Featured image credit: saeedatcha.co.uk
It’s currently Mental Health Awareness Week. According to the Mental Health Foundation,
nearly two thirds of people in the UK say that they have experienced a mental health problem. It is an incredibly important issue, and this week’s campaign aims to end any stigma associated with it.
To mark the week, we’re sharing the story of Saeed Atcha. Saeed, 20, is the founder of Bolton charity Xplode Magazine, a magazine and website that increases young people’s employability prospects by giving them training in media, business and life skills. If you’re from the Bolton area, you’ve no doubt seen Xplode – which is free – in local shops, colleges and youth centres.
Along with Xplode, Saeed also serves as a trustee for two other charities. His efforts with young people in the community have seen him win awards – the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service; the Prime Minister’s Point of Light and Rotary International’s Young Person of the Year Award – and be celebrated as something of a local champ.
Despite these successes, Saeed recently opened up about the mental health issues he’s experienced over the years. On his blog, he wrote: ‘I’m currently suffering from bad mental health – something that’s taken me a long time, a number of years, to accept. Buried beneath the awards, holidays, traveling, meetings, and life looking good, I’m not well and now I feel it’s okay to share this with you.’
Saeed was inspired by to tell his story by Heads Together, a recent campaign championed by Princes William, Prince Harry, and the Duchess of Cambridge. With help from the #OkayToSay hashtag, Heads Together aims to initiate a national conversation about mental health.
For Saeed, it’s encouraged him to reveal the difficulties he’s faced in the past:
“Something I rarely share is that I grew up in and out of care and faced many difficulties, I feel as if my past is haunting me – I’ve made mistakes and I’ve accepted them and moved on. Sometimes though, they come back and then throw into the mix, other people’s problems that I thrust myself into – I want to help but if I’m not helping myself first, I can’t properly help others.
And it’s because of that difficult upbringing that I’ve been so good in bottling up my thoughts and feelings over the years and now, that bottle’s full and the lid has popped off.”
The goal of Mental Health Awareness Week and Heads Together is to lessen the fears people may have about discussing their mental health issues. There are many projects to mark this week, including Instagram’s #HereForYou campaign, which is encouraging people to share their mental health story via the app:
“The Sad Girls Club (@sadgirlsclubpbg) started with me documenting my worst year of depression, and I created a film out of what I was going through,” says 27-year-old Elyse Fox (@elyse.fox). “My family never knew what was happening with me. I always seemed happy and in a positive mood, so this was my way of telling the world, and the people close to me, ‘This is what’s really going on in my head. This is what’s been going on with me.’ As soon as I released it, 50 girls flooded my inbox saying, ‘I see myself in this story. I can totally relate to this. Can you give me any advice?’ Immediately, I saw a need. There were girls out there, a lot younger than me and as confused as I was at their age, that needed a sense of community, a mentor or just someone to vent to. I wish people understood that depression is an actual sickness. It’s something that needs to be studied and treated as such. And treated with kindness and with love.” #hereforyou Watch our Instagram story where Elyse offers some helpful advice, then, learn more about how our community is sharing their mental health journeys and supporting one another. (Video link in bio) Photo by @elyse.fox
While not everyone will want to write a blog post or share their story on social media, it’s important to know that there are resources out there where people will listen to your worries in a safe environment. As Saeed says: ‘One thing I’ve learned is that you must talk. It’s so important to talk. And more importantly, it’s OK to talk. Something must change and I’m taking steps to change, I’m about to talk more openly, I’m having conversations and most importantly, I’m trying.’
Read Saeed’s blog in full here.
If you’re worried about your mental health these charities will offer support and advice:
Mind UK on 0300 123 3393
The Mix (for people under 25) on 0808 808 4994