Monthly Archives: August 2016

A Level Results – What Now?

For many seventeen and eighteen year olds, today feels life changing. A and AS Level Results can feel like the be all and end all. There have been many blogs written about the agony and ecstasy experienced upon the receipt of these results – but what next? What happens once the elation and devastation have cooled a little and you’re left with the inevitable “what’s next?”

I guess I was one of the lucky ones, the grades I needed for BIble College weren’t as high as the ones demanded by some of my friends’ choices and I was actually pretty pleased with my results. But I remember the strange anti-climax. After all, this is what you’ve been working towards for years and now the results are out – what next?

There may be anxiety about uni, the trauma of going through the clearing system or heading off to full time work for the first time. Every option has their own set of peculiar issues and I clearly remember thinking “but I’m only eighteen”. I felt far too young to be dealing with what felt like decisions that would drastically alter the course of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, they are big decisions. But our choices aren’t irreversible.

If your results weren’t what you had hoped for, your life isn’t over.

If your results got your into your preferred uni – congratulations!

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that the plans God has are far bigger and better than our own. And your future job, degree classification or A-level results aren’t meant to limit you – they are meant to allow you to be the best you can be and live your life!

You aren’t “dumb” if you didn’t get the results you wanted, you aren’t necessarily a ‘geek’ if you got 4 A*.

So don’t let the results be your label. Believe me, you aren’t going to sign emails with your name followed by your A-level results!

So enjoy this time, figuring out where to go next, buying stuff for your uni room or your first work outfits!

How Far Have We Come?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

There are some days when I feel like we’re winning the fight against stigma. Days when I hear good news stories like the impact of the Time to Change campaign, or hear a friend tell me that their church was helpful and instrumental in their recovery.

And then I see the news stories.

A pay gap of up to 42% if you suffer with depression or panic attacks.

A staggering 82% of people wouldn’t like their child looked after by someone with depression.

Almost nine out of ten people with mental health problems (87%) reported the negative impact of stigma and discrimination on their lives.

We may have won a few battles, but it seems we are far from winning the war against stigma.

It’s a question I’ve posed many times before; but can you imagine the outrage if these statistics emerged about cancer? Or a physical disability?

I’m angry.

I’m also heart broken for the people who, on top of living with often life limiting illnesses, also live under the weight of stigma.

Stigma is ugly, and yet it is often couched in language of concern.

The seemingly innocent comments:

“Is he, ‘okay’ to look after the children?”

“I don’t think she’s ‘robust’ enough for the job”

It’s easy to think that this kind of stigma is harmless, or even just thoughtfulness. The problem is, it often hides deeper and more damaging beliefs about people with mental illness.

People with mental health conditions aren’t weak. Many work demanding jobs with long hours and high levels of responsibility, others need to work more flexibly (myself included) but we’ve got to get away from the idea that having a mental illness means being less capable at life!

The sad truth is, mental illness means you have to fight harder; to prove that you’re not ‘crazy’ or ‘flaky’.

We all have our weak spots, regardless of whether we have a mental illness.

For some, it might be a physical illness.

For others, its difficult family life.

And more often than not, we try to hide them or ignore them.

I’m beginning think however, that there’s another way.

Where weakness isn’t something to escape from, but something to help us fix our eyes heavenwards.

The famous verses of Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 12:9 put it better than anyone could.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

For in resting in our weakness, we can point to our strength.

And stigma cannot stand up against the strength that is found in the Creator.

It’s not that we give up the political and social campaigning for parity of esteem.

It’s that we give ourselves a break – because we’re all weaker than we like to think we are.

But we also have a strength that is stronger than we can conceive.

I still want to see the stigma against mental illness banished – but I believe that when we are at our most worn out and weakest – God shows up.

So let’s keep fighting stigma, we don’t have to do it in our own strength.