Mental health is something that affects so many yet is talked about by so few. That has to change. Inspired by a similar initiative in the United States, my Semicolon Project, in support of the charity YoungMinds, aims to start conversations and break the stigma surrounding mental health.
I learnt first-hand the detrimental effect that the lack of conversation and awareness has. I came to the realisation that I needed to be that change.
A Semicolon is used when an author could have chosen to end the sentence, but they chose to carry on. The sentence represents a life of someone who is struggling with mental health issues and the semicolon represents the choice to keep pushing forward and never give up.
Having faced my own battles with my mental health, I learnt first-hand the detrimental effect that the lack of conversation and awareness has. After years of sitting back and hoping for something to change, I came to the realisation that I needed to be that change.
By sharing our experiences we can begin to change the perception of mental health in our society today.
The long-term goal of the project is to create a book filled with people of all different ages, backgrounds and walks of life talking about their experiences with their mental health. By sharing our experiences and putting ourselves in the most vulnerable position we can begin to change the perception of mental health in our society today. The book will also include artwork, quotes and pieces of writing by various authors, mental health activists and myself. I want the book to demonstrate and bring awareness to the fact that there are so many people who have struggled and continue to struggle with their mental health but more importantly I want the book to bring hope and comfort to those who read it. I hope to publish the book at the beginning of next year and all proceeds of purchases of the book will go to YoungMinds.
In December 2020 I introduced the first fundraising initiative of the project; Scarves for Semicolon. I started making and selling handknitted scarves and the £15 donation for each one sold directly funded one YoungMinds crisis messenger conversation via a helpline offering free 24/7 support to those facing a mental health crisis. Each purchase was so much more than just buying a nice scarf, it provided a potential lifeline for those who have no one to turn to. By making and selling 124 scarves to generous donors I was able to raise £3150 which funded 210 helpline conversations.
In February of this year, I wrote a letter on behalf of all young people to the Prime Minister and Dr Alex George, Youth Mental Health Ambassador, discussing the current mental health crisis and what could be done to help services, resources, education and awareness surrounding mental health. I shared a copy of the letter on Instagram, not expecting anyone but my followers to see it, yet in the space of a few days the post was seen by 30,000 people and generated 4,000 comments. As a result it caught the attention of Dr Alex and I was invited to have a Zoom call with him where we discussed the lack of conversation and education surrounding mental health in schools. We discussed strategies that could be implemented to make a difference.
The power to make changes that will not only benefit our generation but pave the way for future generations too.
Over the last year, I have been planning and organising a charity concert for The Semicolon Project which will take place later this year, hopefully in our iconic Greek Theatre. External musicians, guest speakers, soloists, instrumental numbers and returning Old Bradfeldians will all help to provide a night of music for mental health awareness. All ticket proceeds will go to YoungMinds.
I truly believe that The Semicolon Project is the start of something special, the start of a movement that has the power to make changes that will not only benefit our generation but pave the way for future generations too.