We hosted a mental health pubquiz, both offline in our London office and online on Twitter. Why? Because we wanted to talk about mental health in a positive and fun way and setting, to help break the stigma and raise awareness. Because if we don't talk about it, how are we going to tackle the problem?
Charlotte Reed, Megan Haste and Sam Barakat were special guests at the event, sharing their experiences and explaining what they are doing individually to open up conversations about mental health. André Tomlin, creator of the Mental Elf, hosted the online pubquiz. Meet them in this blog.
May the thoughts be with you
Charlotte Reed is mental health advocate and author of the book “May the thoughts be with you”. The book is a collection of Charlotte's own positive thoughts and drawings, meant to help and inspire other people. She started writing when she was going through depression, she tells: 'I decided that I'd post my thought each weekday morning as my Facebook status. Making that commitment meant I had another focus to each day as well as my walking. I also wondered if the thoughts I was writing to help myself could be of any use to friends too.' When she was diagnosed with repetitive strain injury a few years later, she decided to bundle her thoughts in a book, and accompany them with drawings. After a difficult start, her book turned into a huge success.
Charlotte is passionate about mental health. 'Events like this help break the stigma around mental health. We should make mental health a normal topic of conversation. Spreading awareness really helps.'
Megan the mental health blogger
During the event, Megan Haste gave a poignant speech. She is Mental Health Blogger and Speaker, and also creates self-care cards & posters that she sells in her “little shop of hope”. 'I think the best, indeed possibly the only way, to tackle stigma is simply by talking about mental health,' she said. 'It’s something I put every ounce of my energy into doing, and it’s always incredible when you get to see the results in some way.'
Digital means are paramount in this: 'I know from my own experience as a service user and a mental health blogger that digital platforms have been crucial in helping me overcome my own mental health issues, if only because the best way to help myself is by helping others, and using the internet I’m able to do that far more than I would if I only operated on a face-to-face basis.'
The Mental Elf
André Tomlin is the creator of the Mental Elf, a website that he started in 2011. He has worked as an Information Scientist in Mental Health since the late nineties; initially at Oxford University's Centre for Evidence-Based Mental Health and since 2002 as the Managing Director of Minervation Ltd. Asked for his reason to join and host the online pubquiz on Twitter, he answered: 'I’d like to see more general events where we talk about mental health. One of the challenges about improving mental health literacy is to reach the people who need support. So overall I think pub quizzes, Twitter discos and the like are a great way to start conversations about mental health. Let’s keep it fun, upbeat and accessible for people!'
Illustration of the Mental Elf
'We should treat mental illness the same as physical illness. The only way you can separate the mind from the body is with an axe! Stigma is complex and the solutions are not simple: we’ve blogged about it a lot on the Mental Elf!'
The changes we need to make are not technological, but cultural
In his work (for the Mental Elf), André focuses on using digital to close the gap between research and practice. 'It still takes over 10 years for a new piece of evidence to reach the frontline in the NHS, even though we all have smartphones that can access things instantly. The changes we need to make are not technological, but cultural. Practitioners need to have the time, skills and inclination to use research in their practice, to improve the care of their patients. Importantly we also need to make sure that research is answering the questions that are important to people going through mental health difficulties.'
Find out more about André's work and the Mental Elf here