On Monday I was volunteering with Rethink and their latest campaign Can You Tell? It is an interesting campaign which includes posters of real people sharing their experiences of mental health. Though it is set up in such a way that you can engage with the public by asking “Can you tell if this person has a mental illness or not?”
My day started slowly with niggling thoughts of “Ring and say you can’t make it”, and “don’t go”. That’s the typical anxieties I suffer with, the not wanting to engage with other people as I’m afraid of how the experience will play out. I battled on and made my way to Leicester for the event.
The event was taking place at the Leicester Mela which is an event for the Asian community; sharing foods, clothes, tokens and health advice. The main attraction, for me at least, was the music which could be heard streets away from the Rethink stand. The music helped reduce my anxieties and quickly found myself bobbing along when I was not talking with the public.
The first conversation is always the hardest, because you don’t know what to expect. You automatically think the worst and that someone might shout at you. However, over the course of the day the worst thing that happened was being told ‘no thanks’ when I asked people if they were enjoying the day. It’s understandable that not everyone wants to talk to strangers.
I was quickly in my stride of talking to people about Rethink and the Can You Tell campaign. People approached me showing and interest in the stand and asking what we were there for, which I wasn’t expecting, them coming to me. They were drawn into my conversation about mental illness, the stigma surrounding it with some even asking how they can get further involved. Rethink provided us with postcards that we could hand out directing the public to their website for further information.
I feel the highlight of my day was when a deaf person approached me and although I was not able to have a meaningful conversation with him I was able to point him in the direction of getting more information. I know a little sign language, so to see him thank me with a genuine look in his eye it really made me smile.
Personally I was able to have over 25 meaningful conversations with the public about mental health and Rethink, which I am proud of achieving in a two hour time span. Overall our morning shift, consisting of five members, achieved over 130. To think how many lives we touched today and broke some more of that stigma surrounding mental health was amazing.
You can’t tell if someone has a mental illness by looking at them. Sometimes even speaking with people you can’t tell. Please take your time to look at the Rethink website to see how you can help with removing stigma and how to start a conversation about mental health.