November 8, 2011

Photo of Time to Change blogger, MarieI have been meaning to write a blog about the Time To Change roadshow in Exeter for a while. Now I’ve come to do it I actually feel that the times has given me better reflections than if I’d done it earlier on.

The day was fantastic! I met lots of other volunteers who were all enthusiastic and friendly. Before hand I had been quite nervous, not of talking to the public and raising awareness about mental health issues to the public but of bumping into people that I knew.

It’s taken me a long time to accept that bi-polar II and previous mental health problems (agoraphobia, anxiety, depression, eating disorders) are not only part of my life but they’re also a part of who I am – and that’s OK. However, just over a year ago I experienced such terrible discrimination from someone who I thought was a friend that I had to leave my job and due to the stress of it all I ended up in hospital. I was petrifies that if other people I knew found out for the first time similar experiences would happen again. How wrong was I!

Talking to different people and hearing their positive opinions and some of their own experiences gave me a new found confidence and self-assurance. When I saw people I knew who were out shopping I actually began to quickly go over to them before they ‘’got away’’. It was so liberating to discuss mental health issues with them and to tell them about my experiences!  Some talked about their own mental health difficulties which I hadn’t known about. Others were shocked, but instead of being negative they offered support if I ever needed it. It seen them since the roadshow and there’s been no change in how they act around me.

The main aim of encouraging people to talk about mental health went really well. Scratch cards were very population in getting people to stop and talk – once I had guaranteed that I didn’t want a single penny from them. Some people even came back later on bring friends to show them what we were doing. The mini-plays and free tea and coffee were also very popular including with myself. After a day of bouncing around (not a requirement!) I was tired but so happy that I rang lots of friends to tell them how it went.

I am still so please to have seen such a positive response from people in Exeter.  Hopefully the hard work of everyone volunteering will have made some difference to people who experience mental health difficulties now or in the future.  However, I seem to have slipped back into some of my ‘’older ways’’. I’m not as open with people as I was that day. Part of this is probably is a ‘safety in numbers’ thing but I guess the other part of me still worries about discrimination and the effect that could have on me again. I’ve realise that while the roadshow was great it’s just one step in raising awareness and tackling discrimination. There are so many more steps to go and I’m so glad to hear that Time To Change has received more funding to continue with this. I will definitely be volunteering in any way I can along this journey!

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