3 March 2018
Please support Aiden Mortimer and I with our campaign to introduce a law enforced discouragement pop-up on harmful mental health behaviour websites! #PowerfulPopUp
You may be aware that there is an increasing issue with harmful content that is available for individuals to view and engage with online. Having experienced and noticed the potentially life threatening impact that this can have on somebody's mental health, we are taking action.
We want the government to implement a law enforced discouragement pop-up on harmful mental health behaviour promoting websites, to make individuals aware that the content they are about to view or post may have a significant impact on their own and others mental health. We also hope that the pop-up could feature a link to a support organisation that may encourage potential viewers to seek help.
There have been multiple studies that show the effects of viewing harmful websites such as pro eating disorder, pro self harm and pro suicide. Many list that the participants experienced lower levels of self-esteem, more willingness to engage in activities being encouraged and distorted perception of self. We believe that discouraging engagement and signposting to support would prevent individuals from being negatively affected by these websites.
We would very much appreciate your support by adding your signature using the link below in order to see this petition be discussed in Parliament. Changes need to be made and regulations need to be implemented so that individuals are aware of their own actions and the consequences that this can have on mental health and wellbeing.
Thank you in advance for your support and please share the link with your family and friends to get the message out there. Help us to gain as many signatures as possible by posting the link to social media accounts, with the #PowerfulPopUp to get this campaign going! We need to start using preventative methods when it comes to tackling mental health, not leaving it until people reach crisis point. Early intervention is key and we believe that enforcing this pop-up will be a step in the right direction.
Please follow this link: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/213893
If you have been affected by content on these harmful websites, then please seek support by contacting the following organisations:
2 March 2018
I’m not sure how to pinpoint exactly how I felt yesterday evening. As soon as Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn walked into Hallam Hall I felt a wave of emotions- excitement, nerves and pride. Firstly, I couldn’t believe that the event was actually happening considering that everything was against us in terms of the weather, but secondly, all of the attendees that made it were going to have the opportunity to see one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever witnessed. Thank you to the wonderful society committee members, the Students’ Union and the university, the event was going ahead and I could not wait to see the impact it would have.
This next moment I am about to detail is something I never thought that I would be able to do. Neil asked me if this was the first time I had heard them speak and I detailed that actually this was the second time I have had the pleasure of hearing their story. Naturally he asked me where I had heard them previously, and whilst beaming with pride I told him that it was when I was at Rharian Fields Specialist Eating Disorder Unit in Grimsby. I say beaming with pride, but the pride wasn’t solely based on the fact that my illness had led to hospitalisation, but pride that I was now stood in front of them as one of the society committee members that had helped to bring them to the university. I had been at an incredibly low point in my life when I had seen them first time round, stood at the side of the room at NAViGO House buried amongst other attendees; embarrassed that they may notice me and ashamed of where my illness had left me. This time was completely different. I was so proud of my journey and how far I have come from the place I found myself in 3 years ago.
I hope that one day everybody will be able to talk about mental illness in this way. Of course it is important to acknowledge the low points, but these should be viewed like platforms that have pushed you on to that next step. When I was suffering I felt embarrassed, ashamed and like a failure, but now I can look back on those moments and see how much I have progressed. I know that some people look at a diagnosis of a mental illness as a label of shame, but why? I think that listening to Jonny last night demonstrates exactly why our mindset needs to change about how we perceive mental health conditions. He is doing amazing things and still struggles with the illness that has brought him to where he is today. That isn’t due to a miraculous turn of events; it is due to him making it happen. He chose recovery, he chose to speak out and he chose to see the positives in a situation that once led him to try and take his own life. I think that is incredible.
I am still in awe of what I listened to last night and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to speak alongside both Jonny and Neil during the question and answer session sharing my personal experiences. It felt like a dream and now I want to make it my career. I want people to see that mental health recovery is something to be celebrated, not something that should be hidden away, pretending it never happened. I am ready to share my story further and reach out to those that feel exactly how I did 3 years ago. It’s time for me to try and make this happen and follow in the footsteps of the role models I witnessed last night. I would like to thank Jonny and Neil for not only sharing their incredible story with an engaged audience last night, but for inspiring me once again to take that next step in raising awareness of mental illness.
26 February 2018
I still cannot believe this is happening. The person that inspired me to share my story and campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues has accepted Sheffield Hallam SU Student Minds invitation to be a guest speaker at Sheffield Hallam University for University Mental Health Day on Thursday 1st March 2018.
Wednesday 23rd September 2015:
“At 9:30am we listened to a seminar by two gentlemen from the documentary ‘The Stranger on the Bridge.’ It was so emotive hearing Jonny Benjamin’s harrowing story of his moments of despair. Then to hear about Neil’s involvement that day and the hope that he gave Jonny by just stopping to talk to him was inspiring. I was intrigued to hear about their involvement in revolutionising people’s concepts about mental health and I am going to contact the, to see if I can get involved.”
This is a diary entry written when I was a patient at Rharian Fields Specialist Eating Disorder unit. I had pushed myself and engaged with my treatment every single day in order for me to be able to request leave from the ward to listen to Jonny Benjamin share his story at a NAViGO event. I had been so desperate to listen to him and I was not disappointed. I left the event feeling empowered, enthusiastic and motivated. I had now heard of a truly positive recovery story and now I could see a life beyond my diagnosis.
When I started Sheffield Hallam SU Student Minds, trying to book Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn for a guest speaker event was at the top of my list of goals to achieve during my time as President. I knew the power that listening to somebody that had been through such a difficult situation could have on those that may be suffering, or those that are worried about a family member or friend, and I wanted other people to be able to have that experience. Therefore, when I received confirmation that they had accepted our invitation, I was absolutely thrilled! Not only had they accepted our invitation, but they would also be speaking on University Mental Health Day 2018!
One aspect of this event that I did not anticipate was the extremely generous level of support that Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union and Sheffield Hallam University would offer. Without their kindness and enthusiasm for this event, we as a society would not have been able to invite Jonny and Neil to visit. I think this truly demonstrates the commitment that Sheffield Hallam have to improving mental health on campus and enabling students, staff and the public to learn more about the difficulties that people experience when suffering with mental health problems. As somebody that want to raise the importance of mental health, educate others and offer support, I could not have asked for anything more from my place of study. I am so excited for the event and I truly hope that attendees leave having gained something from the wonderful speakers, Jonny and Neil.
You can still get tickets using the following link, but be quick, there are only 100 tickets left:
The event is open to everybody and is completely free, although we will be raising money for Student Minds using fundraising buckets at the entrance to the venue.
We look forward to seeing you there!
19 February 2018
Cinched in perfectly at the waist and flawlessly tailored at the thighs; my eyes were immediately drawn to the mannequin at the entrance to the clothing store and I could not hide my horror. It had nothing to do with the clothes that they were wearing; it was to do with the body proportions of the model they adorned.
I am no stranger to the world of fashion and the techniques used in retail to showcase garments, but it still never fails to infuriate me. The health of catwalk models is a heavily debated topic with changes starting to be made in France with the introduction of a medical note to confirm a normal body mass index before being booked for a job, yet in the UK we seem to be going completely the other way. Not only are changes still not being made to ensure the health of models in the high fashion area of the sector, but also alarming messages are now being communicated in high street stores.
I am sure I am not the only person that has seen a garment on a mannequin and fallen in love with it, only to try it on and find that it does not fit me in that same way whatsoever. It is a horrible feeling and maybe it is because I am predisposed to certain thoughts, but I know that I instantly begin to question my weight, my body size and compare my body to that of the mannequin. However, on this particular occasion I am describing right here, I immediately questioned the reality of any of the clothes in the store fitting this mannequin in the beautifully tailored way that it did. Sure enough my suspicions were confirmed.
Walking around the back of the models I has horrified to see the amount of fabric that had been folded back and pinned securely in order to fit the mannequin. Like I say, I am aware that retailers need to showcase their products beautifully to encourage sales, but do they really need to go to lengths of using unrealistically proportioned mannequins that are not even the right body size to fit any of the clothes that they are selling? A study conducted recently identified that 100% of the female mannequins inspected from a sample of high street retailers were representative of an unhealthy body size. This is worrying and frustrating, but I think it also highlights a potential contributing factor that could be escalating the issues with body image that face society today. It is also important to note that the male mannequins were noticed as being unrealistically muscular, which shows that this is an issue that needs to be addressed across all sectors of fashion retail.
I know that there is never going to be an industry where mannequins are available that represent every body size. I know that there are lots of other factors that affect people’s perception of self and body image. However, I do believe that changes need to be made. To be promoting clothes that do not even fit the mannequin without the process of folding fabric and using pins, in my opinion that is not ok.
8 February 2018
Today I had the amazing opportunity to facilitate a group therapy session at Rharian Fields, which focused on the process of recovery. I was invited by a staff member to come in and share my experiences of the challenging but rewarding journey of recovery from an eating disorder, and I could not have been more willing to accept.
I am sure we have all been there; listening to someone talking and thinking ‘you really have no idea what I am going through right now.’ I know that feeling all too well. After the lengthy process I endured to find support, the one thing I wanted was the opportunity to speak to someone that knew exactly how I felt. It goes without saying that this was not easily accessible and this made me feel even more lonely. This was one of my motivations for embarking on mental health campaigning efforts, blogging about my journey and trying my best to prevent people that are suffering from feeling alone. Therefore, when any opportunity arises to speak to those individuals, I am incredibly keen to do so.
I have visited the unit since being discharged on several occasions, but the butterfly feelings in my stomach don’t seem to subside. There is something about that experience of returning to somewhere that holds so many memories (both good and bad!) that I suppose it is normal to experience those feelings of apprehension. However, as soon as I walk through the door and meet all of the amazing women that helped me to rebuild my life, I suddenly feel at ease and proud of being able to return filled with positivity. Walking past bedroom number 2 is also another moment of racing emotions, but it also signifies how far I have come!
Sitting in the therapy room with the wonderful group of current service users was quite surreal. The roles had reversed. Instead of listening to staff and fellow patients, I had staff and patients listening to me! But this was when I experienced what it must have been like for the nurses when they were trying to motivate me. There I was, talking about the fantastic opportunities that life without the control of an eating disorder can offer, praying that the service users would be filled with enthusiasm and motivation to take on the battle of recovery! It suddenly dawned on me that this was what the staff spent 4 months doing to me. Only now can I sense the passion, tainted with a hint of frustration that they must experience. However, I guess the difference is that I know exactly how those lovely individuals are feeling right now. I knew that what I was describing seems unachievable, unrealistic and far-fetched. If I had have had the same opportunity to listen to somebody at the stage that I am at in recovery right now, I would have felt exactly the same. However, there would have been something in me that would have thought ‘if she can do it, I can do it too.’ This is the belief and hope that I pray that the service users have taken away from the group session, because I promise you, if you want it, you can achieve it!
This experience was something that I have always dreamed of being able to do. I want to inspire others to not just dream of a life without the grasp of an eating disorder, but to go on and work towards it. I really hope that I can have the opportunity to visit the unit once again and share my experiences to motivate others.