An emotional, eye-opening glimpse into the first-hand stories behind those looking to raise awareness
Last week, Happiful attended the third in a series of one day summits that aim to highlight mental health challenges young people are facing, whilst giving young people the chance to share their mental health experiences. Created in collaboration with The Lucy Rayner Foundation, MQ: Transforming mental health through research, Samaritans, and the Clarke Carlisle Foundation for Dual Diagnosis, Can Anyone Hear Me was born from the desire to raise awareness of young people in crisis.
We’ve all heard of (and many, experienced) the stigma surrounding mental health. While that stigma may be lessening – as more children and teens feel able to talk and seek help when struggling – it still can be a huge impact on not only how we view our own mental health and wellbeing, but on how others may react when we reach out and ask for help.
Can Anyone Hear Me was inspired by the life-changing event that affected Jenny Rayner and her family, when her daughter, Lucy Rayner completed suicide at at 22. Since, Jenny and her family have campaigned to raise awareness of the mental health challenges young people face.
While mental health challenges and stigmas face people of all ages, Can Anyone Hear Me aims to highlight the struggles that young adults in particular face, providing a voice for those who are in or have experienced a mental health crisis.
We attended the September event, where guest speakers and key topics covered included:
A recorded video message from Ruth Sutherland, CEO of Samaritan's, focused on the important life skill of learning to manage our emotions. At our lowest points, being able to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings can be the difference between life and death. This isn’t something we are born knowing how to do – it’s something that is vital for young people to learn, so they can feel equipped to cope during difficult circumstances. Ruth is also set to talk during the December Summit.
The Lucy Rayner Foundation
Jenny Rayner, CEO of the Lucy Rayner Foundation spoke about their charity’s goal of raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of depression and mental health. Sharing her family’s personal experience and her daughter’s missed depression diagnosis and her death by suicide, Jenny shared a clip from the award-winning documentary, Lucy: Breaking The Silence.
Aiming to educate young people and let them know where they can seek help, Jenny emphasised the importance of starting open, honest conversations; focusing on our mental health just as much as our physical health, and helping children and teens get the tools to build their mental resilience.
The Lucy Rayner Foundation also shared more information about their key services, including:
Just Talk - a drop-in service where young people can come in to talk. Designed to signpost where young people can go for further help, the Just Talk service is a safe place for them to share their emotions and feelings.
Family Matters - a once a month service for parents, teachers and social workers who support young people with mental health issues.
One-to-One Counselling - a free, immediate referral service for those who need help. Unlike GP referral which can come with a three to six month waiting list, the foundation can offer immediate referral with six free sessions for those in need.
Mental Health Awareness Workshops - sharing experiences, passing on knowledge, and helping build resilience in young people through workshops held in schools.
Surrey Suicide Bereavement Service - a 24 hour callout service that will sent someone to support family or loved ones who have been bereaved by suicide. Providing support, signposting to other services and counseling, and providing someone to listen.
Mental Health First Aid
Debbie Brown, representing event sponsors Canon shared the impact of the company’s wellbeing strategy, as well as their new focus on mental health in the workplace. Along with existing physical wellbeing classes, Canon have introduced a number of Mental Health Champions and Mental Health First Aiders.
Mental health first aid training can give employees a better understanding of general mental health, whilst providing a framework for how they can support others in their workplace. Working to support those who are having a difficult time, raise awareness, and reduce stigma around mental health, Canon already have around 50 trained mental health champions and first aiders across their UK offices alone.
Mental Health Research
MQ Mental Health: transforming mental health through research are a pretty unique charity. Corporate and Community Officer Daisy Cump came to share a little bit about the charity, and to talk about the importance of their research.
Looking to be the Cancer Research of mental health, MQ highlighted some of the startling figures that surround the subject. Despite affecting almost a quarter of the population (23%), less than 6% of UK health research funding is spent on mental health. Of those with a mental health condition, 75% are not receiving treatment, with 50% of these individuals not working.
Only 6% of UK health research funding is spent on mental health, despite affecting 23% of the population
Opened in 2013, launched publically in 2017, MQ raised £1.9m during their launch year with their initial ‘We Swear’ campaign, which highlighted ‘It’s time to give a **** about mental illness in young people’. Currently supporting 40 research projects worldwide, with 26 based in the UK, MQ are focused on patient impact with the aim to create a world where mental illness is understood and one day made preventable.
While still in the early stages, so far their funding and research has helped link an increase in the consumption of folic acid during pregnancy, with changes in children’s brain development. These changes are associated with a reduction in incidences of psychotic symptoms.
Running since 2003, founder Charlotta Martinus created Teen Yoga to help young people feel a sense of connection and belonging in mind, body and spirit. Going into schools and universities, Charlotta shows young people aged 11-23 the importance of yoga and meditation to keep their equilibrium, bring stillness to their minds, and live in the moment.
A number of ambassadors for MQ and The Lucy Rayner Foundation aged 20 to their early 30s came forward to share their stories and journeys. These amazing, strong young people shared their heart wrenching and empowering stories, adding so much more power than pure statistics alone could hope to do.
Seeing and hearing the impact on individuals, watching as they retell their journeys – often with so many missed opportunities for support from overworked or under informed systems – added an indescribable element to the day that can only be experienced first-hand.
Despite experiencing such arduous journeys, despite many reaching crisis point again and again, these weren’t speakers sharing stories of despair; they were young people pushing for more, demanding better care, standards and understanding.
These are inspiring voices taking a stand and speaking out to help those who are still in crisis, to change the system before more children and teens can reach that breaking point where help becomes critical, not just beneficial.
Host Paul McGregor, founder of MFM and short course lecturer at University Arts of London shared his own experience as a normal, middle class teen with a father who had everything on paper until his breakdown. He shared how his own fear of being judged or having others judge his father’s death by suicide led him to lie about what had happened, bottle up his own feelings, and not truly deal with the events that had happened until long after the event.
Clarke Carlisle, founder of the Foundation for Dual Diagnosis spoke about living with depression for 18 years, surviving multiple suicide attempts, and the monumental changes his journey has undergone in the past year, leading him to feel more emotionally and psychologically well than he has since becoming an adult.
“Whatever therapy you’ve tried, if it’s not working, there are others. You need to find what works for you.” Clarke explained. For him, Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) had the greatest impact, creating a safe space to explore his thoughts together with a therapist and his wife.
He went on to urge others to start an open, honest conversation and to give others the chance to be there for them. “You don’t have to tell everyone, but it’s imperative you tell someone you live and trust ideally, but anyone. Get the ideas out of your head. Verbalising them diminishes the power in them immediately and drastically. Give someone else the opportunity to have that input in your life.
“Mental health affects us all. You might not be the one in four, but you might be the one that they go to talk to, or they could be someone close to you. You have the opportunity to step in; to ask what’s going on, to say they don’t seem like themselves today. That can change someone's life.
“It’s imperative you understand where your responsibility ends and professional services begin. It’s not your responsibility to fix that person. It’s beyond your expertise. It’s about signposting the right help or pointing to local crisis and support helplines. Maybe they just need a cuppa tea and a hug – the mental health equivalent of lemsip – but it’s about helping them find help, not being that help.”
Hope Virgo shared her recovery journey and battle with anorexia. Currently running a petition to stop people from being turned away from support services for not being ‘thin enough’ for treatment, Hope plans to cycle the length of the UK, stopping to discuss mental health in schools along the way to raise awareness of a need for better mental health education.
One of the youngest speakers of the day, MQ ambassador Flo Sharman spoke of the need for mental and physical health to be treated equally. Diagnosed with five mental illnesses at the age of eight including panic attacks, OCD, and PTSD, Flo became housebound for two years after her exclusion from school due to her mental health crisis.
With the help of therapy, CBT, time, and her amazing mother, she is now a confident young woman who urges others to just “Be you. Never change for anybody. Being you is the best thing you can be.”
One of the most touching and heart-wrenching speeches of the day came from Lorraine, an MQ Ambassador whose five year battle with bulimia and experience with cyberbullying led to an overdose and time spent sectioned in a mental health unit.
Her father had called to wish her luck, tell her they were all proud of her – and to say not to talk about her own mental health.
Before she began sharing her story of recovery and her journey through talking therapy and hospital stays, she took a moment to try to calm herself and explain why this – her first time publicly sharing her story – was even tougher than she expected. Just hours earlier, her father had called to wish her luck, tell her they were all proud of her – and to tell her not to talk about her own mental health.
Raising awareness is all well and good, but until we can break down the stigma that starts at home, that remains with families, young people will continue to get the impression that mental health is something shameful that must be kept in private, lest we embarrass ourselves or our loved ones. Lorraine urged us all to talk to everyone and anyone about our struggles, our emotions, our mental health battles.
Find out more about upcoming Can Anyone Hear Me events or reserve your place for their December 18 2018 conference.
If you are concerend about the mental health or wellbeing of a friend or loved one, visit Counselling Directory to discover more about mental health. For immediate or crisis support, Samaritans are available to listen on 116 123 (UK) or for under 18s, Childline are available on 0800 1111.