Today is World Mental Health Day. It’s a chance to get the world talking about mental health and attempt to remove some of the stigma around the subject.
There’s a lot of controversy about mental health, how we should approach it and what language we should use. Some people will call themselves a ‘nut’ or describe themselves as ‘crazy’. Others find it offensive. The general view seems to be ‘I can call myself whatever I like… but you can’t call me it, it’s offensive’. Not quite sure where that has come from or how much sense it makes. People call me ginger, I call myself ginger, you get used to it!
In and amongst the minefield of language, political correctness, inspirational people and shocking portrayals of mental health in the media, there are a number of organisations, some of whom I’ve been lucky enough to work with, who do some brilliant work in and around mental health.
Firstly, YoungMindss. YoungMinds are an organisation who primarily work with and for young people, up to the age of 25. They give young people a voice in a world that often doesn’t want to listen. I’ve had the privilege of working with them for a year now and in that time, I’ve had so many opportunities to speak to professionals, write for the website and come to focus groups. They have young people at the centre of their organisation and work with them in a friendly, yet professional and appropriate manner. They understand where we’re coming from and endeavor to listen to us at every stage. One thing they’re brilliant at, which some places aren’t, is putting into action what is discussed. I can’t actually remember an occasion where we’ve been asked to discuss or decide on something and they’ve not used that input.
Time To Change are an organisation who work with young people and adults to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. You may have seen some of their adverts on TV or in magazines at some point. Within Leeds, they have a group of volunteers who work tirelessly to set up events, go to shows, and encourage people to talk and be open about their own mental health, making it a normal part of everyday life. I don’t volunteer with Time To Change directly, but I have recently worked with them in collaboration with Space 2 on a project surrounding young people. Again, both of these organisations are fantastic at listening to the voices of their volunteers and taking them into account, rather then ignoring them.
The final organisation I want to talk about is Leeds Involving People. They only operate within Leeds at the moment, but I’m sure there are similar things nationwide. LIP is not a young person’s organisation, although they’re currently working on involving more young people, but again, they’re fantastic at giving a voice to service users across the district. They invite people to events and put them in contact with professionals. I’ve had some brilliant opportunities with LIP and met some great people through them who’ve been brilliant contacts and have led to other opportunities further down the line.
So today is World Mental Health Day. Yes, it’s a day to raise awareness of issues faced by people all over the country. But I also believe it should be a day to celebrate some of the fantastic work going on around the country, a lot of it led by volunteers. The pictures is not as bleak as the media would like us to think and there are some inspirational people and organisations out there. You just have to find them.