Today I attended the first training session at a charity called Rethink Mental Illness for which I have recently started volunteering.The aim of the charity is to both spread awareness and reduce the stigma attached to mental illness, as well as provide advice and support for those struggling or taking care of someone with mental illness in a number of ways.
Rethink provides outreach in the form of a crisis line as well as through workshops, trainings, awareness events, support groups, mentoring, fundraising and more – aimed at a variety of people depending on their needs and reasons for reaching out. They even have a number of supported living and respite centres around the country, for people in crisis or transitioning from inpatient or residential settings back into society.
My role volunteering with Rethink is within the ‘Step Up: Transitions’ project. I am one of ten volunteers on the team, and we are led by a manager who has produced and is running the initiative for the first time. We all have lived experience of mental illness which in my opinion brings another level to the work we are doing; most specifically relating to the non-judgemental and compassionate attitudes we all bring with us regarding mental illness.
It was actually quite amusing observing the flow of conversation between us. Put together a bunch of young adults with histories of mental illness and you could write an encyclopaedia on all things related; from meds to hospitals, types of therapies to different services, experiences of stigma to a whole range of diagnoses and symptoms – we truly knew it all!
So, what exactly is this “Step Up: Transitions” project I have become involved in?
Between the ages of 16 and 25, young people undergo a number of transitions. From issues such as childhood and adolescence into adulthood, home to independent living and school to university and work environments, it is a time of great change for many. Facing transitions such as these are challenging for anybody, and for people struggling with mental illness as an additive, these times can carry with them an even greater burden.
Unfortunately in the U.K, between the ages of 16-25, many young people with mental illnesses become ‘lost’ in the healthcare system, unsuccessfully handed between the wrong services, or denied the support they need until it is too late and they find themselves alone in a crisis.
As Step Up ‘Champions’, our role is to co-create and then facilitate supportive, understanding and informative workshops for people who fall into this category. We will be working alongside mental health practitioners to create these trainings and then providing them within school, college and healthcare environments where transitional periods are occurring.
We will be using our own knowledge and experience to tackle these issues head on, and approach them from a place of non-judgement, passion, compassion and creativity. Our commitment is in working toward bettering mental health services and young people’s wellbeing across London during times that are especially challenging.
Today the training had a really great vibe and I am looking forward to being a part of the project. It felt very profound to me that a group of ten young adults with pretty extensive mental health histories had come together to use our lived experiences to help others going through similar struggles, in a positive and proactive way.
I thought it may be helpful to post the link of the website for anyone (in the UK) in need of further support. Click here to be directed to the services offered by Rethink.
Please do contact me for any further information!