For this year’s mental health awareness week I decided to challenge myself and complete a week of sponsored silence. I created my own campaign in order to raise awareness of the rise in mental health issues within teenagers and to raise money for the Young Minds charity. I set up a donation page, flooded my school with flyers about what I was doing, bought a whiteboard and the week began! My one rule was to do everything I would usually do in a week, except I had to do it silently. This included my eight hour day at school, attending both of my 2 hour youth theatre sessions, attending my school’s choir, attending a meeting, revising for my upcoming GCSE exams and on top of everything else, I had my year 11 leavers day at school where we sign shirts, have a meal together and then dress up to take pictures. Throughout the week these day to day jobs and activities became huge challenges for me.
These challenges were things I expected, I expected to not be able to order a drink in a coffee shop with my friends without writing it down on my whiteboard, I expected to be teased by my teachers and friends at school but I didn’t expect just how lonely I would feel. I felt lonely because even though I was present in a conversation I still felt left out, I watched everyone else laugh and yet couldn’t laugh myself. It dawned on me on the Wednesday of my week that this feeling is exactly what many young people who suffer from mental health problems experience, yet their feelings are constant and far worse than what I felt in those moments of isolation. On Thursday evening I attended my regular youth theatre session and no longer felt alone or isolated. I had a place to channel all my energy and emotions and simply performed through mime. It was a chance to express myself without words. After finishing my week successfully and raising over my goal of £375 for Young Minds, I realised just how beneficial creativity and the arts is for mental wellbeing and how much I take it for granted.
Currently there are six recommended ways to wellbeing created by the North Kent Mind charity. These include being active, learning, connecting with people, giving, taking notice of surroundings and looking after the community and the world. Nothing there involves the arts or creativity, which is proven to be beneficial for mental well being. Why not? The arts has always been a massive passion of mine, from theatre to art to music, I can’t get enough. The arts has given me a place through my teenage years to do all those things. I connect with wonderful people, I’ve taken in my surroundings by performing in site specific locations, I’ve given to the community by participating in community theatre productions, I’ve learnt so much over the years and I’ve stayed active by running about the theatre getting props in place and calling actors to stage. The arts and good wellbeing go hand in hand, I’ve experienced it myself! That’s why I believe the arts should be the 7th way to well-being. Too many young people are suffering in silence, 10% of children and young people have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, it’s time for that change!