Did you know one in four people will be affected by mental health issues in their lifetime? Or are you aware of the gender paradox with suicide where more women attempt suicide, but men are more likely to succeed at killing themselves? 75% of all suicides each year in the UK are men and that it is the biggest killer of men aged 18-45 years old. Those in the LGBT+ community are more likely to suffer from poor mental health than their straight brothers and sisters.
Those statistics matter. They are essential numbers that allow us as a society to ideally coordinate funding and support for those who need it most. But as we have seen, they are not what changes attitude, communities or the world. It is a strong foundation, but there is something more powerful than a fact.
The Human Story
Each of us has lived a life full of experiences that define how we perceive our reality. Sometimes life is good and positive, but often it is full of struggle. Those struggles could be rooted in judgement and prejudice such as racism, sexism, homophobia and hate of all kind. Or it could be a struggle of circumstances like losing your job, suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, creating a new start after a divorce, dealing with grief and much more. For myself and many others, it is dealing with our mental health battles. These experiences, while challenging and painful, gift us with unique insights and perceptions about the issues we are dealing with.
That gives us power. It provides us with authority on what we have lived through. Having that opens us up to the opportunities to affect change in our world. Take mental health; for example, I and others have been taking part in a Time To Change workshop called Story Camp.
Story Camp is about helping those with mental health experiences share those experiences through digital content creation. Whether than be writing a blog, uploading a video to YouTube, recording a podcast or designing a new graphic. The aim is for each of us to campaign for the change we want to see in the conversation around mental health. The power that comes from sharing fosters understanding, empathy and real change.
Helping your charity
Our lives give us unique perspectives, but often we share similar experiences with others. You know this because of the many groups, organisations, and charities supporting any number of causes. We live, therefore we share. Those who often go through pain and battles want to make it easier for others.
One way of supporting others with similar struggles is by finding a charity that supports the same cause. There are many ways you can take part in the cause. Raise awareness by telling your story, volunteer for a service that the charity needs help with, or raise money to fund their continued good work. There are so many ways of helping, and they are all rooted in our struggles.
For me, I organised three events to raise money and awareness for Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). In 2017 & 2018, I arranged with a close friend a two-hour fencing event where we would fence continuously against multiple opponents without rest. Due to the pandemic, 2020 is going to be different. We can’t fence because my club is closed. But I found an alternative. On Sunday 25th October, my friend and I will lead a team to walk the 21-mile Guild Wheel circuit in Preston. All in the effort to raise more money for CALM.
These three events were our brainchild. We both suffer from mental health issues. In my case, it is anxiety and depression, and in his, it is bipolar. Suicidal thoughts and intentions are part of both of our stories. These events are our way of using those struggles to support others by raising awareness and money for a charity we are passionate about. We feel we have a responsibility because we have both survived our minds and can do something about it.
Find your purpose
Society has a habit of dictating the sort of jobs and careers that are suitable for each of us. Many of us step into those roles without considering if it makes sense or matches who we are. I worked in content marketing for a few years. My part was to write the copy that would sell the products. The problem was that I had no love nor care for the products or the brands I worked for. I became unhappy, uninterested and eventually lost my job.
In those difficult times, I reflected on my life and what had brought me to that point. I looked deep into my experiences and found a path tinkling with opportunity. I chose to invest in myself and commit to becoming a qualified person-centred counsellor through multiple courses with Preston’s College.
It was a purpose forged by my struggles with anxiety, depression, sexuality and life. With a year to go becoming qualified, the goal I have embraced has taught me so much. Made me a better, more empathetic human being.
Find your way
Each of our experiences affects us in unique ways. Only we can find how we want to handle them and use them. But they can be of benefit to others. These ways mentioned above are how I believe I can effect change in the world. You may have completely different ways. Each to their own is the best option.