By Nina Martynchyk
I am so happy that mental health is slowly becoming less of a taboo topic in society. As someone who has personal experience of mental illness, I know only too well how comforting it feels to be able to speak about your issues freely with the knowledge that instead of being judged, you are being supported and understood. As mental health education is key to the continuation of the collective acceptance of mental health, I have decided to dedicate lots of my time to organising mental health conferences aimed at clinicians, teachers, parents and anyone else who is interested.
So far, I have organised two conferences. The first one was called ‘Responding to Eating Disorders in Children and Young People’ (Anorexia, Bulimia and OSFED) and ran on the 3rd September 2016. The latest one, ‘Responding to Anxiety and Depression in Children and Young People’ took place three weeks ago on the 1st of April 2017.
The day was opened by Claire Eastham, mental health blogger and bestselling author of ‘We’re all Mad Here’ and chaired by Samantha Swinglehurst MBE, lead nurse specialist at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. The presentations were delivered by both professionals and service users in order to provide a well-rounded view of mental illness. The talks were informative, inspiring and really helped to break down myths surrounding mental disorders that are sadly still prevalent in society.
One of the talks came from ‘J.T’, a young woman who suffers with both Borderline Personality Disorder and Anxiety. She spoke about her personal struggles with these illnesses, the ways in which her anxiety can exacerbate her BPD as well as the negative stereotypes that surround the disorder. To counteract the assumption that BPD suffers are attention-seeking, she said, ‘People with BPD aren’t attention-seeking or manipulative, we are in excruciating pain and struggle to communicate/ manage this pain effectively’. ‘J.T’ then went on to say ‘If someone so desperately wants attention to the point that they are willing to hurt themselves, that in itself is a problem, and they are no less deserving of support.’
In addition to J.T’s very powerful presentation, the other talks included a medical overview of anxiety and depression and the benefit of mindfulness on emotional wellbeing. There were also resources available in the breaks from stands ran by HeadCase, The Charlie Waller Trust, MQ and Jessica Kingsley Publishers. There was also a lovely Waitrose lunch and lots of teas, coffees and biscuits to keep everyone energised!
It was a very powerful experience to be surrounded by so many people who care about mental health and want to improve the lives of children and young people. As Claire Eastham said, who suffers with anxiety herself, ‘Days like these are the only times when I really feel like I can be myself.’
Even though it’s great that she felt like she could be herself, I hope that one day everyone who is struggling can feel comfortable enough to be themselves every day in every kind of environment.
With this wish in mind, I have already started organising the next conference which will be on mental illness in boys and young men so stay tuned!!!