What does the term 'Mental Health' mean to you and how would you best describe it?
I would describe mental health as everything to do with my mind and feelings and whether they’re in a good or bad place.
If my mental health IS doing well, my negative feelings (i.e. stress) and negative behaviours (i.e. self-harming) are less prominent and I’m more my natural self (which is a little bit silly and hyper, haha).
If my mental health ISN’T doing well, those feelings become more common and overwhelming (i.e. anxiety and feeling irritable) and my negative coping mechanisms become more frequent (i.e. skin picking)
What experience have you had with 'Mental Health' and how had it affected you directly or those around you?
I’ve had issues with SAD, anger, stress, self-harm, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, feeling depressed and wanting to take my life.
When I was younger it made going to school very difficult. I got badly bullied there which was a huge contributor to these issues, so I would often feel really anxious and lack confidence.
As an adult it’s affected my work life a lot. Sometimes I find it hard to control my stress on busy shifts and often have to suppress my anger in order to remain ‘professional’.
In fact at one point I couldn’t work. The anxiety I knew I would have felt in the workplace and the exhaustion it would have caused me was too unbearable, so I took a month out and went on benefits.
It put a negative spin on some of my hobbies growing up too, i.e. I used to play the drums but unfortunately would get anxious every time I practised as I knew people could hear me.
Some people are really understanding and get along with me well. Others I think find me hard work especially if they’re the ones on the receiving end of my negative emotions. I also think the non-suffers I come into contact with sometimes struggle to see why I get easily upset/offended.
Was there a ‘lightbulb’ moment when you realised you had to make a change or speak out about a current situation or particular stressful period ?
Yeah. There’s been three main ones:
When I was 13 I was coming home most days from school and sitting in my room in tears for about an hour at a time. I knew this wasn’t good but didn’t want to tell anyone. It was only when my Sister was getting support for her mental health issues that I couldn’t hold it in any longer as I thought ‘she’s not the only one’, so confessed to my parents.
Despite that initial confession I still kept my folks at arm’s length, yet at 18 I admitted to my sister about how I felt in life and broke down in front of her. That conversation changed everything as it was from then on that she convinced me to go to counselling which has been the best decision of my life.
Finally when I was in my early 20’s and felt my antidepressants weren’t working, I decided to suddenly stop taking them (NEVER DO THIS. It’s dangerous). As a result a few days later I violently threw up and my folks heard me. Next thing I know they were calling 111 and asking me questions through the bathroom door about any medication I was on. It was then I knew I had to confess about being on antidepressants and that I was struggling in life; something I had kept secret from them previously.
You have recently taken on some big names in the clothing/fashion industry. What made you want to tackle the issue,how did it all come about and what has come from doing so?
I started vlogging this summer and wanted my videos to focus on mental health. Some were about mental health terms that seem to get thrown around very casually these days. As a result they trivialise the subject, miseducate people on what those terms actually mean and teach people it’s OK to joke about mental health. One of the terms was ‘Psycho’.
From there I started to discover products (predominantly t-shirts) with the slogan ‘Cute But Psycho’ which immediately triggered a sense of anger and disappointment in me. There was no way I was going to sit back and do nothing.
After many emails, Instagram posts and phone calls, I have now managed to get 7 companies to stop selling the products including: Boohoo, Misguided, Not On The High Street, Danni Boutique, Redressed, Save The People and Pink Boutique.
I am still trying to convince Betches, In Love With Fashion and Lasula Boutique to do the same.
Luckily a few people have picked up on my campaign including local newspapers, Huffington Post, Fandabby Apparel and BBC Three Counties Radio. I was also the guest speaker at Wycombe Mind’s 25th Annual AGM this month.
How do you feel the subject has been treated lately in the media and society in general?
I definitely think that society is starting to understand the seriousness of mental health and realise that mental health issues are actually very common. I believe the media has had a huge impact on this due to its increased exposure of the subject - whether that be in the form of newspaper articles, storylines on TV shows, or the coverage of the deaths some of our favourite stars, i.e. Chester Bennington taking his own life.
Celebrities (such as The Royals and Clark Carlisle) coming forward about their own mental health struggles has also really helped to get people talking and end the stigma.
As for mental health in fashion, some companies are doing great things to help raise awareness, i.e. River Island have recently teamed up with mental health charity The Mix to create a line of mental health inspired tees.
But then there’s the other side…
Mental health is still very much belittled on social media (especially via memes on Instagram) and the subject is perfect bate for trolls too who don’t hesitate is calling sufferers like myself ‘snowflakes’.
As a society I think our language around mental health and closely related subjects isn’t where it needs to be yet either and that’s predominately down to lack of education. For example, it was only when I started volunteering with the male suicide prevention charity CALM, that I learnt its offensive to say ‘commit suicide’ as it makes it sound like a crime, yet it was decriminalised in the UK in 1961. If I wasn’t a volunteer with them how would I ever know this? I don’t think people realise the negative impact of saying things like ‘man up’ either and I think schools/workplaces have a responsibility to bring in campaigners and charities to shed light on these subjects.
There are also lots of companies in the fashion world still not giving mental health the respect it deserves either – not just with the companies I’ve contacted, but there was a Christmas jumper that came out a few years back mocking OCD; saying Obsessive Christmas Disorder and recently hoody being sold on Amazon that trivialised anorexia.
Things have improved and I'm optimistic for the future, but there’s still a long way to go…
Do you undertake any self care strategies for the ongoing management of your mental health and overall general wellbeing?
I go to counselling which I swear by. I’ve also had CBT in the past which I found to be really affective and I take antidepressants.
Any final words of encouragement or advice for anyone struggling with mental health issues?
TALK TO SOMEONE.