Thursday 5th February 2015 was a very busy day.
It started a week before, on Thursday the 29th January I got a Facebook message from my old youth worker and boss Pandora Ellis telling me she had nominated me for the Deputy Prime Minister’s Mental Health Hero award. But that was it. She said I would find out more the next day.
That was it. Until the next day knew no more, I had it on my mind but certainly on the back burner, I had been nominated for things before but never won. It would obviously be the same.
How wrong I was.
The next day I received an answer phone message from the Cabinet office. I was named as the winner of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Mental Health Hero award for the South East! I was shocked beyond belief, yet so honoured.
I was in awe yet so much had to be done, first of which was ensure I had the day off and my travel was sorted for the event. I had to be at Whitehall for half 4 at the latest and wanted to meet with my partner Tyler beforehand. I found myself inundated with emails from the Cabinet office, sorting out press releases and photos and everything else. Along with my studies it proved hard but certainly worth it.
When we arrived at the event it was freezing cold, myself, Tyler and Pandora waited outside for the gates to open, and when finally let in we found ourselves greeted by members of the cabinet office I had been emailing.
Everyone was lovely, name badges were (mostly) prepared, wine was flowing for all and it was a generally a good atmosphere. Pandora cracked out the camera as she does and took the usual multitude of carefully placed photos (some of which are seen here). We were introduced to one of the judges and a few local media person that were around. This time was one of waiting. The Deputy Prime Minister was running late, and so were the proceedings.
Eventually he arrived, as winners and guests we were invited to meet Nick Clegg briefly before the award giving. It was a small conversation, I waited my turn and finally was able to discuss why I got the award and what I currently did.
During the waiting time I had chance to talk with a few others, and it was nice to share with them thoughts on mental health and the need for more funding and services. I exchanged details with a few, and hope to talk with them again soon.
Eventually we got around to it and the ceremony began with a few words from the Deputy Prime Minister around mental health and Time to Change, followed by the handing out of the awards.
I was so proud to receive it for my work, and pleased to be able to pass on awareness of mental health in the South East.
I realise at this point that I have not explained yet the reasons for receiving this. It was in fact due to work I had completed in the past. A few years ago I began a campaign for young people’s mental health called Free Your Mind. It was with the aim to provide support to those suffering, better services and work to break the culture of silence and taboo that surrounds mental health today. I worked for nearly two years on this, only ceasing when I had to move away to university and this put me in a position that I was unable to continue.
While I was working on the campaign I teamed up with others to rally for changes and improvements to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) which resulted in a whole new hub being created in Crawley, we got pages put on the youth website for West Sussex around mental health and support available, and worked with various decision makers to bring about change.
The work didn’t stop with me though. As I left, the campaign was handed over. Yet due to my work I was nominated for the award, and I am eternally grateful.
I do plan to continue working on mental health however, it is a cause dear to me as I myself have issues in this area even now. At present this is in the form of working with two Trans* organisations in Brighton. I am helping in the creation of a transmasculine booklet with FAQ’s and general help for those going through transition, whatever form this may take with an organisation called FTM Brighton which is a peer to peer support group for those on the transmasculine spectrum. Secondly I am working with the Clare Project, a group for all trans* identified persons, on a 10 week program for Living Well as a Trans Man (with the possibility of working on their non-binary sessions too). These are both really exciting to be a part of and I can’t wait to do more towards them!
All in all if anything comes of this award I just want it to raise awareness of ill mental health. It is around. It affects 1 in 4 of us in some way, and if you are lucky enough to not be affected by it, chances are that someone around you – even if you do not realise it – will be.