Let’s Talk About Goals

It was all about goals at The Kickback on July 24th, as we thought about the goals we had and goals we could aspire to after hearing from positive, inspiring young people.

To start the conversation, I asked what a goal is.  Mhairi made us all laugh with her witty response: “Where you aim in football.”  Stefon then said that it was a target or aspiration, Renee described it as a destination type thing and Daisy said that it was a next step.

I then posed the question: do you set goals?  Humi’s response was, “I set goals, but I divide them up…  There are short-term goals and long-term goals… I think it’s important to distinguish between the two. ”

Stefon believes that it’s important to have a plan, using the quote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” to back up his point.  Jamie told us that he has the end destination and the bus stops to get there, while Daisy said that she has deadlines rather than goals, as she finds it difficult to hold herself accountable.

When I asked the questions of whether it is important to have leeway when working towards your goals, Renee made a really great point by saying, “We shouldn’t feel like failures for not meeting certain standards and work ethics.”

Before hearing from our speakers, I asked if anyone wanted to share their goals.  Stefon wants to make a living from his passion within the next two years – “If you do what makes you happy, the money will come.”  Etan’s goal was one I especially loved: “To prove people wrong in general.”

Our first speaker of the night was Renee, who founded the organisation Croydon Community Leaders (CCL).  Their values are community empowerment, community engagement and community action.  “We wanted to put people doing great things in Croydon on a platform,” said Renee.

CCL supports charities and non-profits, puts on events and organises campaigns, and also helps residents to engage in community matters – “We wanted to give back to the community,” Renee told us.

After asking if any of us had experiences with the police – the experiences shared were all negative – Renee told us about a new outreach programme that CCL were starting to enable members of the community to get involved and support young people, which is about getting trained in stop and search.  As well as training community individuals, they would give police cultural communication training.

During the conversation, Stefon raised the point, “You touched on the relationship between black boys and police, but this is a long-term relationship between black boys and the system… How can we change the mentality of young black boys, as it’s hard for us to change the system?”

Humi also said, “As young people, and also as people, we’re not taught to communicate in the right way.”  This was part of a wider and interesting conversation about the police, stop and search, and communication.

Talk then moved on to education and young black people being kicked out of schools.  Jane dropped some gems on us, including, “I know how hard it is for parents to constantly be fighting.  We know the goals we have for our children, but the system and institution is built to fail us… Academies that are supposed to nourish them are now failing them, because it’s a business.

“If a system wants to find fault, it will find fault, and one of the biggest faults is the colour of our skin.”

Our next speakers were Humi and Daisy, two of the founding members of What You Saying, a poetry night that takes place on the second Tuesday of each month in Croydon.  “Our tag line is raw, honest and inclusive,” said Daisy.  She explained that they give a safe space for artists and writers to share their work, and they also have feature artists to get more of their work out there.

Humi told us that a major reason they set up the night was because they found most poetry nights they went to were really white and middle class, or the complete opposite, and they wanted to get different people in the same space, otherwise there isn’t a way to learn from each other.

They also create opportunities for young people experiencing homelessness, as a way of trying to lift their community – “You only rise by lifting others,” Humi said.  She informed us that about 90% of the young people she worked with who were experiencing homelessness were involved with crime, as a lot of them didn’t know anything else.

Humi told us that she is trying to encourage young people to express themselves in healthy ways, as some of them aren’t taught that by parents.  She also made the point that society should be encouraging more young people to channel what they do into something else in a more creative way.

Etan made us all think by saying, “I’ve been told that I have potential, but… I want to hear that I have the potential and can do something else.”

Humi went on to share her experience of going into youth work, without a degree and any qualifications in youth work.  “When you think about goals, you need to think about it on your own terms,” she stated.

Our final speaker of the night was Si-Ann (who also took the photos for us), a creative director and producer, who founded the creative agency, Evacreate.  “Evacreate is all about evacuating your surroundings to create something new,” Si-Ann explained.

Si-Ann took us on a quick journey of her experience, giving us five tips along the way.  Tip 1 was to use who is around you, as she first decided to find people who would help her make Evacreate happen, which got her interested on the impact on people’s mental health.

When working and studying at university, she wondered how she would be able to develop Evacreate, so Tip 2 was: Take inspiration from everything and learn from everything.  “Everywhere you go, there is opportunity to learn and create something,” Si-Ann said.

Tip 3 was: Do milestones really matter?  It’s important to know your why.  When Si-Ann finished uni, she realised she hadn’t built the brand to where she wanted it to, and although there was so much she wanted to do, there were little things she could do.  This led on to Tip 4: Baby steps are still walking.

When Si-Ann and here friend talked about not doing a shoot for a while, they both realised they had gone through mental health struggles, so they decided to do a shoot on mental health among creatives.  They pitched it to a number of magazines, and it was eventually picked up by Afropunk, which was the one they really wanted it to be featured in.

Tip 5 was: Remember it’s not a sprint and endure the marathon.  “Take your time and don’t fear failure… It’s your own path and you need to take your time with it, and do what’s best for you,” Si-Ann stressed to us.  “If you don’t fear failure, when you accomplish something, you’ll feel all the better for it.”

I’m going to end with a great point made by Humi: “When we’re talking about goals, we didn’t really talk about when you stop focusing on your goal…  You can work yourself up to the top and then have a break down… Goals are important, but your happiness is more important.”

With that being said, I am taking some time out to reflect, heal and take care of my mental health, so The Kickback will return in October.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram and liking Young People Insight.

Raising Awareness of Young Carers with I Am More CIC

Young People Insight were collaborating with I Am More CIC on June 26th for a special event to raise awareness of young carers – a topic that is not often discussed.

What became clear on the night is how much awareness needs to be raised about young carers, as a lot is not known and not enough care is shown.  This event really should have had a greater number of attendees.

Lola, the CEO of I Am More, led out on the night and began by telling us how the organisation came into being – “My journey began with my own background of being a young carer and working with young people.”

Lola also raised the point: “Every borough has a young carer’s project, but what are they actually doing to push the awareness of young carers being raised?”  She thought that one of thebest ways to raise awareness of young carers would be through a short film campaign.  We watched the Be Seen campaign, a two-part short film on the night, which I thought very was powerful and insightful.

“I loved the fact it was in black and white, it was so clear,” expressed Aaron.  Lola explained, “I deliberately wanted it in black and white so there wasn’t distractions.  I wanted it to signify that being a carer, you have no colour.”  Lola also revealed to us that she wanted to touch on different aspects of caring through the campaign.

“When it comes to being a young carer, especially hidden young carers, they are often caring for someone with a mental health illness or a terminal illness… Because there is still such a stigma around mental health, they often don’t come forward,” Lola explained.

Aaron then asked why she thinks that there is that stigma, to which Lola replied, “Often a lack of understanding.”  She went a little deeper by saying that in the black community, things are often kept to yourselves and you don’t spread your business, but on a wider scale, it’s not spoken about enough.

Leeman posed the question of whether they find that young people get teased about being carers.  Lola thinks that is often why there is a reluctance to come forward, while her colleague Seema raised the question of, “How do you even express what is going on at home?”

This led on to an interesting point made by Lola, who said, “Sometimes you don’t even see that what you’re doing is beyond your years.  Aaron backed up this up by saying, “It’s the very fact that it can become normal.  It shouldn’t be.”

Joan, who works for the charity Off The Record, shared that Off The Record have a young carers service that is present in most schools in Croydon, and that they also have a support service.

I also shared that I think there needs to be a stronger focus on young carers in schools, in order for young people to become more under understanding and empathetic about the matter. Someone may be the annoying friend who cancels all the time, but what if they are cancelling because they are a carer.  We should think to ask these kind of questions.

“Being a carer can lead to you being isolated, being depressed and developing mental health issues,” Lola shared, which I don’t think is taken into consideration enough.

Lola revealed that the agenda of young carers was being pushed a few years ago, but there are “so many things popping up and taking away from these kind of issues.  Youth violence is popping up now.”

This tied in with Akbar saying: “They only really highlight it [particular issues] when they have their agenda and their purpose, or when there is going to be a revolt and they will lose control of the masses.”

Aaron responded by saying, “I think it could essentially be society’s values.  Instead of seeing what’s wrong, the value is to punish the person.  I think the value in England is making it, making money.”

Akbar backed up what Aaron said by pointing out, “Everything here is based on the capitalistic approach.  Prisons are based on capital rather than rehabilitation.”  He also shared the origins of the NHS and made an incredibly intriguing statement: “The NHS is bursting from the inside out, because it is set out to fail.”

We also spoke about social media and how young people perceive themselves, which can have an effect on their self-esteem and mental health.  Akbar told us that the effects of notifications have the same psychological effects as alcohol and gambling on us, because of the release of dopamine, which blew us all away.

As we spoke more about social media and technological devices, Mike stated, “Young people are so glued to these electronic devices, because it’s what they know.”  Lee believes that it is about balance and also adjusting to whatever works for you.

Lee also went on to make an interesting statement: “We have a generation of young people who don’t have social skills, and it’s not just young people.”

Lola believes that a lot of people are feeling isolated, because there is not that physical interaction, backing up a point that Aaron made: “I feel like not being able to have a conversation and meet up with people, it impacts your mental health.”

“We need to connect, we need that interaction… The epicenter is communication with real people in real-time,” expressed Mike.

To wrap up, I asked Lola to share how we can raise awareness of young carers.  “It’s that communication.  Telling more people about it and speaking about what young carers do… Keep the conversations going,” she said.

So let’s keep the conversations going and do what we can to raise awareness of young carers, because we are all likely to care for someone at some point in our lives.

Please stay updated with the great work I Am More are doing by following @IAmMoreCIC on Twitter and @iammorecic on Instagram.

Celebrating Peace at The Kickback / Poetic Insight

“What will happen if we focus on peace for a week?” was the thinking Katie Rose had that led to her to developing and organising Croydon’s first ever Festival of Peace.  On June 19th, we focused on peace by combining The Kickback with Poetic Insight, as part of the programme for the festival.

“This project is a the result of the amazing collaboration and power that is in Croydon,” said Katie to start off the discussion segment of the event.  “Taking the focus away from war and focus more on peace.  What will come from that?”

The first question I asked linked in with one of the things Katie said, which was, what does peace mean to you?  Eileen was first to answer: “Not having to go out… It’s nice to shut your door and not have people giving you any weird experiences.”  Karen followed up this point by saying, “Sometimes I feel solitary time is not stepping back.  It’s living your life.”

For Sid, peace is more to do with understanding and accepting, while Aaron says that “It’s being one with God, and loving Him, and obeying Him or Her.  Also balance.  It’s important to balance between life.”

Steph thinks that you need to have a sense of inner peace to have a peaceful community, but there will always be friction – “I think it’s important to have tolerance.”  This led on to an interesting point from Katie, who said , “Peace doesn’t mean no conflict.”  Sid then said, “Discussion is what leads to the resolving of all kinds of conflict.”

There was also an interesting point in our conversation when we spoke about the hatred towards vegans, which was validated by Steph and Eileen who are both vegan, which we all found incredibly strange.

Next, I asked why everyone thinks peace isn’t spoken about more in society when we continuously hear about war.  Eileen responded first again, saying, “Peace may come across as giving in.  It may be seen as weak.”  Aaron then posed the question, “Does peace sell?  People often gravitate to what isn’t peaceful,” – “People are attracted to conflict,” said Steph.

“It’s the minority of people who commit the violent acts in society.  It’s the minority who get all the press… It keeps everyone in fear of each other,” Katie expressed.  On a different level, Sid said, “People are naturally very cynical,” as if you’re doing something good or charitable, people question why you’re doing it.”

Si-Ann made the interesting point of peace being played off as the kind of opposite of power – “Peace is pushed as the kind of nerdy thing that nobody really wants.”  Hannah also thinks that peace is synonymous to politics and we’re encouraged to stay away from politics.  Joe linked into Hannah’s point by saying, “Politicians will talk about dropping bombs on someone… but they won’t say what’s coming next.”

Katie thinks it’s about being hooked on drama, “because drama is an adrenaline rush.”  She also made the point about war being “big bucks”.  Karen brought in a health element by saying, “I think a lot of the food we eat is quite inflammatory, and when you eat it, the more you want to fight.”

I then asked people to share what makes them feel peaceful.  “I think that it comes down to self-care.  As people, we forget to look after ourselves… It’s taking care of yourself to be your best person,” said Matu.  Karen B shared that being outside makes her feel peaceful – “As soon as I step outside, that sense of peace comes over me.”

For Karen, having good boundaries in place with whatever she’s doing makes her feel peaceful.  Matu also believes that protecting yourself makes you feel peaceful, and she then went on to reference that the movies we watch expose us to war and can make us desensitized.  Sid also made a beautiful point, stating that “Inner peace is kind of like you’re healing yourself.”

The final question I asked was, how can we bring more peace to our community and society as a whole?  Aaron quickly said, “Get involved,” while Katie said, “Arts activity, which is why I started this festival.”  Katie added, “I think art is really important for our well-being… Arts activities have this capacity to bring us together.”

Si-Ann thinks it is about being very cautious of the way we react to situations – “When situations occur, sometimes we behave in a way society has conditioned us to behave.”  Karen believes that “you have to accept every single person in your community, no matter who they are.”

Sid thinks that it “really does come down to education.  When you’re educated on certain matters, that can work towards peace.”  Aaron responded to Sid’s point by saying, “We shouldn’t just be educated people, we should be people of action… When we really value what we bring to the table, more people will get involved.”

This tied in with what Joe said, which was, “I think a more peaceful world is where people are involved… Doing things, you get more involved in how to make change.”  Finally, Aaron said, “When we all see each other not just as other people, but we’re all family, we will get more involved.”

Following the discussion and a little break, it was on to the poetry segment of the night, which is always beautiful.

We had five wonderful open mic’ers in Aaron, Eileen, Hannah, Samirah and Woodzy, who brought their unique styles to the stage.  Aaron was the only Poetic Insight returnee, with all the rest gracing our stage for the first time.

Another first on the night was having feature poets, which isn’t the Poetic Insight tradition, but this was a special event so we did something different.  We were fortunate enough to enjoy the talents of three amazing features, who were the icing on the cake for the night.

First we had returning poet, AadamSpeaks, who brought his witty words and meaningful messages to the stage.  Next was Joe Duggan, who was taking to the Poetic Insight stage for the first time and championing the inter-generational element of the night, who engaged us with his fun and hard-hitting poetry.  Finally was Poetic Insight veteran, Sid, who came with his usual powerful and hard-hitting spoken word.

If you weren’t there, you definitely missed out on an amazing, beautiful event that did a great job of bringing people together.  The conversations went on long after the event officially finished.  Thank you to everyone who was part of it.  Let’s keep spreading the peace.

The Kickback returns on July 24th when the topic will be Goals, and Poetic Insight returns July 31st when the theme will be Dreams & Goals.  Make sure you get both dates in your diary.

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.

Guest Post: In The End

Continuing with this month’s focus on Mental Health, we have a poem from Kennedy Coombs,  a Weymouth-based rapper and poet.

How can I cope with this devil on my shoulder,
The heat is on but its making me colder,
When I was younger it hoped I’d grow older,
Started off small now it’s heavier than a boulder,

You say I’m fine, well I’m sick in the head,
You say I‘ll cope, well I’m sick of this mess,
I dunno how long I can stick with this stress,
If it was my way then I would’ve writ this in red,

I’m gonna have to break before people will notice,
That I was suicidal when I actually wrote this,
I’m waiting for the day, my depression I own it,
So I’m not worried about who’s got the most hits,

Cause on my worst days I struggle with reality,
Insane methods just hoping to find my clarity,
My heads in the clouds, yeah I’m defying gravity,
But when I fall, i know I‘ll be falling rapidly,

Yet it doesn’t matter because I am still smiling,
What about the day where it’s my body you’re finding,
I was up in the clouds, there’s no silver lining,
No one hears my pain, but they notice the rhyming,

I know my day will come when it’s the right timing,
But my life’s a tidal wave that I’m still riding,
There’s so much I’m continuously hiding,
Screaming out for help but it’s like I’m miming,

It’s not like I am obsessed with death and dying,
I’m just sick to death of constantly trying,
Spending my nights alone and crying,
I know I look fine I’ve gotten good at lying,

My life is a ring and I am always fighting,
My life is a song I am continuously writing,
Sinking to the bottom, but the top is in my sighting,
It’s like my life is bait and i am always biting,

It doesn’t matter what I do nothing is right,
So why survive just to eventually die,
Where are my wings? I just wanna fly,
Why stay sober when life’s easier if you’re high,

Years of rejection is the reason why I’m so numb,
Always staring down the barrel of my own gun,
In my mums womb my loneliness begun,
Now I don’t recognise the man that I’ve become,

How can I be myself when I dunno who I am,
I can’t make sense of something I don’t understand,
My life’s a battle and I’ve never had the upper hand,
With every love story there’s always another man,

Falling apart my nightmares are repeating,
I’ve had enough of constantly competing,
This is one story I’m gonna be completing,
Any more heart ache I won’t be receiving,

Now as a young man, I’m still suffering daily,
I ask for help but no one wants to save me,
I just want one day where I can be ache free,
If not, then God is gonna have to take me,

This life I’m living is starting to break me,
A danger to myself I’m concerned for my safety,
I’m tryna find a way out, I’m tryna do it safely,
You can’t let me live like this, no one can make me,

I am the monster that society created,
I’m feeling so numb it’s like I’m sedated,
The one full of energy has slowly deflated,
A song that most can probably feel related,

They call it life cause it’s a life sentence,
Living a life to exit, why make an entrance,
Making it seem peaceful, Hell they forgot to mention,
Even as a yout I was constantly in detention.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

It is Mental Health Awareness Week, so on May 15th, the conversation at The Kickback was on Mental Health.  Hosted by South London health service, OASIS, it was brilliant and enlightening conversation.

OASIS’ main focus is psychosis, working on prevention and supporting those who may be going through difficult experiences – “We’re a preventative service rather than a reactive service,” Isaac explained.  Isaac also informed us that 1 in 3 people will hear a voice that other people have not heard.

Isaac’s colleague Sharon began by asking us what we think gets in the way of people asking for help regarding their mental health.  Beverly responded by saying, “They don’t think they need it,” while Gus thinks that it sometimes has to do with ego.  Caroleen from OASIS also added, “It can be scary admitting something is wrong.”

“A huge thing are the stigmas that are concerned… Mental health is just health,” Lee shared.  He also added that when you mention mental health in the BME Community, people automatically think of mental health problems.

Isaac then asked how we could work on that, to which Lee responded that things like The Kickback were a start – “We need to create more spaces for young people to express themselves about what concerns them.”  He also added, “As long as we dis-empower people in our society, we’re going to have problems.”

Isaac also shared the options available at OASIS with us: Key working, medication and psychology.  Sharon then proceeded to ask us what we would say psychology is and how we would describe it.

Gus believes that it is also more of a study of the brain than the mind, because the brain and the mind are different things.  I shared that I think psychology is the science of people, while Lee agrees that it is definitely a social science.

We also spoke about the link between culture and mental health – “Here in Britain, hearing voices is seen as a negative thing, but in many cultures that is very positive,” said Caroleen.  This was in correlation to a point Isaac was making about psychosis, when he said that hearing a voice may not have an impact on someone’s day, but that it might affect the day-to-day of someone else.

The reference to culture led to Lee bringing up the media – “I’ve never seen a positive campaign about schizophrenia.”  Gus added that he thinks TV is a weapon, and he thinks “an issue with mental health is how you’re being fed, whether that’s in TV or the rest of the media.”  Lee also expressed, “We can create the change, because the way the world has developed has enabled us to have a bigger voice.”

I wanted to get a better idea of what psychosis was, so I asked what psychosis was; however, Caroleen first wanted to know how we would describe it.  KB thought that it was hypnotising someone, Gus thought that it was deep thinking of something, and Anil thought it was crazy things in your head.  Anil then went on to share his own experience of dealing with real life psychosis, which was powerful.

Before revealing what psychosis was, Isaac first spoke about unusual experiences, which included hearing a voice other people don’t hear, which some individuals may be quite troubled by and could affect their work or relationships.  He explained that if someone was having an experience of psychosis, the unusual experiences would be more distressing.  “It’s all about severity,” Isaac said, as hearing a voice could be at risk of psychosis or it could be psychosis.

Caroleen went a little deeper, saying that the experiences and voices are different for everyone – “Some people may hear 10 voices, some may hear lots of voices, some may just think people are out to get them.”  Lee also said that some people may see things, and Sharon explained that “when you keep things in, those beliefs can get bigger… It’s related to our stress really.”  It blew my mind to learn how broad psychosis is and that are so many elements involved.

As we spoke about how deterioration in mental health may occur, Isaac said that “maybe there’s something in people not trusting mental health services.”  Lee responded by saying, “It’s hard to trust the system though,” as he sees going for a psychological assessment as a much more revealing process than a physical examination, before going on to share his own personal experience with mental health professionals.

I personally wanted to know why the stigma around mental health seems to be even higher in men.  Gus thinks it may have been exaggerated by “our experiences and existences,” as “guys don’t really talk about their feelings at all.”  Anil believes that “sometimes it’s an ego thing,” while Rosie believes men are not raised to talk about their issues.

“Times have changed, but human beings haven’t.  Women have always been more expressive creatures,” Lee said.  However, Beverly expressed that “lots of women aren’t talking these days,” which Rosie was in some agreement with – “Because we are in a slightly unbalanced society, women are still getting shut out of the conversation.”

Beverly also thinks that it might be society, as “some things are seen as normal and some things are unnormal.”  Gus also believes that “something natural has been perverted,” as it seems like there is a dead spectrum for men – “You only see anger or joy.”

Lee made a very interesting point, saying, “Social media is controlling the narrative.  It’s a self-gravitating world we’re living in and it’s effecting our psyche.”

There were a number of other things covered and touched upon, but I’m going to conclude with a key statement made by Beverly: “There are so many things that make your mental health matter.”

The Kickback returns on June 19th, when it will be joining with Poetic Insight for Croydon’s Festival of Peace.  It’s going to be a very special event, so stay tuned for more information.

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.

Guest Post- Depression & Anxiety: Taking The Steps to Getting Help

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so we’re focusing on Mental Health at YPI throughout this month.  Today we have a special guest post from Monifa about how she has dealt with having depression and anxiety.

When experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety it can be hard to come forward and admit you are going through a hard time. The fear of judgment from others and them not truly understanding your situation can make you feel the best thing to do is keep your feelings to yourself.

I know with me, the biggest thing was admitting I actually had an issue. Instead, my answer to everything would always be I’M FINE. It was a feeling where I didn’t know how to express myself, where I was going through something but equally you didn’t want anyone to know that something was wrong.

It got to a point where I internalised everything, and the only reason people knew something was up was that everything about me changed. I stopped trying with every aspect of life. The motivation to do anything had completely gone!

You know in the beginning I didn’t even know there was an issue. I had the everyday stresses and worries that everyone else had with regards to bills and daily living, but didn’t think anything was seriously wrong. It was only until I woke up one day and literally felt like everything had completely shifted. I stopped eating, sleeping, couldn’t leave my bed and was continuously crying without any reason or understanding as to why it was happening.

On top of the depression and anxiety, I was suffering with symptoms of OCD, including intrusive thoughts and hearing voices. Now for someone who had never experienced something like that, it was the scariest thing I’d ever gone through! You feel totally alone and that something must be seriously wrong with you for this to be happening.

Before I became willing to speak out, I didn’t want anyone to know there was a problem. I carried on with my day-to-day and still went to work trying to cover up any signs of my issue. It got to a point where it was like ok….it’s rather I keep living how I’m living internalising everything then end up self destructing, or speak up and receive help.

I decided to get help and receive the support I needed to get me back on my feet. I can only speak for myself, but receiving help from mental health services was life changing! Don’t get me wrong, opening up to strangers about my situation was not the most comfortable situation in the beginning, but in the long run it was like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders the more I spoke up.

I had a support worker who I could contact at any point if I wasn’t feeling 100 percent, and was seeing a psychologist who would help me with my struggles via CBT. With CBT I was able to really address the root and cause of my breakdown and create building blocks to help elevate myself. We focused on every aspect of depression, anxiety and OCD.

Now I’m not saying everyone has to go down the same path as me to start to feel better but I just wanted to share what I have experienced when receiving help with my mental health.

The reason I’m being so open about my experience is for anyone who may be going through a hard time, whatever that may be to speak up and let people know what they are going through.

I know when this all started the first thing I did to try and make sense of it was to search for anyone online who maybe going through similar experiences. Unfortunately I didn’t come across anything. This is why I feel it’s important to be open about my struggles and speak my truth. I’m no where near perfect and still suffer with moderate depression, anxiety and OCD but have more of an understanding of what my triggers are. In addition, due to receiving help I have implemented mental tools to try and keep my mood elevated and see life in a more positive light.

As a black woman, in my household the word depression wasn’t really brought up or taken very seriously, therefore I didn’t have much of an understanding. True depression is not physical – you don’t have any cuts or bruises to show you’re going through anything, people don’t see it as valid or even worthy of being called an illness. So I’m writing this post for any young black girl or boy who is feeling too scared to speak up. Just know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! You can receive help and support for whatever you’re going through, and here at The Spilll you will always have a friend to help support you no matter what !

Love M x

Originally posted on  thespilll.com.  You can follow @thespilllofficial on Instagram.

What thoughts do you have on youth violence?

On April 17th, the conversation at The Kickback was focused on youth violence.  As this topic was chosen by Jamal Khan, he led out on the night – “I don’t only want to find a solution… I feel this is a form of therapy for young people.”

With this in mind, Jamal expressed that he wanted to start with a clear out session, which was a chance for us to air out any thoughts we had on youth violence.  Let’s just say that the clear out session did not end, as the conversation flowed and questions were posed organically, so it didn’t make sense to stop it.

Jason was first to speak, asking how we can come up with solutions or a way to make things better without an example – “The only thing we can influence and change is us…We can make that change and be that change.”  Going a little deeper into this, he stated that “everyone is a philosopher and expert on everything in the world except themselves.”

Jamal felt that the Mayor of London is not doing enough, explicitly referencing the ‘London Needs You Alive’ campaign.  Still referring to those in politics, Andrae said that Theresa May is focusing on things in other countries, not what’s happening here, to which Jason responded, “Young people dying doesn’t make money.”

Jason then went on to make one of my favourite points of the night: “Politicians are like a dog, a wolf and a fox.  They may look different, but at the night they all howl.”  Ultimately, he believes that it is us who can really fix the issue of youth violence.

Hannah made an intriguing statement, which was, “People polarize adults and young people, but we’re all the same… Adulthood confuses me.”  She later said, “Young people are influenced by adults and adults have changed.”  However, Kim counteracted this point by saying, “Parenting has changed, parenting styles have changed, power given to parents have changed,” which many of us strongly agreed with.

When speaking about some of the causes, Jamal said, “I think a lot of it is senseless violence.  No one knows what is going on…  The reasons are different, so the solution needs to be different.”  This seemed to tie in with something Hannah raised earlier: “People do not show enough love to people anymore.”

Anil thought there is a lot of influence in music, to which some individuals slightly disagreed with or thought depended on the age of the listener.  However, Jamal stated that “regardless of what age you are, if you are constantly hearing this music, you become desensitized… The society we live in is violent.”

Jason made an interesting comment, saying, “Our society is transaction based… No one’s actually living life with purpose.”  This was backed up by Dwight, who expressed that a lot of young people don’t have purpose and don’t know who they are.

The conversation turned to ‘stop and search’, prison sentences and fear – “If you see a lot of your friends getting killed, you’re going to carry a knife,” Jamal said.  He later went on to say, “My issue is not with stop and search.  My issue is that young people are going to be fearing for their life… This is going to mess up people’s lives.  People are going to be arrested without ever having being arrested before.”

Dwight rebutted this point, asserting that “not everyone carries a knife because they’re scared,” as some people just want to carry a knife around.  Although Jamal did not dispute this, he believes that the increase of young people getting arrested will lead to more murders – “When you go to prison, you just meet more people who do crime.”

Kim caused us all to think as she spoke about a lot of young people backing their friends, going back to when she was growing up and would support her friends or family members in conflict.  After sharing a personal anecdote, she said, “We’re loyal… We’re wrong and we’re strong.  We’re raised with that mentality – don’t snitch.”

Rhianna thinks that it’s hard to find a solution when you don’t find the right cause.  She suggested that we approach young people, show them that we care and ask them why they carry knives.  She also believes that we need to give young people ways to figure out what they want to do with their lives.

This led onto further discussions about what we could do to address the situation.  Andrae thinks the gang leaders need to be targeted, resulting in people dispersing.  Jennifer expressed, “There needs to be a strong man.  There needs to be someone with backbone who can step up to the plate.”

Kim strongly asserted, “The work that needs to be done with young people won’t happen until there are youth centres and places to offload… Everything takes a process.”  This paved way for discussions about youth services, what’s happening in schools, how to reach young people and what we each think community is.

“For young people, respect is their currency… A lot of the knife crime and violence is ‘I’m going to do you before you do me’… There is no empathy,” Kim said.  However, Dwight also raised an important point: “There’s a reason behind it.  They don’t feel part of something.”

“It frightens me that the world is too far gone and we won’t be able to pull it back,” said Hannah.

To end, Jamal asked each of us to share what we were going to do to reach young people and try to prevent youth violence.  Responses included:

  • “Network with other organisations.” – Dwight
  • “I’m going to have more road maps and projects to work on.” – Anil
  • “Do more networking and signposting information.” – Kim
  • “I want to become a mentor.” – Rhianna
  • “Show more people in the gang life that there’s more out there.” – Glenn
  • “Do my best to develop YPI and reach young people where they are.” – Shaniqua (myself)
  • “I think the best thing I can do is be the change I want to see myself.” – Jamal

The Kickback returns May 15th when we’ll be talking ‘Mental Health’.  Join us in Project B from 6.30-8.30pm for more great conversation, snacks and new faces.

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