Yesterday was #WorldMentalHealthDay. But what is today?
We must keep talking and sharing stories to remove the stigma attached to mental health issues. If you have a broken leg, you'd tell someone and have it fixed. So why do so many of us keep a broken mind to ourselves?
Thats why I ran a One Minute Brief campaign to coincide with #WMHD2018 and encourage people to speak to others about their mental health. Some of the content created was extremely powerful and far-reaching but, most importantly, it began to spark conversation and positivity online. The OMB community is the most inclusive, diverse and supportive group of people I've seen on social media and mental well-being is right at the heart of that. We exist to inspire, build each other's confidence, create real-life friendships whilst helping each other improve creatively and personally. It's a level playing field whether you're a Creative Director or a junior...or not even in the creative industry. No one is hear to out-do each other or put others down. We're here to help each other be successful. And success is different to different people. To some, success is getting out of bed in the morning.
As well as the conversation happening online, some members of the OMB Board began to speak up in our group chat about their own battles with mental health. I was quite taken aback as I had no idea of their struggles.
The conversation started with someone in the group simply asking how everyone's day had been...and in what must have been difficult and differing from the auto-pilot "Ok...you?" this was the first response.
"Mine wasn’t so good. Been off work for 5 weeks with anxiety.. (inspired by today’s OMB’s to speak up) hope everyone else is good!?"
Suddenly every single person replied saying that they are here to talk whenever needed. On top of that, the others began to share their own stories. Proving not all is as it seems are the comments from the guys below:
"I’ll give my story of dealing with anxiety (for some reason I find it harder to write about then talk about. Face to face I’ll tell you no problem but put it In writing I’m shaking like a shitting dog, it’s taken me all morning to try and write) but a couple of years ago I think I let my anxiety get the better of me. My job was changing, my friendship group was changing and even the fucking economy was changing. So I just felt out of control, so I panicked and began changing what I could control. A cocktail of denial, panic attacks and an obsession with food and the gym. I nearly gave up the creative career because I felt at a dead end. I eventually pulled through and saw a councillor, and it still wasn’t for me but the admission that I had an issue allowed me to work with it. Sure there are times it does creep back in having to a supportive network and platforms like OMB with gives you the confidence boast, supportive community reminder that you a fucking awesome at what you do!"
"Everyone seems to feel that people in the creative industries are always happy, constantly creative etc and it’s not the case."
"In the spirit of openness...I've actually been on anti-anxiety/ antidepressants for one month now..."
"No drugs but have had therapy for issues. I think being reflective and sharing is a big step to helping a situation. I've had massive anxiety episodes. Feel like a fraud sometimes but, for the 100th time, OMB helps chip away at it and let some light in."
"I had an anxiety 'episode' watching Bake Off the other night...fecking Bake off...who even does that? (It wasn't related to Bake Off in any way, just shows how your sub-conscious can blindside you out of nowhere though)"
"Hi, I've just been catching up with some of the comments on here and feel inspired by everyone being so open about their struggles. I thought I'd share my story too for anyone who wants to read it! I did graphic design at college and uni quite a few years ago now... I really struggled in my last year. Looking back at it now, I know I was struggling with depression. i shut myself a way a little, especially from the people I was most closest to. I just had an overwhelming feeling that I wasn't good enough and I'm sad to say I lost my love for being creative. I have always compared myself to other people, which I'm trying to be better at. When I finished uni, I took some time off from doing creative things. I just didn't know what I wanted to do in my life but knew I had to try and figure it out. I did some work experience at Media City on my day off from my job at the time, and then ended up taking a job. After a couple of different roles I have found my feet in the Communications team, doing some design work, website, and editing... It's a great team to be in and I love that I get chance to do some creative stuff again. Since being introduced to One Minute Briefs, I have found the love and support of this amazing community. And I've got my confidence back a little too. Thank you to you all. I'm always here for anyone who ever needs to talk about how they feel."
Suddenly we have found out so much about each other that we had never thought before. This can change everything. Now all of us know we can talk to each other when the going gets tough and we've also learnt things that will allow us to be more sensitive to one another during conversation and moving forwards.
Of course, I had to share my own thoughts on mental health and the fact that I suffer from anxiety and depression at times. I didn't go in to much detail at the time. Instead, deciding to write this piece because I feel it's important to share experiences to help others who may feel they are alone in their thinking.
I have talked at a couple of mental health and well-being events in the last year and I have skimmed the surface in how I am affected by it but I am becoming more comfortable with talking about it the more I hear other stories. I was shocked to hear emotive stories from Chris Bird, Naomi Timperley and Dominic McGregor who are all very successful entrepreneurs. They discussed life events, personal stories and battles with depression. How could this be?! All I ever see of them is winning award after award, speaking at loads of events, winning business and smiles on their faces. Yet the stories they told were what was behind all that. A complete eye-opener for me that has inspired me to talk more on the subject.
I am very lucky to be able to attend events, do talks to tell my story and have won a few awards along the way. But all of the stuff shared online is the positive stuff. What isn't seen is the nervousness about doing such talks, the terrifying prospect I face when networking with people I don't know due to anxiety. Recently I didn't attend an important event I absolutely should have been at. I panicked about having to meet people. This will seem strange to people who have seen me meet so many people over the past year but it's true.
To compound this, I do a job where I create public-facing work. Once that work is out there in the world, it's open to scrutiny and, in some cases, negativity. One film I made, which went viral and helped raise a huge amount for a little girl with cancer, received some negative comments online. Me being me, didn't see the thousands of amazing supportive comments and focussed on the bad ones... even trying to reply to them personally. But as a creative, it's important we learn to understand that not everyone will like what you do.
And that's ok.
I never realised that until recently. It's the same with One Minute Briefs. It's received negativity a few times due to the way it works and how people can post to it publicly. Certain people don't like it and some even think it's an insult to the craft of the creative industry by trying to solve briefs quickly. What these people fail to realise is that I am a Creative Director too and this is just a tool for starting ideas off. And it's been proven to work time and time again including being the foundation of the NHS Xmas Number 1 campaign. At times, I've wasted time trying to persuade people what OMB is all about and it can be very hurtful to see negative comments about something that you put so much time in to to help others. However, recently I've learnt to embrace that some people will love it and some will hate it. With that though, comes a whole new problem when I'm attending events and doing talks. Some of the people who don't believe in what I'm doing will be in the audiences which makes you feel even more on edge. Whereas, after giving it a lot of thought, now I understand that I'm doing it for the people who want to be part of something great and decided against throwing in the towel on One Minute Briefs as a result of the overwhelming messages of support I have received.
Those who were at the #OMBLIVEFIVE event would have seen the support and love everyone had for each other. None more so than Ze Anwar. He won an award for OMBLES' OMBLE of the Year and, as part of his prize, we helped organise a paid placement at Kindred Agency for him. This was something we really pushed to make happen as Ze had been out of work for the best part of 10 years and even attempted to take his own life after ongoing bouts of depression. Yet this guy has extreme talent. He's now in the 3rd week of a two-week placement. Not bad! I'll always remember what his wife said to me a year ago. "You saved Zed's life and you saved our family." For me, that makes all of the hard work and all of the struggles worthwhile. I think it's important to help yourself by helping others.
Ze and all the OMBLES gave me something back when I needed it most 3 years ago after my heart attack aged 26. They started a #GetWellSoonNick brief which ran itself on Twitter whilst I was in my hospital bed contemplating what the future would hold. http://creative-account.blogspot.com/2015/05/what-it-feels-like-tohave-heart-attack.html Since then, I have tried to turn being at the lowest of the low and being too scared to even stand up at first into a positive where I will go out there and do what it takes to achieve great things. However, there's one thing that stops me doing all of the things I want to do.
When you have something like a heart attack at the back of your mind at all times, it does hold you back. It can cause you to feel down, anxious in public spaces at the mere hint of pain and this can be severely de-motivating. Knowing what you could achieve if you applied yourself fully but being unable to do it can be the most depressing thing in the world even when on the outside you appear to be achieving a lot. My personality is non-stop busy but sometimes I feel I'm not achieving anything at all. This is a blessing and a curse as it means I push for great work and always strive for better but I struggle to settle and be happy with what I've got right here and now within both my career and personal life.
But you know what... I'm trying. And that's all that matters.
So next time you feel down, talk to someone. What's the best that could happen?
Let's make it #WorldMentalHealthDay. Every day.