Time To Talk Day - a blog post from Crissie, HeadStart Ambassador

(Originally posted to Crissie's personal blog at crissyleigh.com)

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Time to Talk Day is an initiative from Time to Change. Time to Talk on the 1st of February is to encourage people wherever they are whether it be in a coffee shop, on a bus, at work etc to talk about Mental Health. I know what some of you may be thinking, “why on earth would you want to talk about Mental Health in these places?” Well why not?!

Having a Mental Health problem is scary at times, you feel alone and well ashamed at times because of the stigma around it. There is never a ‘right place’ to talk about most problems and issues in life but if we take the step and begin to talk about it, it may just become a little easier. People who don’t know about Mental Health Problems may just feel easier about asking about it and finding out more.

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Now more than ever it is time to talk. We live in an age where so much is going on for every single person. People shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about how they’re feeling. People shouldn’t be afraid of being silenced or being judged. It’s time to continue to break the stigma and ensure that we start to be there for one another.

There isn’t really a right way to talk about Mental Health, everyone is different and will express themselves differently. It might be awkward and even silent at times. Silence is okay though. Make sure you are giving the person your full attention, don’t play on your phone or do anything that shows you aren’t listening to them.

Keep things normal, just because someone has been diagnosed with a mental illness doesn’t mean they have changed. Trust me we don’t grow two heads and we don’t have random changes. However I could potentially have two heads when I’m hungry as that’s never good! We’re still the same person, don’t treat us any different.

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For me talking about my own mental health has been a struggle. In secondary school/sixth form and well university there wasn’t really anyone there for me to speak to and if I did it was “Oh you’re just a bit stressed with the work. You’ll get over it”. Over the past few years, it’s been getting slightly better. I still have the odd comments from people which I’m starting to learn to bounce off me. I’m now using my own experience to help others especially young people by volunteering with HeadStart. I’ve had the honour to talk with HRH the Duchess of Cambridge about young people and Mental Health at the recent HeadStart Learning Conference in London alongside one of my fellow ambassadors Hannah and the HeadStart Hype team.

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It’s Time to Talk, it’s time for the stigma to finally be broken and it’s time for people not to have to be ashamed about how they feel. So sit have a cuppa or a coffee and a little natter. Remember it’s okay not to be okay.

Crissy x

'Christmas and Mental Health' by HeadStart Ambassador, Cristina

Reposted with permission from crissyleigh.com

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“Tis the season to be Jolly fa la la la” Honestly it’s the season to feel however you want to feel. Now don’t get me wrong I’m literally like buddy the elf when it comes to Christmas, you’ll hear me singing and see me trying to spread Christmas cheer. Sometimes though I do want to lock myself away and just have some me time.

Christmas season can be overwhelming and with stress levels rising it can be challenging for everyone. Crowds of people literally everywhere and just the planning and organising to see people, what to get family and friends is challenging. For myself, I love getting together with friends and family. However the crowds around the shops, making sure everyone’s cards get sent off on time are just a few of the things that can set me off.

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Last year, I had one of the worst panic and anxiety attacks I’ve ever had. I was on my way to Birmingham to do some shopping, the train was packed and it just kicked off. My heart was racing, my chest was so tight that I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t get two words out. I slumped to the floor just to feel stable as I knew I wanted to pass out. Luckily for me the people around me were so helpful but it could of been a very different story.

Anxiety and Panic attacks come in many different forms. During a panic attack:

  • Focus on your breathing. It can help to concentrate on breathing slowly in and out while counting to five.
  • Stamp on the spot. Some people find this helps control their breathing.
  • Focus on your senses. For example, taste mint-flavoured sweets or gum, or touch or cuddle something soft.
  • Try grounding techniques. Grounding techniques can help you feel more in control.

(Tips from Mind) after a panic attack try and find somewhere quiet to rest and compose yourself, if you feel like you need to eat or drink ensure you do. Self-care is seriously important!!

If you know someone who is suffering this seasonal period please try to check in with them to see how they’re doing and if they need anything. Sometimes it’s the people we’re not in contact with regularly are those who need a listening ear or a friendly face.

If you’re suffering this seasonal period remember it’s okay not to be all jolly all the time. Looking after yourself is the most important thing. Talk to someone you trust, let them know how you’re feeling and let them know if there is anything they can do to help you. Most importantly be kind to yourself, whatever you’re feeling is perfectly fine!

You can, go onto Mind if you do feel overwhelmed or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed. Samaritans is also there if you need to speak to someone or if you don’t feel like you can speak you can text this number and someone will respond - 07725909090.

Crissy x

'Looking okay and feeling OK are two different things' - a blog post by Cristina, HeadStart Ambassador

Cristina, one of our amazing HeadStart Ambassadors, has written a thoughtful blog post to her own blog at www.crissyleigh.com. In the post, she reflects on the ways that people respond to mental health challenges:

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Having an invisible illness is literally one of the most infuriating things to explain. If it can’t be seen then you get some people who try and say :

- You don’t look ill
- You don’t have anything to be anxious about
- You can’t be in that much pain, you’re always running about, laughing and joking
— Cristina, HeadStart Ambassador

Read the full post at https://crissyleigh.com/2017/10/03/looking-okay-and-feeling-okay-are-two-different-things.

Cristina, along with Hannah and Megan, was one of the brilliant compères for the HeadStart Wolverhampton Autumn Conference last Tuesday.

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HeadStart Ambassador Training Update by Cristina

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Hey everyone, 

Our latest training was on the 19th August and for all of us it was one that truly caught all our attention! We spoke to Carol who works with young people helping them find there voice, with interview skills, presenting skills and much more.

These 3 questions really resonated with me as I’d had a rough time recently and I’m not afraid to admit I’d let myself wear the victim t-shirt for too long, but after hearing Paul’s talk to us it made something click and I realised it was about time to change my t-shirt and get up and start to make some positive changes.

The tips and advice Carol shared with us are definitely things I will be putting into place when I do start doing talks as part of my Ambassador role. I'm so nervous when it comes to public speaking just incase I forget my words or just look like a fool. Carol definitely took away some of those nerves reminding us practise makes perfect and it's all about making sure you prepare and just be passionate and confident about what you are talking about. Also no-one apart from you knows what you're going to say so if you mess up just carry on it'll all be okay! 

After this we had a talk from Paul McGee a.k.a The Sumo Guy (Stop, Understand, Move On). He gave us a little insight of why he wrote S.U.M.O and why it's important that we don't live our life on auto pilot. Paul shared with us 3 important questions :

  • How do you get the best out of yourself in the good and bad times? 
  • How do you get the best out of others in the good and bad times? 
  • How do you get the best out of life in the good and bad times? 

These 3 questions really resonated with me as I'd had a rough time recently and I'm not afraid to admit I'd let myself wear the victim t-shirt for too long but after hearing Paul's talk to us it made something click and I realised it was about time to change my t-shirt and get up and start to make some positive changes. 

I can't wait to be sharing some S.U.M.O training with you guys and also sharing experiences and working on moving forward with positive actions! 

Until next time 

Cristina