It seems that the buzzwords for 2017 so far has been ‘mental health’ and with extremely good reason. With documentaries across all of the TV channels, the international phenomenon that has been ’13 Reasons Why’ and the launch of the Royal family’s new charity ‘Heads Together’, there has never seemed to be so much awareness being raised about this taboo topic of conversation that affects us all in on way or another.
By reading this blog, you will already know that I am extremely passionate when it comes to encouraging others to speak out about mental health, helping people to believe in themselves and know they are never alone in the fight to overcome the most difficult of times. One thing that I am aiming for this year, is to reach out to my local community, the place I have called home for all of my 23 years because it strongly needed to be raised. From personal experience of the services in Staffordshire, I know first hand of the terrible hardship you can face when reaching out for help.
Something that I came across last year both surprised me and comforted me that had been started by someone in Stoke-on-Trent. Finally, there are other like-minded people who are standing up and talking proudly about their mental health, and hoping to make a difference in this county and beyond. A man called Daniel Bailey, who suffers from borderline personality disorder created the #Smile Against the Stigma campaign that wants people to take smiley selfies on social media and share their stories with others to break down the walls that are holding back a more open view of what it is really like to have mental health issues.
The key to this campaign is unity. I asked Daniel to summarise what #Smile Against the Stigma is all about…
“The message it delivers every year is one of ‘You are not alone’, and that there are always people to talk to. It’s about learning to accept that it’s not a taboo subject, and that’s what we’re aiming to achieve” – Daniel Bailey
Last year this campaign reached over 10,000 people which is an remarkable marker in my book, and hope that this year the number can be even greater. But that requires your help!
On Monday, May 1st, please get involved by taking the biggest smiley selfie of you in support of breaking the stigma against mental health, and show the world that whatever problems you may face, they will never define who you really are.
By using the hashtag #SmileAgainstTheStigma you will become a part of this growing community of individuals who are joining together to share experiences, positive messages and hope for all that there is a way of living beyond the traps that your mind can create for you.
Here is mine…
You can also share this blog post to help the cause! It would be a great deal to me and also to Daniel that there are more people becoming more open about their often invisible issues that should never be ignored.
Spread the word across all of social media – especially Facebook!
I have really found so much strength in speaking out about my experiences surrounding mental health, and believe that it has made me more able to accept what I have suffered from and continue to battle with. Daniel said himself that “it’s made my every day live considerably different” for the better. It is this message that he wants to make clear for others who are living day to day fighting with themselves, that they too can find strength amongst the darkest of times.
I have no shame any more of telling people that I have a mental illness. I will never be embarrassed about what I have been through because it has made me the person I am today. Of course, it isn’t an easy topic of conversation to have, but it one that is 100% worth having. Being open and honest with someone else about how I have struggled, has allowed them to let down their guard and start to speak about their own issues that they would have otherwise kept to themselves. Daniel said to himself…
It’s certainly made it easier for me to focus on my own condition as it were because I get to see how common it actually is in others. It’s genuinely the most rewarding feeling, though. Especially when I would talk to someone who may not be doing so good, but then to get to see them walk the path of recovery…It’s something else” – Daniel Bailey
Mental health affects everybody, so it is about time that we unite together and encourage one other to smile through the highs and the lows. We are all human, we all have feelings and emotions. We all deserve to find true happiness in life and believe in ourselves enough to know that each and every one of us matters.