Opportunitification – The Mission for Mental Health Awareness

Every once in a while we get opportunities to do something incredible. Sometimes you don’t realise just how incredible the opportunity is until you’re right in the middle of it or sometimes until after it’s gone.

This weekend just gone I got to go to a residential with Team v to help mentor for their new campaign. Our leaders this year are going to be working to tackle the issue of food poverty in the UK and it’s a fantastic campaign. Keep an eye out up and down the country for some great, creative campaigning! If you want to check out what the guys are doing, please feel free to have a look see here.

Fantastic though it is, I’m not writing this post to talk about the campaign. The leaders will be more than happy to fill you in on that. I’m here to talk about opportunities.

There are so many opportunities in my life and I try my very hardest to be a Yes Man. I took the opportunity to go to the residential this weekend just gone and it was a fantastic decision. Despite me being exhausted today and arriving completely exhausted, I had an incredible time. Sure, it was just good fun to be around so many new faces with such similar values to my own, but what I really enjoyed were the conversations I had with a few people.

There were two people I spoke to about mental health in its various forms and it really did blow my mind how strong these people are. Despite all that’s happened in their lives, they focus on making things easier for others so that they can better cope with life’s toughest challenges. I took the opportunity to talk to them about potentially starting to work together, to plan a few different ways in which we can work to “get crackin on challenging the mental health stigma”.

I’m currently brainstorming an idea to blog with one of the two people. My idea is to collect non-anonymous stories of people who have been affected by mental health issues. I want people to tell their stories and put their names to them. Mental health issues aren’t something to be embarrassed about. Once I started being open about my mental health, it lost a lot of its power. It’s always going to be a part of me and I want people to know that I’m not ashamed. Depression is part of what made me who I am today and I like to think that I’m a good person. Hopefully once people feel comfortable enough to share, others will too and hopefully we can cause a chain reaction of openness. This in turn would hopefully make mental health a topic which is easy to talk about. Why should something so common be a taboo subject?

The second person that I was talking to at the residential is a keen volunteer for a mental health charity and we’re currently trying to plan a campaign of our own to do something to once again, tackle the stigmas surrounding mental health. Our plan is non-existent at the moment so I’m open to any ideas on how we can do it. Too many people I care about have troubles with mental health but feel ashamed of it. I don’t want the people I love to have to feel ashamed and embarrassed to be themselves. They’re ace.

If you’re interested in helping out or getting involved, DM me on twitter – @albysaurus

I’ve been trying to make the most of opportunities for a long time now. This opportunity to share ideas and stories with two great people was fantastic. It’s allowed me to unify with people who care passionately about an extremely important topic (hence – opportunification). I hope you take the opportunity to help us make our mission for mental health awareness a success.

A

The Volunteer Effect

In the jobs and volunteer roles that I have had I’ve noticed a definite shift in various aspects of my life and the lives of those around me. We don’t always realise how much things have changed until you just stop for a second and reflect on the years gone by! I’ve spent my weekend off thinking about all the things that have made me who I am today. A lot of these changes have come in the last few years and I’m sure they’re going to have a huge impact on my life from here on out.

A lot of these changes came about after I started to volunteer and since I started, I’ve felt a definite shift to the positive for various reasons. I wrote a blog on my LinkedIn profile about the benefits of volunteering recently, you can have a read here.
The benefits that I’ve written about in that blog are due to the Volunteer Effect. Volunteering effects people in different ways. For some, like myself, it has a profound effect on everything that I do.

The volunteer effect has made me consider the people around me before I do things. Even the little things, like whether or not I wash up, or what kind of food I eat in the office (I try not to eat overly smelly food!).

I was a very different person years ago, I was rude, obnoxious and generally not a very nice person. This is going back to secondary school. Some people say it was just a phase of teenage years and that’s fine. A lot of teenagers act out, but I don’t feel like I should have used it as an excuse. Between 2008 and 2012, after leaving my secondary school, I endeavoured to change who I was for the better. Stop stropping, be nicer and less of a drag on the people around me.

It’s only when I started to volunteer after dropping out of uni did I feel like I was succeeding. Not only were my decisions affected, my mood improved and I was excited to do stuff. All kinds of stuff, whether it was voluntary, work, social, everything seemed better. Despite volunteering for causes which were shocking, unjust and heart breaking the main thing that helped me see things differently were the people I met along the way. All these people working their arses off to help and I could see the smiles on their faces while they were doing it.

The Volunteer Effect for me is hard to describe with words, it’s benefiting me in so many ways (which I believe is best described in my LinkedIn post above) while I’m benefiting others and hopefully they go on to pay it forward. For me, the Volunteer Effect is simple, it’s a chain reaction of good. To finish, have a little look see at the image below. This, to me really embodies what volunteers do for the world. They want to make people happy. It’s just a bonus that it usually makes them happy too.

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Appreciation for the Nation

Welcome, welcome, one and all! I’ve been saying for quite a while now, that I would start blogging again and so here we go. I’ve been pondering lots of things recently and sometimes, I ponder more than I’d like. My depression hits hard sometimes and I  have to do what I can to try to keep my mood up and appreciate everything that I have and naturally, I try to focus on what makes me successful when my mental health makes me feel like I’m failing.

We all have different definitions and interpretations of life, love, work and fun. What some people find fun, others find absolutely mind-numbing. What some people find hilarious, others find cringe-worthy. And most importantly, what some find to be a success, others deem it to be a complete failure.

Success to many is related entirely to how much they earn, how up to date their phone is, or how many doodah’s they own. Not everyone measures success in what they earn or what they own though. Obviously, I’m not saying I don’t like money or phones or doodah’s, in fact I love them all, but I value other things more. So here’s a little list of what I value most.

1. People

There are some people who you instantly know you’re going to get on with, some people who you get to know over time and some people you’re born with and live with. 
My family, despite their flaws and annoying habits, are fantastic. They don’t really understand depression, but they selflessly put up with my moods, my days where I don’t want to see/speak to anyone and I even occasionally get lifts from the station to my house (which is ridiculous seeing as it’s only a ten minute walk). 
My friends are the other people who make me feel successful. They, much like my family, look out for me when I need it most and most of the time I don’t even need to ask. It’s like they have a 6th sense. There are so many to name, so I won’t name any at the risk of forgetting and offending someone. The only failure here is that a lot of them live in the north. Sort it out guys, come to London.

2. The Stuff I Do

Volunteering is a great thing to make someone feel successful. I currently mentor some mentors who mentor some mentees. I’ve taken a bit of a back seat in volunteering recently but when I was volunteering for a couple charities at once and could see a tangible change because of the things I do, I felt successful. 
My work makes me feel successful sometimes too, in particular when I’m working face to face with my young people and supporting them with what they do. I love helping them achieve what they want to achieve, and hearing/reading/seeing the excitement in their voice/email/face when they hear that their projects are being approved!

3. The Music of Life

I’m not a professional musician. I’m not even an amateur musician. I am a self taught guitar and ukulele player and a keen singer. I’m never going to pursue a career in music but playing music and singing makes me feel brill especially when I’m singing with a friend. It’s much more fun. Even without the musical instruments, a good album or a catchy tune will pick me up. 

4. All the Little Things

A nice walk, a random smile from a stranger (which believe me, is a massive deal in London) , an unexpected text from an old friend. I try my very best to look out for little things in my day which I can appreciate. For example, every morning I get the bus over London Bridge. On one side I can see St. Paul’s Cathedral, the other, Tower Bridge, Town Hall, HMS Belfast and of course on both sides, the River Thames. London is a beautiful city, I wish people would get off their phones and appreciate exactly how amazingly lucky they are to be here! 
One final little thing which makes me feel awesome, is getting home from work, kicking off my shoes and getting changed into my Hawaiian lounge pants and oversized NYPD hoodie. Comfort unparalleled. Who needs clubs and bars when you have comfort clothes and a ukulele?

5. Not Being a Bellend

Sounds like a pretty simple thing. Don’t be a bell end. Be a good person, treat people with respect. Don’t be a push over, but be kind. I feel better about myself just by being nice. If you’re good to people, people will be good to you. If you treat people like shit, don’t be surprised when the same shit comes flying back in your face. People appreciate it when you treat them with love and respect. 
I know that last line was cheesy. It’s true though. 
This little blog has been a little strange, poorly structured and I think the message has changed slightly from beginning to end but thanks for reading this far! Let me know if you like the blog and let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to write about next time!
A