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Leeds Mind 100km Challenge!

What are we doing and why are we doing it?

When we saw that Leeds Mind was doing an appeal for £50k, we knew we had to help in some way as we are aware of how much this charity does for our city. After a discussion, we decided to set ourselves the challenge of running 100km between us (like a constant relay whilst splitting the distance equally) in order to raise money for this worthwhile cause.

After a snowy, icy and windy January and February, we also thought this would be a great way for us to get back into running and push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Afterall, what’s more motivating when you’re being made accountable for helping a charity?

As many of you will be aware, in the past few months we have started this blog and the Instagram page (2_mindstogether) in order to educate ourselves and others about various mental health disorders/illnesses whilst aiming to break stigmas. In this short space of time, we have met some truly inspirational people who are actively sharing their stories to help others understand and offer support. We are aware that many of these people have sought help from services like Leeds Mind and therefore this has re-emphasised the importance of supporting our local mental health charity as services like these will literally save lives.

We think that it’s fair to say that everyone’s mental health has taken a hit in the past year due to COVID. Due to that, when we come out of this surreal chapter of our lives, it is important that there is sufficient and effective support for those people who need it. It also seems to us that whilst people’s mental health has deteriorated, the positives we can take from this is that people are more willing to accept and discuss their struggles rather than suffering alone. With this in mind, there is a definite need to help charities such as Leeds Mind to ensure they have the funds to help those who seek it.

Another negative impact of COVID is that charities have been unable to organise fundraisers which would usually provide them with a substantial income to set up projects and facilitate services. So at a time when there is more demand for mental health support, the charities have less money to fund services. We want to raise as much money as possible to make sure Leeds Mind is there for the future. Do you know what your donations can buy?

  • £5 could fund a yoga or art wellbeing session.
  • £20 could fund a month zoom subscription allowing a continuation of the virtual support.
  • £40 could fund an hour of counselling.
  • £100 could fund a group support session for 15 people.
  • £15,000 could fund 1:1 support work for a year.
  • £50,000 could cover the costs for a project to help 100 people experiencing mental health difficulties including a paid support worker.

What does Leeds Mind do?

Primarily, Leeds Mind is a charity who offer mental health support in Leeds. They are able to provide a variety of services to cater for an individual’s needs. Leeds Mind’s mission is to, “enable people with mental health difficulties to flourish,” providing “better mental health for all.”

Their 6 core values are:

  • Kindness
  • Hope
  • Empowerment
  • Respect
  • Inclusion
  • Support

According to Leeds Mind:

Before Covid-19, it was estimated that 1 in 4 people would experience a mental health difficulty at some point in their lives. According to a recent Mind survey, around 50% of the UK population is now struggling with their mental health. In Yorkshire and the Humber, that figure is even higher at 60%.

Here are some stats that the lovely Gem from Leeds Mind shared with us for the period April 2019-March 2020:

Total number of people supported between April 2019-March 2020 – 4526

Total new clients: 3,670 (81% of total clients were new to Leeds Mind last year)

The quarterly statistic of new referrals since 1st April 2020 show that there is a rise in each quarter:

Q1: 318

Q2: 456

Q3: 599

Q4: expected to rise again (approx. an additional 140 each quarter based on past year)

Here are some of the services that Leeds Mind can provide:

  • Peer Support
  • WorkPlace Leeds
  • Leeds Suicide Bereavement Service
  • Counselling
  • Inkwell Arts
  • SELF Befriending
  • Linking Leeds
  • Men’d
  • Grief & Loss Support Line
  • Live Well Leeds
  • Training – Leeds Mind provides a range of mental health training
  • Mentally healthy Universities
  • Mindful Employer Leeds

It is without a doubt that Leeds Mind offers a huge range of services and are a real asset to our city. With mental health and wellbeing being at the forefront of people’s minds, it is paramount that they are able to operate and resume their services at full capacity to enable Leeds to be a city that can flourish. For more details on the services above please visit the Leeds Mind website.

Where are we up to so far?

As of today (Thursday 11th March 2021), we have completed 44km out of the 100km target. Although we are currently on track to achieving 100km, we had hit a bump in the road by day three. Unfortunately for us, one half of our running duo (Nick) sustained an injury which meant that the other half (Lucy) has had to pick up more runs in the first week to ensure we don’t fall behind. We are hoping that we will both be running fit by next week to continue as a duo. Who knows, we might even manage more than 100km…

So far, we have managed to raise an impressive £310. We are so grateful to those who have already sponsored this charity by supporting our running fundraiser. There have been some anonymous donations and some from others we do not know so if we haven’t been able to thank you personally, we want you to know how thankful we are for your support.

If you are reading this and want to help motivate us to get up early on these cold mornings, please donate! Link below!

Thank you!

Nick & Lucy x

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Anna’s Story: How Child Sexual Abuse Impacted My Mental Health in Adulthood

Did you know that most sexual abuse is not reported or detected? Even when it is, very few result in prosecution. Due to their vulnerability and innocence, some children are even unaware that they are being sexually abused, particularly if they have been cleverly groomed. Many people who have been subjected to sexual abuse often supress their feelings and traumatic memories.

Anna (@mindfulanna_) has bravely shared her story with us on how childhood sexual abuse had a huge impact on her life.

“In my childhood, I had two traumatic experiences. I lost my Dad to suicide when I was 6 years old. Suicide was hardly spoken about in 2002 and there was still a massive stigma attached to it. I used to feel embarrassed telling people how my Dad died. I remember feeling very confused as to why and there were many unanswered questions. Then when I was 8 years old, I was subjected to child sexual abuse by a family member; someone a few years older than me and someone I trusted.”

There is usually already some form of relationship between the child and the perpetrator whether it a family member or a friend. It is predicted that around 90% of victims know their abuser. Normally, the abuse is premeditated and carefully planned so the abuser has access to unsupervised time with the child. This is often how grooming begins.

Anna continued:

“The abuse went on for 2 years and during this time I was so easily manipulated into it. He groomed me in a very clever way. When it stopped, he told me not to tell anyone.”

According to the NSPCC website, the abuser will often make the victim believe that they have a genuine relationship and, along with an already gained respect and trust, are able to cleverly control their victim.

Unfortunately for Anna, years of bottling this huge burden and childhood secret caused her to have a breakdown.

“I held it a secret for years until I eventually had a breakdown in March 2020. The sexual abuse I suffered as a child didn’t impact my life until I was 24. I completely blocked it out until then.”

It is projected that approximately 1 in 3 children who have been subjected to sexual abuse do not tell anyone about it at the time with many keeping it a secret their entire life.

When Anna did come to discuss her abuse with someone, she quickly recognised how her mental health was spiralling.

“The first person I told about this was my therapist and I was processing it in therapy. I then started to tell more people about it, the next person being my boyfriend who was very non-judgmental. The more I spoke about it and got it out in the open the more my mental health was declining. I eventually suffered a breakdown (or a quarter life breakthrough as I like to call it) which was the most frightening thing I have ever experienced.”

Understandably, opening up about such a traumatic experience will have had a huge impact on mental health. It had been documented that child sexual abuse can have a detrimental effect on general emotional wellbeing with outcomes such as depression, anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts.

Anna’s mental health took a hit.

“I was in crisis and this is when I asked for help. I experienced psychotic outbursts, panic attacks, dissociation, deep depressive episodes and intense suicidal thoughts and ideation. I eventually went to the police and reported the abuse which made my mental health even worse as I had to recall all the traumatic memories I experienced. This was a very distressing process. I started remembering more and more of the abuse, then I started developing PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance and insomnia. It felt like I was reliving the trauma that was stored on my body and in my mind. I was so suicidal and just wanted the pain to go away.”

Among victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, 73% had PTSD. IICSA has stated that children can also experience a range of emotions such as fear, sadness, anger and guilt as well as self-blame. This often continues into adulthood.

“I had to work through many emotions associated with abuse such as guilt, shame and anger. The hardest part of my journey was accepting that I was a victim of child sexual abuse. I couldn’t accept it for months. But I am not a victim anymore, I’m a survivor of child abuse and survived something so traumatic.”

We think that this is such an admirable way of looking at such an unimaginably awful experience and know that this will inevitably help so many come to terms with their own sexual abuse. This change in mindset will have undoubtedly helped Anna in her recovery.

“It’s been a long road to recovery but I’m now in a good place mentally to be able to speak about the abuse, I am not ashamed anymore! Going through my struggles was really hard for me and my family but it’s made me realise how strong and resilient I am. It’s made me reflect on the good things in my life and appreciate those close to me. I now feel empowered to talk about this and be an advocate for child sexual abuse and hopefully help others in the future.”

Anna is definitely a brilliant advocate for this and we’re sure that by sharing her experience with sexual abuse and her mental health battles it will only give others in a similar position courage to seek help.

We asked Anna what advice she would give to someone who might find themselves in a similar position. Here is her response:

  • You are not alone and healing is possible. Although it can feel very isolating, abuse is more common that you think. 1 in 10 children are abused before their 18th birthday!
  • Healing takes courage and patience so don’t be too hard on yourself.
  • Be aware of grounding techniques. These helped me massively through my recovery.
  • Get a journal. I remember feeling very overwhelmed by many different feelings which I couldn’t describe. Writing everyday really helped me to heal. I also wrote 5 positive affirmations everyday which helped me when I was experiencing intense suicidal thoughts.
  • Abuse is very unique and personal. You might think you have difficulty coping but you’ve survived and are surviving now.

Although it was initially very challenging for Anna to open up and confide in those she trusted, discussing her past has ensured that she has received the right help and support she needed in order to recuperate. Anna also shared that she had lots of mental health support from her doctors, the crisis team and community mental health team.

“When I had my breakdown, I was quickly referred to the crisis team and had daily visits. My psychiatrist advised which medication to go on for my symptoms. It got to a stage where I nearly had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital because I was not safe. There were no beds there so I was looked after at home and eventually I started to get better. When I was discharged from the crisis team, I was then referred to the community mental health team which involved weekly sessions with my care coordinator.”

“When I did my statement to the police, they advised me of a charity called Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse (CARA) who provide counselling. I had to wait 7 months for therapy which felt like a long time but within this time I was able to work on myself and heal, although I did have relapses during this period. I have been having counselling since November 2020 and my therapist and I have a very good therapeutic relationship. I feel safe and comfortable talking to her about my abuse and working through my emotions.”

Anna has been incredibly brave and has already faced so many different challenges in her life. We cannot thank her enough for sharing her personal and honest story with us. There’s no doubt that this will raise the awareness of child sexual abuse as well as various mental health issues.

We have some links below that you can visit if you need any support or help with this topic:

CARAwww.caraessex.org.uk

Lucy Faithfull Foundationwww.lucyfaithfull.org.uk

NSPCC www.nspcc.org.uk

Thank you for reading,

Nick & Lucy x

Matt’s Story: Dealing with Mental Health & Debt

Did you know that suicide is the single biggest killer in men under 45? With societal pressures to “man up” and keep mentally strong, men tend to be more reluctant at speaking up and asking for help.

Matt (@mattnicholsmentalhealth), aged 24, is now speaking up and joining many others on social media platforms to share his story, spread awareness and fight the stigma attached with mental health, especially men’s.

In March 2020, after suffering with anxiety and depression, Matt made several attempts to end his own life. Through his own will power and determination, Matt started his recovery in July 2020 and is now keen to help others. He also openly discusses his debt issues that caused him to get into a vicious cycle that was difficult to get out of. He said, “mental health got me into debt, then debt made my mental health spiral further.

Matt kindly shared his story with us:

When did you start realising that you were getting into debt? What were you spending your money on?

“I would say I was always conscious of it, I just never faced up to it. When I was at university, I had maxed out my overdraft within the first three months. 80% of that went on nights out. When I came home, I never really got a handle on things and then I also started getting into drugs.”

It has been proven that men are more likely to respond to their mental health issues with more “risky” behaviour such as alcohol and drug abuse. This then becomes a difficult habit to break.

Matt continues:

“I had a rough patch Christmas 2019 when my mental health was at an all-time low and I increased my alcohol and drug use. To fund this, I ended up taking out three credit cards and three pay day loans in the space of four months. I lost my job during this period and, as you can probably imagine, it all spiralled out of control.”

According to Rethink, people with mental health illnesses can turn to alcohol/drugs as a form of “self-medication” but the cruel irony with this is that it can actually make the symptoms worse. For Matt, his substance abuse also caused him financial problems as he began to get into more and more debt.

Was being in debt what caused you to attempt suicide?

“I don’t think debt was the only factor but it was a factor. It was a vicious loop for me. I was depressed and anxious and my coping mechanism was to go out, drink and do drugs. But my income couldn’t support my lifestyle and I’d have to use money that wasn’t mine. I think because I justified the debt as my coping mechanism, I continued to fall deeper into that trap.”

The RCPsych projected that one in two adults with debts has a mental health problem. Payday loans are renowned for having high interest rates and are therefore not sustainable in the long run.

How are you managing your mental health and debts now? 

“The first step is always to acknowledge that there is a problem and then commit to tackling it. For me, debt and my health almost went hand in hand so when I committed to bettering my mental health, clearing out my debt had to be a part of that. I’ve learned how to budget well and started working through my debts with the highest interest first and working my way down. I also took on a second job although I would stress that this isn’t advice because for many people it will not be practical (parents, people who burn out easily, people who are anxious about working, etc).”

Matt is currently cycling 300km in the month of March to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

If you would like to donate, here is the link to Matt’s fundraising page:

Matthew’s Cycle 300 Fundraising Page | Cancer Research UK Giving Pages

The most important message we get from this answer is first accepting that you have a problem and need to change. We understand that this must be the hardest and biggest step to make but a necessary one in order to recover. Matt has a really clear step by step plan to pay off his debts and keep on top of his mental health. “Where is Matt up to now?” we hear you say…

“At the time of writing, I have cleared off £4,500 of my £6,000 debt!”

This is an amazing achievement in such a short space of time which wouldn’t have been possible without Matt’s strong-minded attitude, positive outlook and willingness to change. 

What will you do in the future to ensure that you don’t get back into debt?

“I will use all of the lessons that I’ve learned around budgeting, personal finance etc. A big part of it is maintaining my wellbeing is staying clear of boozy and drugged up nights. As well as this, when my debt is cleared, I plan to start investing my money wisely, although I’ve not started this journey yet so promise to update you when I do!”

This is great advice for anyone, regardless of whether they have debts or not. Maintaining mental wellbeing is paramount and wisely investing money is definitely a way forward.

With male mental health having more stigma attached to it and men being more reluctant to speak out, our final question to Matt was on this topic.

What advice would you give to someone who’s struggling with their mental health/debt, specifically men?

  1. First and foremost, acknowledge and accept that we have these problems. Here’s the good news – there’s always a way out.
  2. The most important thing is to speak out to whoever you feel comfortable talking to. Having people who understand the problem and who can listen and advise us is super important.
  3. In regards to debt, try not to overwhelm yourself with too much with the total figure – break them down step by step starting with the ones that are charging you the most interest. Once you’ve paid that off, you can see the extra money in your account and it gets easier and easier. Learn how to budget. Look up the 50:30:20 method, probably the simplest budgeting method in my opinion.
  4. Most importantly DON’T GIVE UP. Bad days wills happen but pick yourself up and go again!

Matt gives us some very good advice here (watch out Martin Lewis) and is living proof that things can get better when you admit that there is a problem and actively put a plan in place to change those.

We have already seen how passionate Matt is to raise awareness and to help others. We are really thankful to Matt for being so open with us so we are able to learn a bit more about what people with mental health issues have had to battle.

Regardless of your age, gender, race, etc., speaking out does NOT show weakness – it shows strength. This is a message that is so important to get across because speaking to someone could literally save your life!

Nick & Lucy x

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