I was honoured to be involved in the latest part of the Time to Change Wales marketing campaign; to be one of twelve people whose faces and stories would be made public, for all to see.
It was made all the more special as my boss got involved with me. My day job is on the marketing team at the Wales Co-operative Centre, where my line manager is Catherine Evans. Catherine has been a tremendous source of support for me in recent years, particularly when my depressive episodes have made the work environment very difficult to face. I have great employers, but without Catherine I probably wouldn’t be in a job at the moment and it’s my job that provides a lot of the structure and purpose that ‘keeps me together’.
So, we went along to the Journeys and Gofal offices in Cardiff, where the filming and photo-shoot took place – I even got to wear make-up! The things you do to help tackle mental health stigma and discrimination! Catherine was given a lion tamer costume to wear, in keeping with the theme and notion that you don’t need to be tough, like a superhero or ninja, or have lots of qualifications, like an astronaut or scientist, to talk about mental health – you are being extraordinary just by doing that.
"you don’t need to be tough, like a superhero or ninja, or have lots of qualifications, like an astronaut or scientist, to talk about mental health – you are being extraordinary just by doing that"
I know I can talk openly about mental health in the office, or anywhere else for that matter, without any fear. Not everyone is in that position, so I hope our video and the images that have come from our part of the campaign will help other people to be better supported in the workplace when it comes to talking about mental health and any associated needs they may have. You can get there. It is possible.
I have no problem with my face, with a link to my story, being put on billboards, buses, beermats and takeaway boxes for this campaign for a few reasons:
- Since going public with my mental illness, I’ve only ever received positive feedback.
- Everyone in my immediate life knows, so I have nothing to hide from them.
- Not everyone is in a position to be that open, so I’m more than happy to be part of an effort to create a society where mental health is a completely acceptable topic of conversation.
The video clip says we’re being extraordinary? Maybe, but talking about mental health is second nature to me now, we need to be in a position where it’s an ordinary thing to do. It’s one of the reasons why I’m working with a group of people to develop Making Minds – a new organisation that promotes the role of art and creativity in mental health.
"The video clip says we’re being extraordinary? Maybe, but talking about mental health is second nature to me now, we need to be in a position where it’s an ordinary thing to do"
The photo-shoot and filming came just a week before I received a new diagnosis. Having known for a long time that I was ‘somewhere on the bipolar spectrum’, I’m finally being treated as such. It’s taken 12 years to reach that point. Let’s hope campaigns such as Time to Change Wales will mean that more people seek help earlier, leading to fewer people having to wait as long to get the right diagnosis and the treatment that can support them to make a full recovery, or to at least manage an enduring mental health condition.
You can watch Mark and Catherine's film at www.bit.ly/catherine-and-mark