And the winner is … Oh, it’s me!

Last month I was honoured to receive the ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year’ Award at the Venus Awards for Devon and Cornwall.  It feels very humbling to be recognised in this way, for the work I have done – and continue to do – to improve services for young people with mental health issues, and to raise awareness around this important, and ever-growing problem.

Since the Awards Ceremony in Plymouth, I have been reflecting on how I feel about the Award and what it means to have received it.  For anyone who read my previous blog Venus Award Finalist: what it means to me, you will already know that even being a finalist had brought up all sorts of ‘stuff’ for me, activating my critical inner voice that tells me I’m unworthy of such an accolade.  So I’m sure you can imagine that actually winning the Award has really given it something to shout about!

But, I’m not going to go back over that. Instead, I want to focus on the positives, and pushing that inner critic to one side for a moment allows me to see what else is there …

I am really proud
It’s not every day that we win an Award, even less one such as this!  So, wow!  I’m chuffed to bits, and I confess that a smile creeps over my face whenever I think about it.  It’s a nice feeling to be recognised in this way, and given the professional upheaval I have been through over the past six months, it is really lovely, and most welcome, to receive this ‘pat on the back’.  Goodness knows they’ve been in short supply in the painful separation from The Project, and starting up my new venture, The Project Training & Consultancy.  We all need to feel appreciated for our efforts, and sometimes that comes in unexpected ways.  This was certainly unexpected!

It has given me confidence
Setting up my new business has meant stepping once again into the unknown.  Not totally unknown, as the mental health training is something I’ve been doing for over 4 years now, but I’m on my own with it now.  This has led to a few wobbles in my self-belief, even while others around me have continued to believe in me.  I guess the timing of ‘going it alone’ at the same time as my daughter, Jess, becoming so ill (see An insight into mental illness) hasn’t helped, as my mind, energy and focus have been very much elsewhere, and most of the time since February I’ve been signed off sick!  My own mental health has, unsurprisingly, taken a bit of a knock-back, and with that, my confidence.  So this Award has given me a real boost, and in those moments of self-doubt, I can look at it and remind myself of what I’ve achieved – and that it has made a difference to people’s lives.

I got to wear a posh frock!
OK, a bit of a joke but … in my work, opportunities to dress up are few and far between, so it was nice to have an excuse to put the jeans and leggings to one side and shake the moth-balls from my party dress.  And I got to meet other amazing and inspiring women, and to hear their stories.  Given the other women finalists in my category, and their achievements, winning becomes even more special.  Just being part of the occasion was exciting and special, so winning was the icing on the cake!

It has given me a way to promote the cause I am passionate about
For me this is, perhaps, the most important part of winning this Award.  Of course, being able to put on my CV and website that I’m Inspirational Woman of the Year 2018 (Devon & Cornwall) is fantastic – it sends a message to others that I must have done something good with my life, and that all helps me in promoting The Project Training & Consultancy, and the work I do.  But more than that, it has given me an opportunity to gain some media coverage (see below) to highlight the crisis in mental health service provision in this country, which is seeing young people and adults being turned away from help and support on the grounds of not being ‘ill enough’ – a shocking, but sad reality.

What other area of medicine works like this?  Imagine if we turned people away with cancer, or diabetes, telling them that their symptoms were not severe enough to warrant treatment.  In every other area relating to health, we are focusing on early intervention and prevention  – we are bombarded by campaigns that encourage people to seek help to stay well: Act F.A.S.T. (stroke), Be Clear On Cancer, Stoptober (stop smoking), Change4Life (nutrition and anti-obesity).  Why then, with mental health issues, do we actually turn people away who want and are actively seeking help, because they know they are struggling and can feel themselves getting worse?  Why do we think this is acceptable?

OK … this is a whole other blog in its own right, as I can feel myself getting angry just in writing those few sentences.

But, back to my point, I am thankful to have won this Award because, in writing about winning it and the media interest in the Venus Awards, it also gives me an opportunity to say why I have won it, and why that matters.

In my couple of minutes ‘acceptance speech’ (for want of a better phrase!), I spoke of the need for people to gain knowledge and understanding around mental illness, and to challenge stigma around it so people who are struggling find it easier to speak out; that we all have a responsibility to support young people – our future – to stay well and thrive in an increasingly complex and challenging world.  Afterwards, at least half a dozen people spoke to me, and thanked me for saying what I did, and shared something of how mental illness had personally touched their lives.  In speaking out and sharing my story and experience, it gives others permission to do the same, and knowing you are not alone with it is so important.

Every time I give a talk or deliver training, someone comes up to me at the end and thanks me for my honesty, for speaking out, for saying it like it is.  After all, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, so in all likelihood, if it’s not us personally, it is likely that it will be someone in our family, our friends or our work colleagues.  How then can we afford not to talk about it?

So whilst I may have put this point last, it is very much the most important part of receiving this Award, and for that alone, I am extremely grateful.

Thank you Venus Awards!  And thank you to the category sponsor, Sally Allen, CEO & Founder of Elite Wizard Jeans.  In so many ways, you’ve made my day!

Media 
Axminster mum named Inspirational Woman of the Year

BBC Radio 4 World At One (28:00 – 43:00 mins)

ITV Westcountry interview 22 May 2018


 

Debbie is the Founder of The Project, a successful early intervention support network for young people affected by mental health issues, based in East Devon/South Somerset. Since opening in 2013, The Project has been nominated for and won awards, and been recognised as an example of best practice at Government level for its innovative and effective approach to supporting young people. 

Debbie has set up The Project Training & Consultancy, a social enterprise providing mental health awareness training, as well as consultancy around early intervention support for young people.  The Project’s model has been manualised, to allow replication in other areas in response to demand, so more young people can access the help and support they need, when they need it.

Debbie was awarded Inspirational Woman of the Year 2018 at the Venus Business Awards for Devon & Cornwall.

 

For more information:

www.theproject-training.co.uk  |  e: info@theproject-training.co.uk  |  t: 07874 269233

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Say what you want to say …

I don’t think I’m a natural blogger. I have a list on my wall of all the blogs I want to write, and I really like the idea of it, but somehow they never seem to materialise.  I mean, I know they’re not going to magically write themselves, but I’m curious as to what the block is. It’s not like I’ve got nothing to say either! I’ve got plenty of content, and while I’m driving or walking the dog, working or reading, things come to me, and I think, “I must write a blog about that .. ”

So why doesn’t it happen?

This is my attempt to unblock, to write and see what comes.

Maybe it’s a bit like when I paint or draw, I feel like I’ve got to create a masterpiece, rather than simply draw or create for the pleasure of it, for myself? Perhaps I put pressure on myself to say something profound, rather than simply to write and express what I feel, and then at the end of it, see if it’s worth sharing, or whether it was just some kind of brain-dump to get something off my mind.

Maybe I’m not creating the right environment to write in?  Sometimes I’m literally bursting with something I want to say, and I sit down at my computer, and the words just seem to evaporate.  I find myself scrolling through Instagram or Twitter, or doing some other entirely random task that I didn’t even know needed doing until that moment – like cleaning the windows, or rearranging the furniture … you know the sort of thing.  Or maybe it’s just me?!!

Maybe it’s my old friend, my Inner Critic?  That internal dialogue that, at best, plants seeds of doubt in my mind, and at worst, tells me I’m a failure, an imposter, and why would anyone want to read anything I write.  Hmm … that sure is a force to be reckoned with!  The critical inner voice that can derail our plans, our goals, our beliefs; that limits us and can keep us small, keep us safe in the box.

But who wants to stay in the box?  We can all play it safe and stay within our comfort zone, never taking a risk, never fully showing up.  Yet, the more we push the sides of the box and try to flex our wings, the louder our critic shouts, the more insidious the comments become …

“Don’t even think about doing ‘x’, you’re only going to fail! Who do you think you are anyway? What makes you think anyone’s going to listen to you. You’ll mess up, and then people will laugh at you, you’ll be nobody. You are nobody!”

Anyone else familiar with this?  It might not be those exact words – each of our critics has its own particular messages that it drip-feeds us, often pulling on insecurities and judgements from our childhood, from society, from all the “shoulds” and “should nots” we have internalised during our lives.

For the past six years, I have been working with an empowering psychospiritual approach to relationships, personal growth and communication called Voice Dialogue – three years doing practitioner training, and three year’s post-graduate studies.  I found myself talking to some friends about it this week, explaining it to them, how it works, how it can help.  It’s something I’m passionate about, because it has been so helpful to me, taught me so much about myself and given me the strength to deal with some very difficult situations.  This blog is not the place for lengthy explanations about it, but I’ll put a link at the end, so anyone interested can read more about it.

What I do want to share is this.  With these friends, who are also both entrepreneurial women setting up businesses to bring about social change, we were talking about these critical inner voices, that sabotage our attempts to try new things, dare to do what we really want, to follow our hearts, challenge the norms, or just simply to be more of who we know we are.  We’ve lived with them all our lives, and are so familiar with their messages that they feel like the absolute truth.  They are not!

The temptation, when we’re on the receiving end of this negative internal diatribe, is to tell it to shut up and go away, to f*** off and leave us alone, or simply to cave in and accept what it says (at which point it will attack us again, of course, telling us we’re pathetic for not even trying – just as an example!).

What I have learned through Voice Dialogue, is not to push it away, to try to shut it up, but to have compassion for that part of us that is desperately trying to keep us safe – stay small to stay safe, don’t take a risk then you can’t fail, don’t stick your head above the parapet and then it won’t get shot off, don’t do ‘xyz’ because then people will *still like you/won’t laugh at you/won’t criticise you/won’t reject you (*delete as applicable, and add a few of your own).  These internal messages, which may have been with us for as long as we can remember, have worked to keep us safe, and whilst they might now be holding us back, they have been servants to us and should be thanked for their service.  Of course, that’s not to say we have to listen and be held back by them.  Not at all!

Once we can see the purpose this critical inner voice has served, we can thank it for the advice or warning, but say, for example, on this occasion I’m not going to listen, I’m going to do it anyway.  We don’t need to reject it, or push it into the shadow, and recriminate it for being such a bully – that will just make it come back stronger, as anyone who feels they are not heard and listened to might.  But if we can really listen to it, accept that at heart it has, in its own distorted way, had our best interests at heart, well then we can learn to see it as just one possibility – one version of events, and not something written in stone that we have no choice but to obey.

Today, I have to remind myself of that.  My Critic is ‘up’ and active right now, and feeding on all the insecurities I am experiencing at the moment – and perhaps with good reason, given everything that’s been happening for me over the past few months (but that’s for another blog – or two!).  But I need to remind myself that I don’t have to listen, that I have a choice to do and say the things that I want to, a right to be heard.

That’s it!  I knew if I wrote for long enough I’d find the answer.  Because of things that have happened in both by personal and professional life in the past 6 months, where my voice has not been heard and people haven’t listened to me, I have lost confidence in myself, in the things I want to do, to achieve, to say.  I guess it’s time for me to start reclaiming that part that I have lost.

I’m reminded of the song which I once sang with the singing group I’m part of,  ‘Brave’ by Sara Bareilles, that says …

“Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say ….”

Well, I didn’t know that’s what I wanted to share when I started writing!


 

 

Pioneered by Drs. Hal & Sidra Stone, Voice Dialogue is a revolutionary process that allows you to become aware of the many different selves that influence the course of your lives.

More information at  Transforming Dialogue.

Debbie is the Founder of The Project, a successful early intervention support network for young people affected by mental health issues, based in East Devon/South Somerset. Since opening in 2013, The Project has been nominated for and won awards, and been recognised as an example of best practice at Government level for its innovative and effective approach to supporting young people.  

Debbie has set up The Project Training & Consultancy, a social enterprise providing mental health awareness training, as well as consultancy around early intervention support for young people.  The Project’s model has been manualised, to allow replication in other areas in response to demand, so more young people can access the help and support they need, when they need it.

Debbie was awarded Inspirational Woman of the Year 2018 at the Venus Business Awards for Devon & Cornwall.

For more information:

www.theproject-training.co.uk  |  e: info@theproject-training.co.uk  |  t: 07874 269233

Let’s get real with our emotions

A blog for Mental Health Awareness Week (Part 1)

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Even if every week should be mental health awareness week, having an official one gives those of us who work in, and are passionate about mental health, the perfect platform to have a bit of a rant …

Maybe it won’t be a rant, but certainly I have things I want to say.

Social media is a funny thing. It can be great for staying in touch with friends, sharing important information, amazing pictures, connecting with people you’d never otherwise be able to reach, or for sharing videos, memes and pictures of cute kittens!  It’s a world where people share the best of themselves, filtering not only their pictures but also their lives, portraying a sanitised, tidy and ‘happy’ version of events. Most of us do it; I’m guilty of it too, and I’m certainly guilty of falling for the illusion of everyone else’s perfect lives, when I’m feeling low or things aren’t going well in mine.

We live in a culture that tells us that we have to be happy, that happiness is what we should be aspiring to, and that if our lives are anything less, then we are failures, unacceptable in some way. This illusion is damaging.

In our obsession with our quest for the golden chalice of happiness, we invalidate all the other feelings and emotions that make us human – anger, fear, sadness, jealousy, disgust – and we are labelling these as unacceptable and to be avoided at all cost. After all, these can be messy, ‘ugly’ emotions, and God forbid anyone gets to see those! But of course, these emotions are real and they can’t simply be filtered out. And they are often justified – there are times when we, or others, have every right to be angry, or scared, or sad. Life sucks sometimes, and these are appropriate responses for those times. When did we decide that emotions can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

What I am seeing, in delivering mental health awareness workshops to young people, is that we are failing young people by not teaching them how to recognise and manage these emotions. Young people are growing up with the belief that they need to be happy, otherwise they’ve gone wrong somewhere; that their lives should reflect this edited and filtered world of social media.

Hey, guess what?! Life doesn’t work like that. And the best thing we can teach our children is how to manage these ‘less attractive’ or so-called ‘bad’ emotions and not to be afraid of them or try to get rid of them, but rather, to learn how to navigate them and see them as tools for change and development.

Learning to express what we’re feeling, to talk about what’s actually going on, is a powerful tool in building emotional resilience, and in turn, in looking after our mental health. Children need to learn ’emotional intelligence’, to understand that ALL our emotions serve a purpose, and should be welcomed in and embraced, not pushed into the shadows, and by doing so, learn how to control and understand them. Look at the film ‘Inside Out’, with the interactions between the emotions being played out in the main character, Riley – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger; they all have a valid and important part to play, and things only go wrong when they are overridden, shamed, pushed aside or ignored. Some might see this as just an animated “kids” film, but there’s much we can learn from it – adults or children!

Over the past few months, I have shared on social media some amazing things that have happened to me in my life – being awarded a prestigious Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Trust to carry out research overseas, winning ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year’ at the Venus Awards, starting a new business, setting up the WILD Workers Hub. So many people have said to me, “wow, you’re really flying at the moment, so many good things are happening in your life”. And so they are, but that’s only part of the story.

Here’s where social media creates the illusion. What it doesn’t show are the messy, sad and painful parts of my life that, certainly in recent months, have far outweighed the positive. That doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for the good things that have happened, but they are just a part of a much bigger picture.

For me, this Mental Health Awareness Week, I want to share something from the other side of my life, the stuff that has impacted on my own mental health and at times, has made it hard for me to really celebrate and enjoy the good, ‘social media’ version of my life – the bit that everyone else sees. I will share more in Part 2 of this blog, An Insight Into Mental Illness.

But in ending this post, this Mental Health Awareness Week, let’s do our children a favour and teach them that all emotions are welcome, and that we should not believe – and in fact, need to challenge – the ‘happy = good’ illusion created by the world of social media. A friend of mine describes it as the ‘toxic mirror’ – what it reflects back to us can distort our sense of reality and leave us feeling dissatisfied with our lives, and with ourselves. All of us are impacted in some way by the constant bombardment of digitally manipulated images, the pressure to be perfect and to have the perfect life, and the relentless quest to ‘be happy’.

What I see in working with young people, for who social media is an integral part of their lives, is how much it is leaving them vulnerable, if they are not taught how to deal with all their feelings, and to understand that being happy is just a small part of the human experience; as likely to come and go as every other emotion.

Read Part 2: An insight into mental illness


If you are struggling with mental illness, please talk to someone so you can get the help and support you need!

Call Samaritans free on 116 123
Call SANELine 4.30pm to 10.30pm on 0300 304 7000

Debbie is the Founder of The Project, a successful early intervention support network for young people affected by mental health issues, based in East Devon/South Somerset. Since opening in 2013, The Project has been nominated for and won awards, and been recognised as an example of best practice at Government level for its innovative and effective approach to supporting young people.  

Debbie has set up The Project Training & Consultancy, a social enterprise providing mental health awareness training, as well as consultancy around early intervention support for young people.  The Project’s model has been manualised, to allow replication in other areas in response to demand, so more young people can access the help and support they need, when they need it.

Debbie was awarded Inspirational Woman of the Year 2018 at the Venus Business Awards for Devon & Cornwall.

For more information:

www.theproject-training.co.uk  |  e: info@theproject-training.co.uk  |  t: 07874 269233

An insight into mental illness

A blog for Mental Health Awareness Week ( Part 2)

This blog is of a very personal nature, and is only possible because of the courage of another – my daughter, Jess.

Most people who know me will know of Jess’s struggle with mental illness, which has been a part of her life, on and off, since she was a teenager. Most people will know that this is the reason I set up The Project, the mental health support group for young people, and why I have now set up The Project Training & Consultancy, to offer mental health awareness training to young people, and to those who work with and care for young people, and to enable new early intervention support groups to open up in other parts of the country.

What people are less likely to be aware of is that Jess recently suffered a serious relapse in her mental health issues, which at the beginning of the year reached a point where she had to be Sectioned, and once again admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Jess has now been in hospital for over 3 months!

As her Mum, I cannot find words to describe how it feels – none even come close. No one wants to see their child suffering and in pain (whether that be physical or mental pain) and to feel helpless to do anything; it is perhaps the helplessness that is the most difficult to deal with. Maybe my feelings on this are for another time, but they are not for now.

This week, Jess made the decision to share the following post on Facebook, and has asked me to share this with others:

So seeing as it’s Mental Health Awareness Month I thought I’d share something…

Many people know about my history with mental illness, hospitalisation and the journey through the various mental health services (CAMHs and Adult services) not so many people know I am currently sectioned and in hospital again, I have been here for over 3 months and when I say here that’s a hospital in London as that is the NEAREST bed to my home (4 hours away!!)

I am sharing my journey through art – I find it very very hard to describe how I feel in words, words just don’t seem to do how I’m feeling any justice so instead I draw and express my feelings that way.

Me and my trusty biro(s) have produced more than 200 drawings so far!

If you want to see them I am sharing them on my new Instagram account below.

Mental illness is serious and awareness continuously needs to be raised. Yes as I click “share” I am scared of people’s opinions and thoughts buuuuuut at the same time my wish to share my story, help people have insight into these illnesses and raise awareness overrides those fears because f*** you if you are that closed off and unable to rise above the stigmas attached!!

Apart from being blown away by her art, I was struck by the last paragraph Jess wrote, about being scared of people’s opinions in sharing about her current battle with her illness. We still live in a world where people with mental illness don’t just have to deal with the illness, but also with other people’s reactions to it – and them! Amazing isn’t it, when the latest statistics show that two-thirds of us will experience mental health issues in our life time!! Nearly 70% of the population will be affected by mental illness at some point, so why do we still have so much difficulty talking about it, and why is there still so much judgement against those who are struggling.

How sad that it should feel like a risk to say that you’re feeling ill, just because it’s an illness of your mind, rather than your body (even though actually both are affected!).

I guess this comes back to my earlier blog about this obsession that we “should” all be happy all the time, and that anything less is a failing or weakness that should be hidden from the world. In reality, what this does, is leave those who are struggling feeling isolated and shamed that they feel the way they do. It prevents people from speaking out, from asking for help. It leaves people feeling desperate, tragically sometimes leading to devastating consequences.

Perhaps it’s because it’s so common that people are so afraid of mental illness, and turn away from it and those who are struggling, rather than have to contemplate the fact that they too could be affected at any time. We live an increasingly complex and challenging world, and mental health issues are on the rise, so it is time we turned to face this, and look mental illness square in the face, and support, rather than shun, those who are struggling. We need to learn about it and understand it, rather than pretend it isn’t there.

Jess has been sharing her journey through art, as she says in her post. It is raw, powerful, uncensored and – quite frankly – awesome. Some of it is painful to see, at times disturbing and upsetting. Knowing what my daughter is feeling and going through is so very hard, but I am grateful to her for allowing me to see it too. Like any physical illness, there is little I can do to help her get well, or make it go away. All I can do is be there for her, to offer support where I can, but also I can raise awareness and help to change and challenge attitudes to mental health issues. That for now is all I can do, and so this Mental Health Awareness Week, I invite you to follow and share Jess’s Instagram account, which is already making a huge impact. Others who experience mental illness have said that her pictures encapsulate some of what they feel, professionals working within mental health have said it has helped them to gain insight, and for Jess is provides a way for people to gain a better understanding of what is going on in her head.

Anyone who says that mental illness is ‘all in the mind’, a lifestyle choice, something to ‘snap out of’, should take a look at these images, and then tell me that someone would choose this for themselves.

Thank you Jess, for your courage in speaking out. Thank you for being you ❤ x

Follow Jess on Instagram at:
https://www.instagram.com/__jesskkca__
WARNING: some images may be distressing and potentially triggering

Read Part 1: Let’s get real with our emotions


If you are struggling with mental illness, please talk to someone so you can get the help and support you need!

Call Samaritans free on 116 123
Call SANELine 4.30pm to 10.30pm on 0300 304 7000

Debbie is the Founder of The Project, a successful early intervention support network for young people affected by mental health issues, based in East Devon/South Somerset. Since opening in 2013, The Project has been nominated for and won awards, and been recognised as an example of best practice at Government level for its innovative and effective approach to supporting young people.  

Debbie has set up The Project Training & Consultancy, a social enterprise providing mental health awareness training, as well as consultancy around early intervention support for young people.  The Project’s model has been manualised, to allow replication in other areas in response to demand, so more young people can access the help and support they need, when they need it.

Debbie was awarded Inspirational Woman of the Year 2018 at the Venus Business Awards for Devon & Cornwall.

For more information:

www.theproject-training.co.uk  |  e: info@theproject-training.co.uk  |  t: 07874 269233

Venus Award Finalist: what it means to me

At the beginning of March, the finalists for the Venus Awards 2018 (Devon & Cornwall) were announced and, having been shortlisted as a semi-finalist in two categories, I was very proud to see my name in the three finalists for the ‘Inspirational Woman’ award.

Shortly after this announcement, I received an email with an e-badge, with a lighthearted instruction to “PR the hell out of the fact that you are a finalist” … and that’s where I got a bit stuck! OK, yes I was able to share this news with friends on Facebook, and I think I may have tweeted it too, but always with a slight awkwardness, even embarrassment.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reflecting on this – on being a finalist, how I feel about it, and what it brings up – wanting to say more, but each time pulling back from sharing the news more publicly, or even sharing the reasons why I’m not sharing the news …

So, I have decided to go for it. To share.

As I look through all the Award categories – Employer of the Year, Customer Service, Company, Small Business, Marketing & PR, etc, I realise straight away that my discomfort comes from being a finalist in the ‘Inspirational Woman’ category – it’s not being a finalist, it’s about being a finalist in that category.  It seems so grandiose, so lofty an accolade that straight away it brings up feelings of my not being worthy of such a title, and activates that critical inner voice that tells me that I don’t deserve any such recognition.

Maybe it’s just me, though even as I write that, I know it’s not.  As women, I believe we often struggle to step into all of who we really are, and fully embrace all of what we can achieve, let alone celebrate and shout out about those achievements. Worse still, to be seen to be doing so!  We are taught to stay small, not be ‘too much’; we embody societal attitudes that to be proud is to be arrogant, and that others will see us as a threat if we dare to put our heads above the parapet, and will shoot us down.

In a society which has been shaped and dominated by a patriarchal social system, even though it is acceptable for women to hold positions of power and influence, and to be largely free to live their lives as they choose, women can still struggle to fully step out of the shadows to celebrate their abilities, authority and potency, and to believe they have the right to do so.  For me, this is why those feelings of unworthiness come up.

“The primary goal I want to accomplish in life is to inspire someone, to challenge what is, and to consider what can be …” – Dr R Kay Green

Back to the Inspirational Woman category.  I recently came across a blog on HuffPost entitled ‘What is the true meaning of inspiration?‘, by Dr R Kay Green, an author, trainer and coach.  She speaks of the ordinariness of those who inspire by how they live their lives, and says, “What inspires are the people who do something to better humanity in their own small corner of the world. They don’t need headlines or accolades. They need only to know that they stepped up to make things better.”

So I guess that’s something I do know – that I stepped up.  And that is something I am proud of.

I also know that others have been inspired by the work I have done to raise awareness around young people’s mental health, and to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.  I know that I have changed attitudes, and I know that The Project, which I set up in 2013 to support young people experiencing mental health issues, has helped many hundreds of young people and their families. I know that, in speaking out about my daughter’s mental illness, and the impact this has had on our family, I have given permission for many others to speak out and share their stories.  And I know that the training and workshops I run, both for young people and for those working with and supporting young people, have helped people to have greater understanding around mental illness.  I know and accept all this to be true.

Do I deserve recognition for this?  That’s a whole different question, and that’s where the discomfort comes in.  But maybe this isn’t a question for me to answer.  I’ve certainly never sought it, but having been nominated for this award, and then shortlisted as a finalist after having met Sally Allen, an entrepreneur and Founder of Wizard Jeans, the sponsors of this award category, there are obviously those out there who do believe that I am worthy of being a finalist.

In addition, my recent Fellowship Award by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, to carry out research overseas into early intervention initiatives promoting positive mental wellbeing in young people, is a further indication that others believe in me, and my potential.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

That being the case, my challenge is to accept this, and in doing so, to step out of the shadows and celebrate my achievements.  I need to do this for me, but I also need to do this for all women – to know that it is acceptable for us to be all of who we are, that we are not too much if we fully show up and shine.  And if, by doing this, it gives me more opportunity to bring about change, challenge attitudes and make a difference, then I need to embrace this opportunity, and as instructed by the Venus Awards team, PR the hell out of it …

 


 

Debbie is the Founder of The Project, a successful early intervention support network for young people affected by mental health issues, based in East Devon/South Somerset. Since opening in 2013, The Project has been nominated for and won awards, and been recognised as an example of best practice at Government level for its innovative and effective approach to supporting young people.

Debbie has recently set up The Project Training & Consultancy, a social enterprise providing mental health awareness training, as well as consultancy around early intervention support for young people.  The Project’s model has been manualised, to allow replication in other areas in response to demand, so more young people can access the help and support they need, when they need it.

For more information:

www.theproject-training.co.uk  |  e: info@theproject-training.co.uk  |  t: 07874 269233

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Award

It’s hard to write a blog about something that you can’t quite believe is true! In writing this, I realise this statement could apply to many things happening in my life at the moment, but this one is particularly note-worthy, and incredibly exciting!

I’m proud and thrilled – over the moon in fact! – to have been awarded a Travelling Fellowship through the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. This Fellowship will fund me to carry out research, with my particular project focussing on early intervention initiatives promoting positive mental wellbeing in young people, a subject many will know has a deep and personal significance to me. Following a competitive selection process, my project will see me travelling to Finland and Australia, two countries leading the way with their preventative approach to the ever-growing challenge of young people’s mental health issues.

So who are WCMT and what are their Fellowships all about? Well, WCMT was established in 1965 when Sir Winston Churchill died, with his full knowledge and support. He believed that people meeting face-to-face to share ideas would increase global understanding, and the Trust continues his legacy by funding UK citizens from all backgrounds to travel overseas in pursuit of new and better ways of tackling a wide range of the current challenges facing the UK, to bring back ideas and learning for the benefit of others. Each year more than 100 Fellowships are awarded, and anyone can apply – no special qualifications are necessary, just a strong project idea and a passion to make a difference to others.

“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” – Winston Churchill

Why am I doing this? As many will be aware, 5 years ago I set up The Project, an early intervention peer support network for young people with mental health issues, based locally in East Devon/South Somerset. This was a project born out of my experience of caring for my daughter, Jess, who developed debilitating mental illness during her teens, severely impacting her life and the lives of those around her. Having struggled to find her the right help and support, and realising how many other young people and their families were facing similar challenges, I decided to create a much needed community-based resource for young people. Since then The Project has been nominated for and won awards, been recognised as an example of best practice at national level, and directly supported over 250 young people, and many more families.

Yet despite its success and recognition of the vital role it plays, backed up by an increasing body of evidence, this cost-effective resource relies on charitable grants, fundraising and donations to continue. Whilst receiving referrals from mental health services, GPs and schools, it receives no statutory funding.

In response to increased interest in The Project’s innovative approach, the model has been manualised to enable further groups to be set up in other areas, which I am now promoting through my new social enterprise, The Project Training & Consultancy. But again, it comes down to money, and a commitment to invest in early intervention services. Despite increasing acknowledgment at Government level of the value of such support for young people affected by mental illness, as yet this has not translated into any meaningful shift in service delivery, and it is left to small groups like The Project to fill the gap between what is needed and what statutory services can provide.

Through my research, which will involve 3 weeks in Finland and a month in Australia, I aim to bring back evidence that will strengthen the case for this shift, and to feed back international best practice and learning to inform CAMHS reforms that are taking place at both at national and local levels. I will also use the learning to improve The Project’s model, to ensure that young people continue to receive the best possible support.

We are currently failing our young people by not providing the help and support they need when they need it, sometimes with devastating consequences. We cannot afford to ignore the need for change – the costs, both emotionally and financially, are too high!

So today I travelled to London to a Churchill Fellows 2018 seminar to meet with other Fellows in the ‘Mental Health’ category, which is sponsored and supported by the Mental Health Foundation. This amazing opportunity is still sinking in, but I think it’s just become a bit more real ….

Bring it on. Let the adventure commence!

 


I’ll be writing regular blog posts about my Fellowship, before, during and after my travels. I hope in sharing my thoughts, feelings, challenges, goals and achievements, I can inspire others to go for their dreams. I also really hope I can make a difference, and improve the lives of young people affected by mental health issues. Thank you for reading.

www.theproject-training.co.uk

5k in the bag!

Woohoo! Today I reached the 5k mark, and ran my first Parkrun! I completed the run in 35 minutes, and apart from being knackered, I have to say I’m feeling pretty good.

Today Parkrun came to Seaton, and nearly 200 people turned out to run on a dull, wet November morning. Bit of a shock when you’re used to running on your own, but it seemed like a good thing to aim for when I found out a few weeks ago that this new Parkrun was starting up. So, not having yet run a full 5k, I decided to take it on, and see how it went … and I made it!

So, that’s my first goal reached. 5k – tick!

What next? Well, maybe before I look forward, I’ll just recap a bit on the last few weeks since my last blog.

Three weeks ago, the training was going well, I was beginning to feel more comfortable, and then … ping … my back went! Nothing to do with running, but it put a stop to any running at all for over 2 weeks. I was starting to panic a bit. Missing weeks of training was starting to worry me – I know April is a long way off, but when you break it down into weeks of training, it isn’t so far, and every week counts. So, I was relieved when, after a trip to the physio, the pain started to ease and I was able to start training again.

Interestingly, when I ran again last Sunday, after my enforced rest, I actually felt good and rather than setting me back, I was able to push on and run further than before. Far from doing me harm, I think it actually did me good. On Tuesday, I made it to 4k, and then today, with the help of the Parkrun atmosphere and my friend Lorna’s company, 5k.

In the grand scheme of things, 5k isn’t very far – just over 3 miles! So, a long way still to go – a very long way!! Looking at the training plans on my Runmeter app, I’ve now decided to follow the 10k programme for a few weeks, before I jump over onto the half marathon plan. At the moment, the distance on the half marathon plan increases just a bit too quickly for me, though sooner or later I’m going to have to go for it.

I’ve entered the Exeter half marathon in mid February. It’s good to have something to aim for, and to be honest, if I can’t run a half by then, I’m probably in a bit of bother.

So, I’m back on track, and gradually starting to enjoy the running as it gets a bit easier. It gives me time to think and for my brain to unwind, which is much needed. But more about that another time.

Parkrun UK