Monthly Archives: July 2015

5 Highlights from 5 Years of ThinkTwice

In case you hadn’t noticed, ThinkTwice is FIVE in August and over the month we are going to be featuring a number of articles to celebrate five years of raising awareness and dispelling stigma about mental health issues.

To kick things off, we thought we’d look back at five of our many many highlights!

5. Mental Health Prayer
When we began back in 2010, we had no idea that a group of students meeting to pray and think about mental health issues would become a national project! It’s where much of our material was written and piloted, and where we first began to dream of something that could make a difference for those struggling with mental illness and feeling like no-one understood.

4. Youthwork Summit 2013
This was amazing for us! Rachael was utterly petrified about speaking in front of 1000+ youth workers, but it was really the beginning of a whole new beginning, with opportunities to spread our message growing from it and seeing people (other than Rachael’s friends!) begin to grasp the ThinkTwice vision. You can watch her talk “Dealing with Your Dark Side” here.

3. ThinkTwice Cafe Concert
Our first fundraising event was a great deal of work but great fun! We covered the LST student lounge in bunting, and enjoyed amazing music with all the songs exploring themes in mental health. From “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to “How to Save a Life” it was such a fantastic evening.561121_444559015574662_1689984935_n

2. S.O.S Campaign
The Speaking of Suicide campaign was our first foray into campaigns, articles in Fusion and Threads as well as being on Premier and UCB to challenge the way people speak about suicide; losing the language of the criminal justice system and instead recognising that suicide is a tragedy for all those involved – but it’s a tragedy that can be prevented!

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1. First ThinkTwice Course
The first course we ran at Emmanuel Church Northwood was our biggest highlight – it was the culmination of four years preparation – but not only that but it was amazing to see people grow in confidence to approach mental health issues and help create a community willing to help. We are so looking forward to returning again this year!
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Thank you so much for your support so far, here’s to the next 5 years! #ThinkFive

Finding Joy In My Story – Guest Blog

My name is Joy, I’m 27 years old and I live in Bedfordshire. I love reading, cross-stitch, card-making, singing, and watching films. I graduated three years ago with a degree in Creative Writing and, in September, I will begin an MA in English Studies. I’m passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness, and about enabling people to tell their stories. I would love to travel, to help people, and to have a family of my own.

However, that is easier said than done. When I was sixteen, I began to self-harm. I’d experienced years of trauma, my self-esteem was at rock bottom and I felt I had no-one to turn to. I was shy, told to stay quiet about what had happened to me, and unable to say, “I need help.” It escalated quickly. By the time I was seventeen, I was suicidal, self-harming on a daily basis, and still trying to maintain a façade of wellness so I could get through my A-Levels and go to university.

After I began attempting suicide, it was clear to everyone around me that I wasn’t okay. I was referred to my local mental health team, received pastoral support from my church and eventually went to a residential programme. At first, it seemed that I had recovered. I managed to stop self-harming for a few months, my mood had picked up, and I began looking to the future. I completed a pastoral leadership course and then went on to the University of Derby where I studied Creative Writing.
I was finally where I had wanted to get to, but I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. Again, I was bullied and again, I experienced trauma. I believed I had a label on me that everyone could see, saying: “Already damaged, break me some more.” In my last year of university, I was struggling to make it through each day. I was at my lowest and desperate for a way out from the pain I was carrying. Upon graduating, I tried to scrape my way through work because I wanted my family and friends to see me doing something with my life. I worked for a mental health charity whilst covering up my arms that were riddled with scars.

My mask soon dropped. After five weeks of work and another suicide attempt, I was admitted to hospital. I was so ashamed that people would know I couldn’t cope after trying so hard to pretend otherwise. I was in hospital for ten weeks, which was then followed, in quick succession, with three other, shorter, admissions. This was in 2013.

I would love to say that my life has turned around. I would love to say I’m doing all the things I hope to do. But I want to be real. Mental illness is difficult. My diagnoses are numerous and often hard to manage on a day-to-day basis. There are days when I don’t want to meet anyone or talk to anyone. There are days when I wonder if I will ever be able to work again. There are days when I fluctuate between despair and apathy many times. They are the dark days of mental illness.
Jemma Wayne, in her book After Before, says, “You mustn’t be ashamed. You’re not responsible for what others do to you. Only what you do to yourself.” So on the days when I remember what has gone before, I also remember what I can do for myself today. Some days it’s about getting up, putting my make-up on, and sitting in the library with a book. On other days, it’s going to my therapist and saying, “I’m struggling.”
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I know there are many battles ahead and that I’m not where I want to finish up. But sometimes the greatest lessons come from the journey and not the destination. Mental illness may always be my experience. However, in writing about it and claiming it as my story, I don’t have to let it be the definition of me. I am also the things I love, my passions, and my hopes for the future.

It Would Never Happen to Me – Guest Blog by Jen Frost

I never thought it would happen to me. I was the queen advice giver to those I knew who were struggling with their mental health (I was very annoying in hindsight ha). I had studied mental health as part of my psychology degree and worked in a secure unit for young people who self harmed. I was a massive advocate for self-care and knowing your identity in God.

AND if it ever did happen I would recognise the signs before they took over. I would know and seek help as soon as I had any doubts.

Then I had my first baby and this changed. I didn’t see the signs, I didn’t seek help as soon as I could and it did happen to me. I got Post natal depression. Here is my story and my hope.

So where to start… In June 2012 I had a baby girl, we’ll call her Tigger (she has endless bouncy energy!), from this point on. She was perfect and I was so excited about becoming a mum. The labour was ok (as far as labour goes) however after suffering a third degree tear I was rushed to theatre and after a spinal and much stitching was delicately holding my baby girl again. You can read more about my birth story (If you’d really like to!) on my blog but it’s safe to say I experienced the shock that so many others experience at the loss of dignity and the difference between my expectation and the reality of what bringing Tigger into the world looked like.

I had so much love for my little one and it wasn’t for some time (about 6 months) that I began to wonder if there was something wrong as the feelings of exhaustion, loneliness and anxiety just would not budge. Why did I feel like this? What did I have to feel sad about? Why when I have so much support and love around me, do I keep crying and feeling so low? I tentatively began to ask the question am I depressed?

However it wasn’t until 18 months after my little one had arrived, that I felt like something was going to break. I could no longer see light at the end of the tunnel and thing seemed so hard. This was when I first sought help. I finally admitted that I was struggling. I owned up to the fact that I couldn’t cope as I was and needed help. I was diagnosed with late onset PND probably starting in my daughters third month.

So how did all my theory fair under duress? Honestly at the beginning not brilliantly however what I have learnt in a new way is that God is incredible. I have had times when i couldnt read scripture or pray, sing songs without crying but I have learnt that in the darkness and loneliness of mental ill health, God is present, gentle and accompanying. He understands and wants to be with you in it. My biggest struggle was and still is my deminished capacity due to PND however right near the beginning of my illness god gave me this verse. Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you, just be still.

If you are in the midst of darkness right now, be still and invite The Lord into your darkness, let him fight for you. It won’t always feel like it but I promise you that God is with you, his light is brightest in the dark.