Hi everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Howay Man Get Happy. I wanted to share with you all the excellent Speaking Out training course that I attended last week, facilitated by the Time To Change Campaign. If you haven’t heard of Time To Change before, it is a nation-wide social movement to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people suffering from mental health problems. Time To Change is a cause very close to my heart and I would even go as far to say that it has played a part in my recovery. You can check out their website for more information here: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk.
As I think I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I work voluntarily as a Time To Change Champion. A Champion is a volunteer at Time To Change with some kind of personal experience with mental health issues and who is passionate about challenging stigma and discrimination in their community. As well as lots of exciting volunteering opportunities, Time to Change also offers Champions various training courses to help you become a better advocate for mental health awareness. This Speaking Out training was centered around how to give public speeches on Mental Health by drawing on your own personal experiences. This training was given by Angela Slater, Time To Change Community Equalities Coordinator for the North East and Yorkshire; and Steve O’Driscoll, who works as a freelance public speaker for Mental Health Awareness and regularly delivers talks and training sessions at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities. I have had the absolute pleasure of knowing both Angela and Steve for a few years now and always find their conversations about Mental Health honest and inspiring.
The course was taught over one five and a half hour period, and began with the setting of the all-important ground rules. These included confidentiality, equality, respect, safe disclosure and being mindful of possible triggers for other people on the course. This set up a safe-space in which we could all feel comfortable in learning how best to speak about our own experiences in front of a large group of people and certainly in my case, put any anxieties I had about speaking publicly at ease.
Throughout the course we were taught how to prepare for a public speaking event. We were told to think about who our audience was, whether it was a public or private event and what we would feel comfortable sharing at the time – baring in mind this could change depending on our own personal circumstances. It is so important to feel safe when disclosing personal information about your own mental health journey – remember you don’t always have to tell your whole story to get your point across! We were also taught how to keep our speeches focused. We were asked to come up with one clear and concise message we wanted to get across in our public speech and to formulate a clear introduction and conclusion to our speech. This really helped us to keep our rambling at bay – something my regular readers will know this I am prone to do!
By the end of the course the goal was for each of us to have prepared a short three-minute talk on a subject of our choice and if we felt comfortable we had the opportunity to present it to the training group. I chose to give my talk on the importance of speaking to young people about mental health – an idea, which I whole-heartedly believe, will contribute to a more mentally healthy society. I am hoping to convert this into a blog post soon!
I am delighted to say that the Speaking Out training course was a roaring success and every single one of the twelve trainees gave a compelling and rousing speech to the rest of the group at the end of the session – despite many people’s anxieties of never having spoken publicly before. This course was a unique and inspiring experience and I would 100% recommend you to give it a go yourself. Steve O’Driscoll mentioned at the start of the course how speaking out can even support recovery – giving us examples from his own battle with mental illness – and I have to say I couldn’t agree more! There is nothing more liberating than taking a difficult time in your life and using it to help and inspire others to look after their own mental health. In a way it is like claiming back that time in your life where things weren’t going well for you and using it to push forward and say “yes this happened to me, and yes it wasn’t pleasant, but I am going to use that time from my life to help myself and hopefully others to achieve mental wellness.”
If you’d like to get invited to similar training opportunities and volunteering events you can sign up to be a Champion at http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-change-champions/register-champion. You can get involved as much or as little as you want. I would totally recommend registering if you want to hear about all of the exciting things that are happening in your area and you too can be a part of the plight to end mental health stigma and discrimination for good.
Wishing you all good mental health!