News Tuesday, March 20th

The inspirational self-care video you need to see this International Happiness Day

News Tuesday, March 20th

The inspirational self-care video you need to see this International Happiness Day

Jayme Illien was abandoned as an infant on a Calcutta roadside, and after being rescued and raised at the Mother Teresa International Mission of Hope orphanage became a vocal advocate for children’s human rights, through his teenage years and in to adulthood.

Five years ago he brought an idea to the United Nations - to create an International Day of Happiness which would inspire, mobilise and advance projects around the world that simply tried to make people happier.

Ban Ki Moon liked the idea, so did Pharrell, and the rest is history (#HappyDay).

So today seems like a pretty good time to share this video from Herefordshire artist Jack Helme and Shooting Reels, on mental health, self-love and painting your own picture.

[scroll down for a Q&A with Jack]

For starters, who are you? And why did you make the film?

I’m Jack, I’m 20 and I’m a poet based in Herefordshire though I’m currently undertaking an English degree at the University of Exeter.  

I always try to write with complete honesty and transparency so I’m happy to really let my work speak for me. I wrote this piece as a way of verbalising my recovery over the last year in the hope that it might resonate with anyone out there listening for the right words to come to them – it’s made up of a lot of things I wish I could have heard over the last couple of years.

More directly, this film was a chance to work alongside Herefordshire Mind, a brilliant charity that I wanted to support as thanks for steering me away from a darkening path in the middle of 2016. When we had the opportunity to link up with the guys at Shooting Reels, we knew we had an exciting project on our hands and we’re all very happy with the result.   

 

For you, what was it that made you reach out, or look for some help, in handling your own troubles last year?

For those people who saw my first released poem, they’ll know that the real turning point didn’t come from some huge epiphany or moment of realisation. It was just one morning where I was feeling especially low and my incredibly supportive Mum just asked me (Mother’s instinct working overtime) if I was alright. After a long silence, it was that initial ‘No, I’m not alright’ that marked the first steps to accepting and overcoming this problem.  

I remember asking myself why, even to my own family, I should lie about being OK when I so clearly was not. It was a conversation that took no longer than five minutes but its effect on my life has been monumental and it’s the reason I’m this active in trying to do the same for other people.

 

 

A post shared by Jack Helme (@jack_helme) on

In what ways do you think the perception of mental health is changing? Is there a difference, or a gap, in the way it’s discussed across generations or across genders?

Lots of people are happy and correct in saying that mental health is being talked about more, but I feel that the value of the noise depends on the action that follows it. Sadly, for the current government Mental Health has become a bit of a political buzzword and a more evident and active position certainly needs to be taken.

However, through social responsibility and connectivity, something that Canvas looks to encourage, there is much that we as the public can do to make meaningful change happen.

In terms of generational differences, I think most people would agree that growing up in the last 20 years has cemented Mental Health Awareness within the minds of the younger generation. Young women are under incredible amounts of pressure in the pursuit of an idealistic, falsely presented social image and hopefully body-positive movements, alongside feminism, can continue to bring down the worrying number of cases concerning girls.

I think when you look at the contrast with gendered mental health issues in young people I feel we can also tie that in to the generational tradition of acting ‘like a man’ and bottling up these problems. 

So as a young adult male speaking out about this, I was blown away by the response and respect my male peers gave me – we’re moving into an age where fragility isn’t condemned but accepted and recovery isn’t a byword for weakness but for strength.

In the same way that negative views on homosexuality, race and feminism have been consistently crushed by the unfaltering efforts of good people – the question of mental health is being answered, by those with the willingness to accept its threat to us all.

 

How well equipped do you think young people are to recognising mental health issues in themselves?

At the moment, poorly equipped, in fact - unforgivably so. Mental health undeniably underpins all other aspects of life, at the moment children are being pushed through a blinkered educational system and are being instilled with a jilted sense of what is important. Happiness is coming third to academic pressure and a drive for ‘success.’ There’s a fine line between becoming too soft on children and rejecting their emotional needs but it’s a balance worth finding when you’re crafting a child’s view of the world and of their place within it.

 

For you - was there a moment, or a message, a something you can recall, when the weight lifted?

The key moment for me, after that conversation with my Mum, was putting my first poem out in to the public sphere. It went from five or six people knowing about my depression to twenty thousand within a week. I could never have expected such a response but it was a huge release of emotion and seeing that reflected in people’s messages and comments was the best form of therapy I could have wished for.

Since then I’ve embraced my passion for the spoken word and it’s allowed me to understand myself better than ever before. If I’m having a bad day, I pick up a pen and get to the root issue, rather than simply internalising it – the artistic metaphor to Canvas is there to express the way that creative outlets can really help us to understand Mental Health and how they affect us.

“Don’t add to it.” Is a great line, and a great takeaway. And yet for people suffering from mental illness, from depression, from anxiety, even simple, logical messages like that struggle to break through the clouds – why do you think that is? And as someone who’s gone through some troubles yourself, what can people do to support a friend or someone they know through their own troubles?

I think that mainly, it’s because these mental illnesses can, at times, feel illogical. Once you begin to question your own thoughts you can get into a real downward spiral and end up locking yourself away. So it’s all about helping those around you as best as possible to find a way to get over or around those barriers.

Whether someone is suffering from crippling anxiety and you help them seek professional aid or your friend is just having a bad day and you make them laugh or if you just smile at a complete stranger – you should never underestimate the power you have to improve someone’s life.

Though it is important to understand that there is only so much you can do for your family and friends and the best form of help for anyone is to seek professional aid from your GP or charities like Mind. 

 

What are the best, and the worst, bits of advice around mental health, self-identity and self-love you’ve heard (no matter how corny)?

Thankfully there’s no lack of advice and any offered with genuine motivation is great – the stand out bad ones are those ‘Just be happy’ comments, simply a result of a lack of understanding, if it was that easy then I don’t think we’d be having this conversation but… I guess you can’t condemn someone for trying to help.

There’s some great clichés about but, to be honest, a lot of them make a lot of sense – there’s nothing wrong with following your dreams or loving yourself – I guess we just lose the meaning in phrases we say too often.

The best advice I’ve received about mental health has been to get to know yourself, really take the time to strip back the expectations placed upon your life and the false obligations that get piled on us all. I know I’m still a long way off but in being told to do this, and achieving it through writing, I’ve become more confident not in who I’m expected to be but in who I am on an essential level.

Do you want to write for Herefordshire Live? Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter or say hello@herefordshirelive.co.uk