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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Raising money for Mind

The recent tragic loss of Robin Williams inspired an almost overwhelming response from people who care about mental health. Mind received more calls and visits to their website than ever before. On the morning of 12 August, they published a post on Facebook simply saying 'It's OK to ask for help' and the message was seen by 1.5 million people around the world.

I was on Facebook that day, absorbed by the death of Robin Williams. I was searching for comment, snippets of news and reaction from friends who, like me, just needed to talk about it. I was worried about my husband who has been severely depressed for years. I wanted answers, I wanted to know what to do. At the very least I wanted a conversation between him and me and an acknowledgement now that we can't go on like this.

I was also thinking about my Mum who only recently passed away after a wretched battle with Bipolar. Although she died of natural causes, during her lifetime Mum attempted suicide on a number of occasions. Sometimes afterwards those around her told her that her behaviour was selfish. They wondered how a mother could do this to her children? How this attitude only deepened her wounds, her guilt and her lack of self worth. It also made Mum's recovery all the harder. To be honest, this lack of understanding didn't help me either. As her daughter, I never saw Mum as selfish, just very ill and often alone. I guess it was the same for Robin Williams.

Whilst scanning through Facebook, an old friend popped up, someone called Jennifer who I went to school with and haven't seen for over twenty years. In the aftermath of Robin William's death, Jennifer took the brave decision to publicly tell all her friends that in recent years she's been diagnosed with bipolar. Inspired to break the stigma of mental illness and change attitudes, Jennifer used this opportunity to tell her personal story. I was really struck by it and I wanted to do something there and then. Jennifer is a singer and, by complete coincidence, also lives in North Lincolnshire. I contacted her and she was immediately enthusiastic about holding a charity fundraising evening together for Mind.

Jennifer and I finally met last week; she is even more hilarious than I remember! I'm really pleased that something positive is coming out of this and mental illness, of all things, has brought us together again. We're very excited about our gig on October 10th, World Mental Health Day when Jennifer, Pete (my husband) and I will perform a mix of comedy, music and poetry. If you're not able to make it then please, if you can, make a donation. I also urge you to keep speaking out and talking about mental health with your friends. Mind won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect - and they genuinely can't do that without us.

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