyone.

I often find myself getting wrapped up and worried about what those around me are doing and feeling that in some way because I'm not doing that I have failed. I compare myself to my best friend and her success at rowing, and constantly put myself down. Yet really I have improved so much since last year I should be looking at that instead. Because, that is a success. I do the same with a lot of my friends at uni, some whom are succeeding academically or some that are simply having the time of their lives. But, when I take a back seat and think about it they too are feeling the same about another area of life.

I don’t think there is one person who could confidently say that there isn't anything they wish they were better at or one person that feels like there completely and utterly successful. But why? 

It’s probably impossible when using todays societies definition of success. That voice that tells us that whatever we do, we must do it better. 

The voice coming from the media, the government and schools. The education system thats determined to turn children into exam producing robots, the media that critises celebrities for every decision they make. Sometimes even from our friends and family. Brainwashing the world into thinking that to be happy you must do better.

However, we are all successful in our own ways. For some that is sport, some that is being academic, some thats friendships. Others that might be simply finishing a meal, or even getting out of bed. We need to stop judging ourselves, comparing ourselves and putting us down. We need to stand up to the voices telling us to do better, and tell them that we are doing our best.

Instead of making resolutions about how we can be more of a success, why not make a resolution to notice and praises yours and those around you successes? Tell your friend, or family member what they have done this year that your proud of and maybe you'll get something in return. 

Stop listening to the negative side of society, and learn to shout about what you have done well. Be proud of yourself for every little thing. Work toward the success that is happiness. Because life is too short to be anything but happy. 

- Lauren x
 

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My Friend Anorexia- Guest blog by Rose

A beautifully written blog by one of our team at Youth Mental Health Matters, please have a read. 

 

Sitting in a cold room, overcrowded with pictures on the walls and hearing the words “We do think you have an eating disorder. Its called Anorexia Nervosa, do you know what that means?” wasn’t a wake up call it may have intended to be, it was the words my ‘friend’ Ana finally wanted to hear, inside my head she was jumping for joy, elated with happiness. After months of skipping meals, over-exercising and becoming more and more isolated from everything, she got to hear that one famous word…Anorexia.

 

Having Anorexia is not glamorous and it’s not just not eating for a certain amount of time because your boyfriend broke up with you, its punishing your body and your mind for not doing x amount of sit ups or eating over a certain amount of calories every single day, missing family events and loosing friends as a result. It takes over your life. Food is always on to my mind. Ana is like a leech, slowly sucking everything beautiful and precious from me. School work and friends sit on the side line, while your new friend is on the playing field, scoring the winning goal.

 

Ana helped me find control in a world where I felt I had no control, she allowed me to feel better about myself. Yet I still wasn’t happy with what I saw in the mirror. No matter what I ate, what weight I was, how depressed I felt that day, it wasn’t enough. Anorexia is not just a physical illness, its a mental one too. Your mind is controlled by what happened in the day. It is controlled by a voice.

 

My journey in recovery, like many other things, has, and still is a rollercoaster. There are moments where I'm at the beginning of the rollercoaster frightened to make my way to the top & there are moments where I'm at the top, feeling free, even if its for a brief moment, before I fall back down. I am no way near recovered yet but at least I can go to sleep down without feeling guilty that I'm lying down and can make new friends without worrying that I didn’t deserve them, slowly I am trying to get rose’s life back.

 

So, I thought I would share my top five tips that have helped me so far:

 

1.     Distractions - Create distractions for yourself that help when eating or thinking about food. For me, watching Christmas films & Gavin and Stacey episodes while my sister does her welsh accent is such a good way to take my mind off the impending food.

 

2.     Social Media - I went on a unfollowing spree and stopped following fitness, diet and weight loss accounts on Instagram as they were just making things ten times worse!

 

3.     Stop counting calories - Counting calories was and still is my downfall, knowing how many calories is in specific meals does not help, for me trying to stop counting calories has really helped, as I'm slowly giving the control back to my parents and less for Ana.

 

4.     Take everything offered - Therapy, CBT, Art classes… its best to try everything and anything when recovering from mental health issues and see if they help.

 

5.     Cry - Just let out all those emotions and trust me you will feel better!

 

Hopefully these might be useful to anyone who needs a helping hand!

 

Rose x

"It's okay to be proud of yourself"

*This is a bit of a ramble and not very focused, thats kinda how my brain is right now. Bare with*

Over the weekend I adopted Lucy whilst her parents were away, whilst she was here she covered my mirror and wardrobe in positive quotes. I absolutely love them. 

She put them there to remind how okay everything will be in the end and cheer me up when needed and whilst they have absolutely served there purpose they have also inspired me to write some more posts. 

I was you could say, struggling to find ideas of what to write about on here.Whilst I absolutely love writing, and blogging I couldn't get rid of the thought that perhaps no-one really cared about what I wrote. And then i realised, that it didn’t matter. And also, that people did. 

Lucy’s post it notes gave me ideas for so many posts Im struggling to choose which one to begin with. So, whilst i am sat here eating my beans, cheese and pasta (such a stereotypical student meal) I wanted to write.

When someone asks me what I am proud of myself for, my automatic answer is nothing. 
And then I realise that’s stupid. 

I am proud of myself for starting the charity- Youth Mental Health Matters. Because as someone said to me recently, ‘Your 19. And you have a charity.’. 
I'm proud of myself for my GCSE results, my a-level results, for attending university- because although they didn’t all go quite to plan. I did them.
I'm proud of myself for getting up every morning and wanting to make a change.
I'm proud of myself for walking the dog in the park and talking to people I don't know.
I'm proud of myself everytime I pick up the phone because I am terrified of phone calls and always have been. 

And, if i really thought there’s probably more.

So, whilst there are things that I beat myself up about daily, like the fact, I really don't understand one of my modules at uni, or the fact i’m not fast enough at rowing, or many other things, it’s important to sit back and remember thats not a reason to not be proud of what I have achieved. 

Our negatives shouldn't outweigh the positives, we shouldn't be scared to be proud of what we have done.  A relapse in recovery shouldn't stop us from seeing how far we have come.

To others we are an inspiration, we should see ourselves in that way too. 

I recently read an article about the fact that you inspire people everyday. Tiny little things you don't even notice. Things that you do that make someone change for the better, or try something new. 

It made me think of all the times that others have told me i have inspired them and how that made me feel. The warm happy feeling I got when someone told me that they were a fan of my blog, that because of me they have spoken out about something that they believe in, and the amount I smiled when people have commented on something that I have done thats inspired them in some way. It made me think about how we should speak out and tell these people how amazing they are.
Spread a bit of love.

For me so many people have inspired me to be the person I am today for so many different reasons.

My parents, my brother. 

The teacher whom at school was there for me in everyday who helped me find my confidence and most importantly helped me be me. 

The people whom I work with on the charity, who every single day amaze me with the hard work and commitment they put into the work we do despite the fact they all have jobs or go to school/college. 

Hope Virgo(if you don't know who she is google her) who’s book has inspired me to want to share my story. Hannah, our down south team lead and her presentation skills. 

The twitter community who work tirelessly to raise awareness about mental health despite fighting there own battles.

Lucy, Katie, Georgie, my new friend Rose, so many of my other friends. 

Dodie. Jessie J. 

There is a crazy amount of people who inspire me, whether its in simply to learn a new hobby, to have a certain outlook on life, or to think about something in a different way. 

Today, I challenge you to think not only about who inspires you but who you inspire. Because I promise you, there will be so many people. And hey, tell that friend how much they inspire you because I promise you that no matter how cringey and cliche it may seem, it will make them smile.