Bringing The Complete Freedom of Truth to Croydon

Last month, I took part in the European youth project, The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) for the third time.  This year we were in the town of Sarteano, Italy, where we took part in the usual assortment of workshops, discussions and showcases.

A project centred on inclusiveness, tolerance and equality, TFCT is the perfect example of what Europe and the extended world could be if we were more accepting of each other and worked together, rather than fight against each other.

Most of all, it shows the importance of art – how it can bring people together and begin to create change.  This has been a great inspiration to me and an element that I’ve taken forward in developing Young People Insight – in fact, YP Insight probably would not be what it is now without TCFT.

This year I brought a bit of YP Insight to Sarteano by holding a poetry night as part of TCFT.  As always, it was filled with varying talent and amazing poetry on a variety of different themes.  However, unlike Poetic Insight, all of the performers were not young people, but TCFT is all about transcending age.

Poems were presented in different languages, which brought different levels and beautiful cultural diversity to the night.  Francesco’s poems were read in Italian, and also translated into English and Romanian.  Maya and Sandra performed poems in Bosnian, while Saša delivered a poem in Serbian.

Image by Irina Ganescu.

There were themes about love, self, fitting in and dance.  Some poems were more personal than others, giving us a deeper insight into the individual which is always beautiful.  Hopefully there will be some footage up online soon so you will be able to experience what was an amazing night.

Thank you to Francesco, Sandra, Julia, Sylvia, Luka, Ellie, Izzy, Maya, Molly, Ricky, Liviu, Raul and Saša – the night would not have been what it was without you.  I also want to thank everyone else who was behind the scenes and helped me to get the night organised I could not have pulled this off on my own in a country that was foreign to me.

TCFT is a truly special experience, which words cannot do enough justice for.  You cannot fully comprehend it unless you live it yourself, which is why I intend to bring more of TCFT to Croydon over time.  I’ve seen the change and effect it has had on the lives of the young people involved, including myself.  I can genuinely say that it has changed my life and I would not be the leader that I am now without it.

Just watch this space.

What are your thoughts on mental health?

Taking inspiration from Mental Health Awareness Week, mental health was the theme of this month’s forum.  On May 16th, we were joined by Geoff and Joan from Off The Record, a charity “founded in 1994 to provide free, independent and professional counselling for 14 – 25 year olds in the Croydon area,” who provided another level to our conversation.

To start the conversation, I thought it was important to ask what everyone’s understanding of mental health was.  Responses included:

  • “I think it may be along the lines of mental capabilities… It is knowing the mental capacity of an individual – something may trigger someone more than others.” – Sharna
  • “Up until recently, I didn’t realise anxiety and depression was a symptom of mental health.  I only thought mental health was schizophrenia or a mental breakdown.” – Alana
  • “I understand mental health as the health of our minds… All of us have a mental health.  There is no such thing as people with or without it.” – Geoff
  • “It’s not taken as seriously as physical illnesses… It’s not recognised unless people go through it.” – Shannette

Sharna then brought up the well-being factor in the workplace and getting mental health issues out there, particularly in schools.  Geoff responded by saying that if we had less shame, then we would be more willing to talk about it.  He also made the very interesting point of: “The strategies work for a while, but in the end they become a problem themselves.”

The next question I asked was, why does there seem to be a stigma around mental health, especially in the BME community?  Alana thinks that it’s a lot to do with pride and social status, while Sharna thinks that there’s a big lack of understanding.  Sharna also said, “With people of colour, there is a harsh reality that it can be fixed.”

Shannette thinks that sometimes it’s a parent coming to terms with what their child has, while Nyisha believes that black families sometimes have difficulty in taking responsibility for playing a part in their children’s mental health problems.  “I think what your parents has gone through effects you, and effects their children,” said Nyisha.

We also touched on the topic of males and mental health, which I think could be a topic for discussion all in itself.  Sharna began by saying, “It’s like boys aren’t able to have emotions.”  Shannette followed up by expressing that she thinks things are changing now, especially with social media, and that boys are a little more open and able to share their emotions.

Hakeem said that guys tend to bottle things up more often, and Geoff revealed to us that with a break up, there is an incredible difference in the way that is handled by each gender.  He told us that girls find various ways to deal with it, while boys tend to go to the extreme and at times consider suicide.

Alana and Rhianna were both brave enough to share their experiences with mental health problems with us.  Alana revealed that it was triggered by something that happened in her past, while Rhianna went into depth on what triggers her depression and anxiety disorder, and how she has coped with them.

I then handed it over to Geoff, who expressed the importance of getting interested in our critical voice.  He believes that these voices often come from our experiences and it’s about understanding that voice, and not taking it at face value.

Rhianna followed this up by saying that a lot of our thoughts are fears that come from nowhere – “Sometimes you need to question it and not just listen to it.  Sometimes you just need encouragement.”

Nyisha thinks that a lot of things to do with mental health is meeting someone in their reality, which was slightly echoed by Rhianna who thinks that people need to take more time to understand people and who they are – “I think that a lot of people can only understand to their level of understanding.”

Shannette also believes that in a lot of instances, people are in competition with how serious their problems are, which can sometimes be the block in people getting help.

Rhianna expressed the importance of having a way to deal with things and express yourself – “You have to face something in order to overcome it.”  She also added that “with depression, a good thing is to just let it out.”

Geoff also believes that with some people, a diagnosis is really useful and medication could be really helpful, but sometimes a diagnosis is not helpful, as people can be misdiagnosed.  He added that a medical models is not always the best solution, and sometimes the humanist model can be a better way to look at it.

My final question was, how can we break the stigma around mental health?  Responses included:

  • “By doing things like this.” – Geoff
  • “Getting more understanding.” – Valerie
  • “If there is something you’re going through, own what you have and educate people on what you have.” – Shannette
  • Spreading awareness – Alana
  • Encouraging people and sharing your story.  “Also finding the right groups of people – we all need someone.” – Rhianna
  • I think society needs to question the senior members in the medical profession.  It would help to have more people in the same community, as they have that cultural understanding. – Nyisha

There were so many more amazing gems and points raised in the conversation, but unfortunately I cannot include them all, so I want to leave you with a few to reflect on:

  • “No one can be your hype man as much as you.” – Shannette
  • “Establish that what you’re going through is your own and you can’t make comparisons.” – Rhianna
  • “I think everyone has a hint of madness in them and it’s about embracing that.” – Shannette
  • “You can be saving someone by just sharing your experience.” – Alana
  • “When we’re struggling, that is often when the light comes in.” – Geoff

Life Goals will be the theme of our forum on June 20th and it is going to be a special one, as we’ll be joined by some inspiring young people who will be sharing their stories.  Hopefully it will inspire you to think about your life goals and what steps you want to take moving forward.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

Info for May’s YP Insight Forum & Poetic Insight

We’re only eight days away from the end of our crowdfunding campaign and also into the second day of Mental Health Awareness Week, which I think we can all agree is incredibly important.  Mental health needs to be acknowledged and conversations definitely need to be had to create a better understanding in the midst of a mental health crisis.

This is why we are focusing on mental health this month at YPI, starting with our forum on May 16th.  Mental health was actually the topic of choice for Rhianna, so I’m hoping that she will help me in leading out next week.

We’ll be asking about the understanding of mental health, why there seems to be a stigma around it and how we can break the stigma.  There will also be some representatives who work in the young health and mental health sector present, which will add an element of expertise to the conversation.

So this is a call to all young people to come along next Tuesday and join the conversation on an important topic, while munching on some snacks in a relaxed environment.  We’ll be at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm, so just let us know you’re coming by registering here: http://bit.ly/2pT3hqh

Mental health will also be the theme for this month’s Poetic Insight, which will be taking place on May 30th.  There are slots open to perform, so if you are a young poet or spoken word artist wanting to speak your mind on mental health, email shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or message me on 07910092565.

I think this is going to be a night of incredible, moving, powerful poetry, which none of you will want to miss.  Save the date and come down to Project B, where doors will open at 7pm with performances starting at about 7.20pm and the event concluding at about 9pm.  Register to get your free tickets now: http://bit.ly/2pT3hqh

Don’t forget to support our crowdfunding campaign in the final eight days so that YPI can continue to put on events like this and create necessary dialogue.  You can share our campaign page and make a pledge here: http://bit.ly/empower-youth-voice

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

13 Days Left of Crowdfunding Campaign

In February I started training, April 12th was the launch and now there are just 13 days left of our crowdfunding campaign.  I cannot believe how quickly time has flown by, but that is just the way life is these days.

The amount of work that has gone into this campaign is more than I ever imagined and it has been stressfullll.  I’ve been frustrated, worried, tired and welled up with tears, but I’ve valued the journey and all that its taught me.  Going through the training actually helped me focus the direction of Young People Insight, which I’m really happy about.

This campaign will not only enable Young People Insight to empower the voices of more young people through increased funds, but it will also raise awareness of the platform, which is definitely needed.

We’re now into the final two weeks of the campaign and urgency is the name of the game.  The target is £2300 and we’re not yet at the halfway mark, so please give a pledge of at least £3 if you can: http://bit.ly/empower-youth-voice

There are some great rewards on offer, including a special thank you video from yours truly filmed in a beautiful Italian theater, a collection of poetry by some of the young performers from our poetry nights and £10 off an L’s Up Official hat.  L’s Up Official just happens to be a fashion brand run by two young men who are involved with YP Insight.

Also, continue to share the campaign as far and wide as you can, because one share could make all the difference in boosting up our total.  Posts about our campaign are also on Just Croydon and The Voice, which you can share and use for validation as well.

I just want to take this time to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported, pledged and shared our campaign so far.  We literally could not do it without you and I love you all for that.

If you haven’t seen it already, take a little time to watch Alana share her experience with Poetic Insight and don’t forget to head over to our campaign page: http://bit.ly/empower-youth-voice