gender

How to talk about mental health

Around the time of World Suicide Prevention Day and other mental health awareness days like it, it is often said that one of the best ways to manage your mental health is to talk to others if you need support. However, how do you exactly have these conversations?

It is not always as easy as just opening your mouth and talking about what’s going on in your head, so here are some suggestions of how to start these conversations, in ways that may be helpful to you.

1.      Are you able to talk to someone who you feel will support you? There are lots of people you can confide in if you feel like you need to talk- parents, friends, extended family, teachers and organisations such as Off the Record, Childline and Samaritans who will listen to you and support you. If you go to school, there’s likely to be a pastoral support worker who you can make an appointment with, or a teacher who can direct you to them. The key is to find someone you trust, who you think will be understanding and supportive, as even if they don’t have all the answers, they’ll be able to help you in finding the right support.

2.      How would you like to start that conversation? Do you want to write everything down and put it in a letter? Or perhaps send a text, an e-mail, or make a phone call? Talking to someone about mental health does not have to be a face-to-face conversation if you don’t want it to be- it’s about how you feel most comfortable communicating. You could send a text/e-mail like:

“Hi (name of trusted person), if you feel able to I would really appreciate having a chat about some things that have been going on with my mental health recently. Would you be able to have a chat about that? “

Or if you are having a face-to-face conversation, for example with a teacher or parent, you could say:

“Do you mind if we have a chat for a few minutes? I’m struggling with my mental health at the moment, and it would mean a lot if we could talk about it.”

We would always hope that someone we trust has the time to talk to us about something like mental health, but sometimes friends in particular may feel nervous about having this conversation, or it might be too difficult for them due to their own personal boundaries and experiences, or a family member might be busy when you say you want to talk- it is important to remember that just because one person can’t talk to you for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean no-one else will talk to you, or that you don’t deserve to have that space to talk about mental health. Perhaps make a list of people you trust to try to talk to, just in case the first person you talk to says they are unavailable.

3.      What would you like that person to know?

-How long have you been struggling with your mental health for?

Are you experiencing anxiety, low mood, stress, hallucinations, problems eating? Or anger, feeling out of control, trapped? It can be hard to think about your exact feelings in the moment, so maybe think about what you’re experiencing beforehand so you know what to say.

-What is your mental health affecting? Is it affecting relationships with partners, family, friends, or affecting your schoolwork, uni-work, job? Are you able to sleep and eat?

-Has something happened that has triggered this for you? You may not feel comfortable discussing this, and that’s okay. It’s just something you could answer if you would like to.

-In particular if you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others, this is important to mention if you are comfortable talking about this. The other person will need to know this if they are going to ensure you are safe- particularly if they are a trusted adult.

Talking about mental health can really help, and hopefully these ideas have given you some suggestions on how you can bring up that conversation with someone in your life. There is always someone who will listen to you, for example:

Childline- 0800 11 11

Switchboard LGBT+- 0300 330 0630

Off the Record- 01225 312481

Samaritans- 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org

KOOTH

Check out this brilliant video ‘Small Talk Saves Lives - Everyday small talk’ by the Samaritans

However, in a crisis, always call 999 or Samaritans so that you can receive support and help quickly. Talking about mental health struggles can be difficult, but it is a very brave thing to do. Asking for help is always a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

Jayme, Student Placement LGBT+ Youth Worker

OTR's Wellbeing Hub

We are over the moon to announce we will be running Midsomer Norton’s Youth Club! Further expanding our services in Midsomer Norton, to create OTR’s new Wellbeing Hub.

Expanding on our Listening Support, Counselling and LGBT+ Rural SPACE Youth Group in Midsomer Norton, we felt running Norton’s Youth Club was the perfect opportunity for us to further meet young people’s needs within the community.

Young people need a local service where they socialise, feel connected and receive support if required.

The space will be a safe, relaxed environment where young people can sit and chat to staff, friends and peers, socialise, have fun as well as getting involved in themed sessions. There will be opportunities to develop new skills i.e. cook, discuss issues as well as have guest speakers visit.

OTR’s Wellbeing Hub will include;

LGBT+ Rural SPACE Youth Group fortnightly Mondays (for ages 13-21) 6pm-8pm

Listening Support and Counselling every Tuesday and Wednesday (for ages 10-25) 3pm-7pm

Norton Youth Club (NYC) every Thursday (for ages 11-18) 6:30pm-8:30pm

Keep an eye on our website and social media for updates on when the Norton Youth Club is up and running!


If you’d like to support our services such as our Wellbeing Hub, join us at our 25th Anniversary Ball.


We are looking for young people to help us redecorate and refurbish the Youth Club! If you’d like to help us get in contact below:

Name *
Name

Fitting in

It’s a universal fact that we all want to be liked. Human are animals- we like to have our packs, the people who back us up and stick with us when things get tough. But finding that pack can be difficult, and sometimes we feel that all we want to do is fit in. It’s not wrong to not want to stick out in a crowd (it’s human nature after all), but it does become a problem if you’re changing yourself in order to be liked by others.

Fitting in is not about getting other people to like you no matter what the cost- it’s about finding the people who accept you for who you are, and fitting comfortably with them, with your natural differences complimenting each other and bringing out the best in everyone. Fitting in is not about being the same, it’s about celebrating difference, and not shaming anyone or expecting anyone to change so that they fit in.

Wanting to fit in usually comes from starting somewhere new or feeling as though you need other people to validate who you are in order for you to be happy and accept yourself. But here’s the thing- you don’t need other people’s approval to be happy. You don’t need to fit in with others in order to like yourself. It’s a lot lonelier to be around people who don’t love you for exactly who you are than it is to be around no-one at all. Whether you fit in or not is irrelevant to how happy you can be- people who seem to fit in perfectly with those around them are not necessarily happy, and the people who seem to not fit in at all aren’t necessarily unhappy. Whatever the situation is, it’s not a case of you needing to change yourself in order to fit in with other people- it’s a case of finding the people who make you feel as though you don’t even have to fit in at all.

Feeling as though you don’t fit in is difficult, and it can feel lonely, but not fitting in is never your fault. It is never that there is a problem with you, or that you need to change, or that you are ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ for people. The people who you are trying to fit in with are simply not the right fit for you. You shouldn’t have to fit yourself into someone else’s predetermined mould of what is acceptable, and if you feel like you’re doing that, take a step back and ask yourself some questions.

1.       Are you happy?

2.       Are your wants and needs being met?

3.       Do you find yourself doing things you don’t want to do?

4.       Are you healthy and participating in healthy behaviours?

Trying to fit in can make you feel as though you don’t know the real you anymore, especially if you’ve been trying to fit in for a long time. Think about who are you when you’re by yourself, when you’re playing with your pets, or whoever you are when you’re not trying to make other people happy. Whoever that person is, they deserve to be around people who love and celebrate them for who they are- people who don’t have a mould already sculpted for you to try and shape yourself into. People who are the right fit for you will gently shape you into being the best possible version of yourself, and that’s what good friends do naturally, without even trying.

Whatever situation you are in, Off the Record is here to provide listening support and counselling services to young people in BANES who need it. You can refer yourself to these services here.

Jayme, Student Placement LGBT+ Youth Worker

 

SPACE Summer Event

We held a Summer SPACE Event for our SPACE members. We wanted to provide a fun, safe place for young people to be able to chill, and be themselves.

The day was filled with different activities for young people to get involved in including; making bath bombs with LUSH, paddle boarding with WOLT, circus skills, clothes swap, arts & crafts and not forgetting Aida, our special Drag Queen guest.

If you are a LGBT+ young person in Bath and North East Somerset and would be interested in attending our SPACE group get in contact with our SPACE team!

Photo’s from the day

Artemis' Poem

I am mutually exclusive

A basic example that is always used

Not a boy, then a girl

There's no inbetween 

You can see how I got confused

At 8, I cut my hair

Lopped it off from waist to jaw

Upon seeing this, my mum only recalled

Her own past of being mistook for a boy 

 

At 9, I stopped wearing skirts

Not because they weren't to my favour

I loved the long fabric as it fell on my legs

I just disliked that it made me a 'her'.

 

At 12, I started to bleed

And I wept because there is no place

No space in the middle of me

Now a girl, now a woman, a teen. 

 

At 13, I tested the water

That was always too shallow for me

The binary is a small pair of shorts

That never quite reached my knees. 

 

At 14, I changed my appearance

Cut my hair, bought boys clothes, started to bind

Not 'cause I hated my body-

Because I hated what it defined

It is now I struggle to break 

The spoon-fed rules of what to be

I took it all in, the insults, abuse

I tried just to be me. 

 

And I am mutually exclusive 

Stuck in the middle, not 'a' or 'b'

I am what they call 'they'

And that's perfectly OK

I'll continue to choose option 'c'.

 

Artemis, 15 

My Body Is My Story

 I am a canvas

A blank slate for my tale to be told

My Tabula Rasa

For which I am the master

 

Scars are my battle wounds from wars of long ago

Fighting an enemy at the time I didn’t know

But I won those wars

Conquered the demons and pushed them aside

Now I wear my scars as a symbol of pride

 

The ink that dons my body

Memories not to be consigned to oblivion

Points in time where I made my name

From honours to sin

Lessons and mistakes, all the same

A lifetime of work, etched into my skin

 

Stretch marks and Cellulite

Signs of my growth as an individual

My hair and piercings

Projections of my personality

Each detail highlighting a moment

A moment that changed who I wanted to be

 

Every inch of my being

Owns something I’m proud of

Be it a milestone

An achievement

Survival of a trying time

It is honoured

It is worn with pride

 It has it’s rightful place on my canvas

My piece of art

 

My body is my legacy

A chronicling of my growth

My ascension into being the best I can be

Laden across me, free for all to see

I am the Aviana Tapestry

Perry's Body Image Tips

It is Mental Health Awareness Week this week, it’s theme is body image. Watch our video below to hear Perry talking a little bit about body image, as well as some useful tips for if you are struggling with your body image.

If you feel like you need some support, our Listening Support Service may be beneficial - you can fill out a self-referral form here

Banter or Bullying Event

OTR took part in the Banter or Bullying Event held at the University of Bath alongside SARI and Black Families.

Prior to the event, we heard from over 1700 young people living or studying in BANES from our survey entitled “Are you being bullied for who you are - Young people’s experiences of hate.” We were blown away by the response rate of the survey, and what young people have experienced.

The day was separated with many different workshops for both school students and staff. OTR held a workshop based around online bullying and harassment. We had 5 different activities for the young people all of which were used to discuss online discrimination and hate crime; we had an activity using Meme’s, a ‘Dark Web’, Support Cloud, Online Activism activity as well as a Runway For Change. The purpose of these activities was to raise and tackle the issues around online discrimination, hate crime and bullying as well as sharing with young people where they can go should they ever experience this.

We also participated in a ‘speed dating’ type of activity which allowed us, and other services to share with young people what we do, and how they can access our support as well as allowing them to ask any questions they had.

The event closed with a Q&A session with Nikesh Shukla hosted by our very own Youth Forum member and DMYP Renee Weber. Renee and the young people did a fantastic job of asking Nikesh a range of questions from his experience of racism, his childhood and how he uses his position as an author to discuss race and immigration within the UK.

This event allowed us to promote Bath and North East Somerset as an area that challenges discrimination and hate and supports the people that experience this type of behaviour.

Here’s to working and standing together to make change!

“Abuse and hate crime is part of a viscous circle and we need to break it” - Alex Raikes, Strategic Director for SARI


Photo’s from the day

Hear Abi's Story

I always had this feeling that something wasn’t right, but for much of my early years I couldn’t figure out what it was. My parents pushed me towards typically male things, like sports, and I learned to enjoy them. However, I still naturally wanted to do some of the more feminine activities and my friendship groups were mostly female. It wasn’t until I began crossdressing that I realised what that wrong feeling was. By the time I had realised that though, my mum had found out about my crossdressing and criticised me for it saying, “you are not a girl”. This lack of acceptance caused me to feel like I couldn’t show this side of me and so I suppressed it. This resulted in me suffering with mental illness, mostly depression. My discomfort in presenting as male came back several times but each time I proceeded to suppress it once more. It wasn’t until I became friends with someone that was lesbian that I became comfortable enough to be more comfortable and accepting of who I am and so I came out to her as bisexual. However, after a few months I felt that label didn’t fit and so I used gay instead. Not long after this though my gender dysphoria came back again and so I decided this time to embrace my identity rather than continue suppressing it. So, when I got to Uni I began presenting as female and picked a new name for myself.

I found out about Off the Record at one of their events and proceeded to get 1:1 support to help me with this big change in my life. This led to me attending SPACE and Activists. Since then I have officially changed my name through deed poll, been placed on the gender identity clinic waiting list, and been involved in many projects with Off the Record. Without Off the Record I wouldn’t have grown as a person anywhere near as much as I have done. I value of their work is invaluable and I appreciate and am so thankful for all they have done for me. They truly are a fantastic group of people and are always there to help support the people that access their service in any way that they can.