I couple of years ago I decided to sign up as a Champion for Time to Change, I saw it as a way to turn my negative experiences with mental health into a positive, little did I know that I would become a champion campaign group leader and help facilitate the Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) Time to Change Group.
I have found my Champion journey has been an amazing one and it has been an incredibly cathartic, I have grown in confidence with each event we hold. So earlier this year when Addenbrooke's hospital (part of CUH) asked if our newly formed group would like to have a stand at the Cambridge Big Weekend as part of the hospitals 250th birthday celebrations our little group jumped at the chance. We had done events in the hospital before but now we had our very first one in the big wide world.
It was such a great opportunity, we needed some new ideas, 'How do we engage people?'. A more difficult question than you might imagine- what could we do....? After much head scratching we decided to tempt people in with food and dogs! Working in the hospital we were able to get advice and from our dieticians on mentally healthy foods and the Marks and Spencer’s in our Concourse were happy donate some tasty treats.
For the dogs, we looked outside the hospital, my cousin runs the Bishops Stortford Greyhound Rehoming Kennels and she always has lots of retirees looking for home so she was able to bring Hondo and Whizz two lovely black boys who could be our symbol of depression, the 'Black Dog'.
In the run up to the event I spent more time making lists than actually being productive and telling myself that being anxious is part of my GAD and not er... 'worry'... about it. The CUH TTC group worked brilliantly together, organising and then putting together all the components for the event. Due to work commitments we have quite a large group with a join in when you can philosophy which works well for us.
The 9th July was the big day and it stated well- pouring down with rain, no tables for our stand and a box of resources missing. But I was with other people I knew from Addenbrooke’s and I could ask for help. Soon we champions were putting a TTC table cloth (luckily I found the missing box) on our tables and we got to setting up. Along with our Time To Change goodies we had information on local and national support services, info on food and mood and leaflets about Mental Health First Aid England as many of the CUH Champions are Mental Health First Aiders.
The snacks proved popular and people stopped to talk to us and in a sudden boost of confidence I snared some local policemen and had an amazing conversation on with them. Then then Whizz and Hondo our beautiful black dogs arrived and the stole the show. Few people were able to resist their charms and stopped to say hello. They stopped people long enough for us to initiate our conversation: ‘Hi, this is Hondo he is here as our black dog of depression to show that the subject of depression is far more a approachable than you might think' queue discussion on mental health.
We now have two more dates for events on the horizon, I am looking forward to where my mental health journey takes me next.