A Beeston project aiming to raise mental heath awareness

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In November I began a project that was inspired by a poem I had written which addressed my mental health directly. I wrote to my anxiety: this helped me to view it differently and I realised that writing poetry is my main technique and coping method when it comes to dealing with my anxiety.

I wanted to share this with others and give people the chance to use writing as a coping technique. As soon as I voiced my idea I received positive feedback. I set up a blog and since its inception the project has received 19 contributions which range from poems to bipolar and eating disorders, to letters to anxiety, a drawing, and more personal accounts of experiences with mental health issues.

Jenny Marie, who contributed her letter Dear Anxiety said: “When I began, I didn’t quite know what to say. But the words kept coming, and it felt like I was pounding them out on the keyboard. It was therapeutic for me to write this. It’s healing for those with mental illness and helpful for their loved ones to read.”

A huge part of this project is not only to help people but also to try and combat the stigma surrounding mental health. Writing to the illness immediately distances it from us, and allows us to look at it in a way that can help people realise that they are not their illness.

We have to stop hiding and bring the taboo into light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same.

Mental health problems can drive people apart, whether they are family or friends. This can make the illness worse as the one suffering believes they are at fault, when really there just needs to be a bit more understanding. I hope that this project can reach people who need that understanding, and want a fresh way of trying to come to terms with their mental health. This is why the project encourages friends and family members who are impacted by mental health to participate too.

My editor on the blog, B. L. Memee, said: “It is my belief that every person’s story and experience matters and that in sharing our stories at Letters to the Mind we will educate the uninformed and with education comes understanding and with understanding stigma begins to fall ill and eventually dies. I want to see that happen in my lifetime, but to do that we have to stop hiding and bring the taboo into light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same. With Jade seeking out contributors and media in the UK and I doing the same in the US we are making a fine start of it. But we cannot do it alone. We need those diagnosed with a mental illness to be courageous and join us in our efforts. We need family members to share their stories as well because as a support person, the impact on you can be just as intense and people need to understand about your struggles and hardships as well. As human beings we are meant to accept, support and care for one another. So please take the first step and share this story with your friends and families that you think might be interested.”

Issue 41 of The Beestonian contained an article about Steve Plowright and his poetry writing. I attended a Time to Change event at Middle Street Day Centre and told Steve about the project. He kindly agreed to be a part of it, and shared his poem Cruel Jailers with me, which he is happy to submit to the project, as the poem is written directly to his depression and anxiety.

In celebration of National Time to Talk Day on Feb 4, Time to Change hosted a free event called ‘Time to Change Village 2016’, which ran during the day at Trinity Square, Nottingham. It gave the public the opportunity to speak to volunteers and organisations about mental health. There was live music, children’s entertainment and a health and beauty pampering zone.

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health problem then spread the word to them about the Letters to the Mind project. Contributions can take various forms: a letter, a poem, a short essay/blog post, or artwork. You can visit the blog at: letterstothemindblog.wordpress.com where you will find more information about the project, and details about how to contribute. Or you can send a submission straight to: letterstothemind@outlook.com

An Open Letter

To Anxiety,
Shall we begin with where you began?
No, first I’d like to ask you about
your master plan:

Did you hope that I would fall?
before I opened my eyes to it all?

Did you want to make me scream?
enough to make me miss out on my dream?

Did you intend for me to cry?
long into the night while
life passed me by?

Or did you in fact, want me to react
so that I might find hope
along with ways to cope?

You helped me to climb
and make the most of my time.

You helped me to realise
the importance of advice.

You taught me that tears are fine,
although born of sadness, they are mine.

You allowed me to think with a clearer mind
and discover the happiness you never
thought I’d find.

In the beginning all I felt for you was hate,
but gradually I became patient and able to wait
for that moment when the bad becomes good…

…the moment at which hate becomes love.

Jade Moore