Recently I was involved in a fantastic project aiming to reduce the stigma around mental health.
I initially became a volunteer for Stereo-Hype 2014 for reasons similar to most of my counterpart part volunteers - I had lived experienced of mental health and I had those close to me whom also suffered. As a young-ish British Asian woman my first encounter with mental health was my biological mother who suffered from post-partum depression when I was born and then the illness evolved into manic depression. As a result of this she left me at 6 months old.
In some ways I had my own stigma towards my depression
I didn't understand depression for years and in some ways had my own stigma towards it. This was until the age of 20; this was when I suffered from my own episode. And then I understood, I connected to my mother and I wanted and needed help. In the Asian community up until now there was no such thing as mental health and the word depression didn’t even have an equivalent in the Gujarati language! So you learn to stay silent, I didn't quite know what was going on, but I knew I had to keep quiet. It was the silence and the black blanket of depression and silence that almost killed me.
The Time to Change Stereo-Hype festival was a phenomenal event on a beautiful sunny day. It was astonishing how receptive the public were to talking about this shift in mentality. There was a whole host of workshops, support groups, talks and music to keep the day and nights hyped!
The event itself was inspirational
The event itself was inspirational, all the way from the organisation, venue and the different activities, workshops and events that were on offer. Not only that, every single person who got involved had an inspiring story. The passion and drive from the volunteers could be felt wholly throughout the event and it made the energy absolutely electric.
Euphoria and unity
There was a surge of energy and euphoria surrounding the event. Music often soothes the soul and we had a great mixture of music and entertainment to set the atmosphere, we were blessed in the fact the weather was perfect. What was really eye-opening for me was the mind set of the volunteers, we all had different experiences and backgrounds yet we shared a solid bond of unity. We supported each other, whether that was with a smile or "how you doing", we engaged with the public and realised the strength of the cause we were fighting for. All the volunteers looked great in our "How you feeling" t-shirts.
The biggest factor I will take from this event are the conversations Time to Change and #timetotalk is the perfect message. We need to reduce this stigma one conversation at a time. Whether this be a conversation with a stranger, a friend, family or a loved one. Some of the discussions that were had on a one-to-one basis were so heartfelt, people opened up their minds and hearts and spoke openly about either their own experiences or of those close to them.
Mental health is just that, it is part of your health. One step at a time we will improve that health and move forward to create a generation without the stigma.