‘The Mikvah Project’: A Review

Applause bellowed from every pair of hands as the lights flashed on in The Orange Tree Theatre. I had just witnessed one of the four productions in this year’s Directors’ Festival hosted here, featuring emerging directors who have studied on the MA Theatre Directing course at the Orange Tree and St Mary’s University. And I think I got lucky; under Georgia Green’s direction, ’The Mikvah Project’ emerged victorious as a fresh, fierce and contemplative storytelling of love, boundaries, and faith.

At just an hour long, the play, written by Josh Azouz, firstly introduced us to our two players Avi and Eitan, and then to the Mikvah placed in the heart of the theatre’s intimate in-the-round space. This Mikvah, described by Avi, is a pool of water in which one ritually immerses in the Jewish faith. As Avi demonstrated; the water whooshed rhythmically, bathing and immersing the space…I was entranced. I could see every pair of eyes had locked on, as mine had, to this slow, perhaps even intimate act. It’s clear Georgia [Green] wanted this focus from the outset, highlighting the Mikvah’s importance both in faith, and the story, creating an interesting axis for the play to pivot around.

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We dived in with a series of rapid-fire monologues explaining Avi and Eitan’s differing life phases. Avi is settled, 35 and married, he loves his wife and they’re trying for a baby…something he’s trying to encourage by immersing in the Mikvah. Whereas Eitan, 17, is excitable, fiery and daydreaming at college and sneaking into clubs with his brother’s ID. Their paths cross every Friday at the Mikvah, each encounter bringing them emotionally, and later physically closer together, as they chat about family, relationships, their faith, and, of course, football.

Eitan, exuberantly played by Dylan Mason, is the dominant, coming-of-age force, pushing all available boundaries around him [I pray I wasn’t alone in experiencing flashbacks to memories of my sometimes obnoxious teenage self…]. Though cringing hard, it was easy to empathise with his pressures of family expectation, understanding his sexuality, and feeling, well, lonely. His energy and boyish naivety kept the feeling light however as he bounced around the Mikvah, coaxing and engaging Avi who, thoughtfully played by Robert Neumark Jones, seemed buoyed by Eitan, offering him the advice and guidance he’s seeking.

The pace of the play quickened after Eitan kisses Avi in the Mikvah one evening [I definitely gasped]. Though he was initially repulsed, it was gripping to watch Avi wrestle with his feelings; does he want this too? Does this change his feelings towards his wife and his faith? Is this just an early on-set mid-life crisis? Is it just…a crush?

You could feel a tangible change in the atmosphere of the theatre. The boundaries of their relationship had blurred and developed from familial, or confidantes, to something more. Despite the growing intensity, their developing relationship reached a head after Avi abandons a wild weekend away with an enamoured Eitan, returning home to find his wife pregnant – his Mikvah immersing had worked.

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Following the waining of Avi’s interest due to his joy of a growing new family, Dylan [Mason]’s expression of the hard fall that follows from a heady first love was exemplary. Holding the same concentration from the room as Avi’s earlier immersion, his performance was captivating, it felt raw and painful and encouraged further flashbacks of heartbreak I’m sure we all have. I would agree with The Orange Tree Theatre’s testimony here of “the audience wrapped around the players” for “close-up magic”. It was indeed magic.

The dissolution of their fling felt dramatic and short, and the end of the play seemed to come around quickly. Before I knew it, the last line “I feel nervous” was uttered by Eitan and the lights came up to the aforementioned and deserved applause.

But I wanted more.

I wanted to know if Avi’s feelings for Eitan were real and if Eitan’s were just a youthful crush or something more. I wanted to know what role their faith and the Mikvah would play if Avi and Eitan had pursued their relationship; has Avi succumbed to pressure from his community to stay remain with his wife? And so on and so on.

Ultimately, I think my need for answers and more time with these characters is a testament to a high-quality performance and fresh new direction and writing. A highlight, being Georgia Green’s use of the Mikvah as a physical focal point in the room; a constant reminder to the audience of how these two characters had been brought together, and also how they might be kept apart. ‘The Mikvah Project’ is definitely one to see, and Georgia Green is perhaps one to watch!

Four stars for The Mikvah Project.

Words by Helen Brake for Anthem Online
Photographs by Robert Day

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‘Beige Walls And Navy Sofas’: A Camden Fringe Review

Beige Walls And Navy Sofas played at Camden People’s Theatre 2nd – 3rd Aug as part of The Camden Fringe 2019. We previously reviewed this show when it debuted at Catford Fringe’s scratch night back in 2018, which you can read here.

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Last night I attended the performance at the Camden People’s Theatre as part of this year’s Camden Fringe. CPT is an intimate and welcoming venue that prides itself on giving a platform to shows that push boundaries and explore much-needed topics and voices; Beige Walls And Navy Sofas does just that.

As soon as Courtney McMahon enters stage everyone is intrigued. Although it is a solo performance, it is engaging from the offset and quickly feels like a privilege to be invited into this autobiographical tale. Beige Walls And Navy Sofas takes us on a journey through Courtney’s childhood as her mother becomes a foster carer, and the adjustments to suddenly having some brand new siblings to call family.

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Having lived with approximately 50 siblings in her lifetime, Courtney’s retelling of her experiences and the open and honest dialogue she creates, weaving a picture of the good alongside the challenging aspects of fostering, is a crucial one. It is one that’s told with humour, love, and a whole mix of emotions in between.

The snapshots of Courtney’s life are pieced together in an endearing, arresting way, and the 60-minute journey flies by so quickly that you don’t want it to end. I could have definitely watched more of this story, but at the same time, the show that Ghosted Ink have created is a fantastic way to start the conversation and raise awareness of experiences of fostering. Especially, from the siblings’ point of view, which is not something often represented at all. 

I was drawn to see this show because of my own experience of my family becoming foster carers when I was younger and thought it was brilliant that someone had made a performance piece about something that before now, I didn’t think anybody else could ever really “get.” Coping not just with living with new brothers and sisters, but also inevitably saying goodbye to them was something that I really struggled to articulate growing up, and still do. Yet here, watching Beige Walls And Navy Sofas, someone was standing in front of me doing just that.

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What the show did brilliantly was raise the point of loss. Loss is something that is overlooked in our perceptions of the care system in all different ways, and this show gives a platform to that. It also made me realise though, that even when those connected to foster care will have very similar experiences in some ways, we can never expect to know someone’s own unique pathways of loss.

Even though Beige Walls And Navy Sofas does not shy away from tackling these complex topics, it is still punctuated with many moments of light relief and genuine laughs.

The minimal props and set dressing supporting the world of the performance fit delightfully well, and capture some early 2000s nostalgia in working-class London perfectly. We easily transport ourselves to the family living room for TV dinners, Christmas, and fights over Bratz Dolls without question. Watching Courtney’s character cycling around on a pink kids bicycle, or talking to a Yorkshire pudding that’s meant to be her Nan’s dog is both amusing and entirely fitting. The way that more serious tones are balanced with comic moments is well placed and sincere, meaning that we enjoy every minute.

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I think that if you don’t know much about fostering then this show would be a really eye-opening experience from a lesser-voiced perspective. That said, even if you would just like to see a great play that makes you laugh, think, pull Christmas crackers and sing to George Michael (yes, really) then this production is a must-see.

Perhaps the most poignant part for me was toward the end of the show, when Courtney reveals a chart marking the growth of herself and all her siblings through the years, adorned with photographs and memories of all the brothers and sisters that have passed through her and her Mum’s house, and sat on those Navy Sofas with cups of tea, watching Saturday Night Takeaway. It really brings home that beyond all else, this is a show about experiencing family, but that acknowledges family in all its different shapes and sizes and confronts what it’s like to deal with those shapes and sizes changing.

Congratulations to Courtney and the Ghosted Ink crew on a moving and much-needed show. I’m excited to see this play continue to grow and am very much looking forward to seeing what the collective do next.

Five Stars for Beige Walls And Navy Sofas.

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Keep up to date with all things Ghosted Ink here:

Facebook: Ghosted Ink: Arts Collective
Twitter: @GhostedInk_Arts
Instagram: @ghostedink

You can visit https://www.fcwu.org.uk/ for information about the Foster Carers IWGB Union.

Credits:
Writer/Performer – Courtney McMahon
Director – Niamh Parker-Whitehead
Technical Manager & Designer – Lilly Woodford-Lewis
Stage Manager – Molly O’Niell
Assistant Stage Manager – Isabelle Leach
Set Design – Niamh Parker-Whitehead & Constance Price
Producer – Ghosted Ink: Arts Collective
Field Recordings – Sam Kemp & Catherine Hawthorn
Special thanks to Elizabeth Parker, Cerys Barker & Arnold Senoga

Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem Online.
Images from Ghosted Ink.

The Lionesses

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I have been thrilled at how the World Cup has been received here in the UK. Record after record was broken, people were talking about it at work and at home and it felt like there was a real buzz in the air. Could this be it? Could this be the time we win? 

Unfortunately it was not to be, and after Tuesday’s heartbreak (and truly I have spent time mourning that loss), I think it is important to reflect on the impact that the Lionesses have made this past month. I wrote before about the Change The Game initiative launched by the BBC at the beginning of May and how excited I was by this prospect. But my expectations have already been exceeded and it’s only the beginning. 11.7 million people tuned in to watch the Semi-Final, just over 50% of the audience share and the most watched programme this year so far, what a result! 

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I have been far more emotionally invested in this World Cup than I thought I would be, but I think that’s because it has been a real watershed moment for women’s sport. When I was growing up (which wasn’t too long ago – I’m not that old), the only time you could see women’s sport on the TV was Wimbledon or the Olympics. Now, across the country there are little girls turning up to football training sessions wanting to be the next Lucy Bronze, Ellen White or Nikita Parris and that just shows that representation does matter. 

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My friends at work and I have been talking about it. Gearing up for every game. Talking about the one that was on the night before. I even got a wall chart (cool right?). I hope that enthusiasm continues not just over the summer but for years to come (anyone fancy going to watch the Euros in 2021 with me?!). The moment that really solidified what an impact this team have had on women’s sport came on Wednesday when I heard an interview on Radio 5 Live. A 17 year old boy called Abe had phoned in when they were talking about Tuesday night’s match, and he said that at the beginning of the World Cup he and his mates laughed at and mocked women’s football. But on Tuesday they were all down at the pub cheering them on, getting annoyed at VAR when the decision went against us and cheering VAR when it went our way. At the beginning of June, he knew nothing about the team, now he knows all their names and the teams they play for and he’s looking to watch the Women’s Super League come winter. Now isn’t that an achievement! They may not win the World Cup but they have changed people’s hearts and minds like you wouldn’t imagine and that’s arguably bigger than any trophy. Although I would still like to see them bring that bronze back!!

Catch the third place play off live on BBC One at 4pm!!

Radio 5 Live: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sq4 

Photo credit: @Lionesses (Twitter)

Change The Game

As I was scrolling through Twitter one evening, a post from hockey legend Kate Richardson-Walsh caught my eye, in particular, the accompanying hashtag #ChangeTheGame. It turned out that it was a new initiative launched that evening by the BBC to promote and broadcast women’s sport, and I’ll be honest, I cried a little bit.

I watched the video with it’s reimagining of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’, and I was transported back to all those summers when I was glued to the television watching the Olympics, seeing Kelly Holmes get her double gold in Athens and screaming with glee when GB got their hockey gold at the Rio Olympics and all the PE lessons and sports clubs I got to be part of. It felt like women’s sport was finally being recognised for the powerhouse that it is.

I have always loved sport, whether that was practising my bowling for rounders by drawing a target on the side of our house (much to my mum’s annoyance), playing badminton with my friends every Monday all through our GCSEs, the hockey I still play now or the dodgeball in the sports hall when it was the end of term or raining just a bit too much. I have always found it to be a joyous thing, whether you’re learning a new dance routine in the middle of a field dressed all in pink and singing ‘Baby Shark’, or coming together after someone has been injured to cheer them up and check they’re alright. There is always something good that comes out of it – unless of course you’re the one now sitting on the bench with an ice pack.

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As with anything that promotes women’s sport, there were the usual comments about how it “isn’t as good as the men’s”, how “it’s only because the BBC can’t afford to show the good sports” or that “everything will suck except for Wimbledon”, but do you know what, who cares about those comments? The fact that thousands of women and girls and men and boys will get the opportunity to watch some fantastic sport proves that we’re winning the argument.

A terrifying percentage of girls stop participating in sport once they reach puberty which can have huge impacts on their mental and physical wellbeing as well as narrowing their options in life. Even if they catch one game, one match this summer and hopefully beyond that, it might just encourage them to keep going, to find a new sport they love where they can make friends and feel empowered.

I understand that sport isn’t for everyone, in fact, some people actively avoid it like the plague but it can be such a powerful thing, whether you’re running by yourself, playing in a team or watching on TV. We saw the hype that developed last year with the Men’s Football World Cup; how it managed to bring everyone together, and excitement and anticipation hummed through the air, especially at a time when everything feels so fractured in our society. We have the opportunity to recreate that this summer with the Women’s Football World Cup, which began on the 7th June, or the Netball World Cup, the Ashes, or the World Para Athletics Championships. Hopefully, there will be something for you to enjoy and maybe even get involved with.

Useful Links if you’re looking to get involved:

https://parasport.org.uk/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/25416779

 

Words and image by Eleanor Manley for Anthem Online.

Feminism 101

Here’s the situation, for anyone who is unclear: if you don’t believe a person should be discriminated against because of the way they were born, and later how they wish to align on the spectrum of gender, then you are a feminist. I’m very sorry, the doctors did the best they could. If you think it kind of sucks that women are frequently treated as incapable of certain skills or jobs because they are women, then you are a feminist. If you think it sucks that men aren’t ‘allowed’ to like pink and talk about their feelings and hate sport, then damn, you’re a feminist.

I appreciate this seems basic, and feminism can become incredibly complex, and has developed so much in quite a short space of time, but ultimately the idea behind feminism is that people should not be discriminated against because of their sex and that people should have equal social, political and economic rights. So that’s where it’s simple. If you agree, then that’s that. Don’t say you believe men and women should be equal but that you’re not a feminist. Stop it. Just stop, it’s pants. Feminism is not extreme. It’s really quite sensible.

I think a lot of the confusion and urge to not identify as a feminist might come from the fact that discussions around it are always so academic and inaccessible for the average person. It’s partly why I started Anthem and I think it’s such a shame that we’re not taking more time to help people when we are able to. So I’ve written up a bit of a glossary for you to refer to when the conversations you want to be a part of aren’t making sense.

Feminism: A movement aiming to achieve equality between the sexes

Misogyny: Hatred toward/prejudice against women 

Misandry: Hatred toward/prejudice against men

Misogynoir: Misogyny directed at black women in particular

Cisgender: If your gender matches the sex you were born at birth then you’re cisgender, or cis for short. I was born a female (sex) and identify as a female (gender). I’m cis.

Intersectional feminism: A movement that builds other issues such as racism, classism, transphobia, homophobia or ableism into it’s path to achieving the equality of the sexes. Intersectional feminism accepts that some struggle more than others on the way to equality, and are disadvantaged by our existing society for more reasons than just being a woman (i.e. it is harder to be a black, disabled woman or a trans woman than it is to be a cis white woman in our current society).

White feminism: This isn’t used to label all white feminists (confusingly), but to address a kind of feminism that only focuses on cis white feminist issues and tends to ignore issues faced by other races. In some cases, it has refused to accept that non-white women face greater struggles than white feminists. It’s sort of the opposite of intersectional feminism and has increasingly been used as a negative label in online discussions (for good reason).

#MeToo: Quite simply, a movement against sexual harassment and assault in all forms. Popularised by celebrities such as Rose McGowan and Natalie Portman, #MeToo began around this time last year and was started by Tarana Burke as a social media movement to show just how widespread the issues were in the world. In light of big Hollywood sexual harassment and assault cases, anybody could and can use #MeToo to express their own experiences and help others feel confident to share their stories. 

Time’s Up: Started on the back of #MeToo, the Time’s Up movement was founded at the beginning of 2018 to fight sexual harassment and assault. Time’s Up saw celebrities wearing all black to the Golden Globes and, as a movement, focuses largely on issues within studio and talent agencies as well as offering legal support to lower-income women who have faced sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. 

Gendered: If something is gendered, it relates to one specific gender. For example, gendered marketing means products might be marketed specifically to women or men (for absolutely no reason; go look up some traditionally feminine or masculine fragrance adverts and you’ll see what we mean). You can also have gendered occupations, which tend to be more female than male, such as waitress, barmaid, tea lady, lunch lady etc etc. 

Glass ceiling: A metaphor relating to the unseen barrier preventing certain groups of people climbing career ladders. Although most frequently referred to in discussions about women, it is also a barrier for people of different ethnicities, sexualities or with disabilities. It’s pretty bad for everyone (unless you are a cis white male).

Gender pay gap: The average difference between the money or wage paid to men and women, with women generally earning less than men (for the reason that they are women, which is sex-based discrimination and thus a LOAD OF RUBBISH).

Gendered stereotypes: Thinking back to stuff being gendered, gendered stereotypes suggest that people should be a certain way because of their gender. It’s where we think of things as typically masculine or feminine. For example, assuming girls like pink and boys like blue are stereotypes based on gender. These stereotypes can become harmful when they limit what men and women are able to do.

Toxic masculinity: An example of harmful gender stereotypes relating specifically to men and male behaviours. Most often it refers to the idea that men have to be these very masculine, dominant, alpha male type beings that can’t show emotion. It’s very damaging and has had a serious impact on male mental health. 

Feminazi: A derogatory slur used to refer to radical feminists, popular among conservatives and idiots who can’t be bothered to learn about feminism.

Hopefully, this helps you. You do not need to be able to use these words to have or to join a discussion about feminism but it will help just to understand what they mean and what people are talking about.

Unfortunately, feminism remains a difficult-to-access movement for many and it often gets caught up in moving forward, and not stopping to help people up on the way. Feminism is for everybody, and understanding a couple of words from the above list is huge. You can be a great support if you can stop people and say ‘hang on, that’s not right and here’s why’ because the more people that join in, the less of a problem sexism and other forms of discrimination become. 

Feminism and the politics surrounding discrimination continue to be a hot topic that the news love to sensationalise, so it is incredibly useful to know what these things mean. It’s not just about being able to support one cause, but also about learning to think for yourself. It is absolutely vital to be able to formulate your own opinions and ideas so that you can stand up for yourself and others, particularly in today’s slightly odd world.

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.

Wellbeing and Winter

For a lot of us, it can be difficult to feel on top form during the colder months. Even if you are a winter fanatic, love all things Christmassy and get excited about what comes with the new year, it can still be difficult to manage wellness on cold and gloomy days. So, in anticipation of the winter blues/January blues/Monday blues/basically any unwanted blueness, I’ve worked up a checklist of things to help prioritise our wellbeing this winter.*

((*Note: This article isn’t medical advice. If you’re looking for more specific mental health material – check out the links at the end!))

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Diet and Nutrients

No, I’m not going to tell you to chuck out all the Christmas choccies! This isn’t about having an immaculate diet; what I suggest here is just keeping a mental note of when you last said ‘Hi’ to some fruit and veg. As we head into December and beyond, it can be tricky to keep on top of doing a healthy food shop – especially when there are so many tempting treats. Indulgence is fun, especially in the festive period, but do make sure to balance it out.

Our digestive system and brain are linked by the vagus nerve, and long story short (and all science averted because I don’t really get it), what we eat contributes to how we think and feel. As good old Saint Nick gets ready to do the rounds, by all means, head to the Quality Street! The praline triangles aren’t going to steal themselves. But remember to get in those greens and some vitamin C too. Similarly, because we lack so much sunlight during this time of year, if you’re someone who gets particularly down in the darker months, it could be worth picking up some vitamin D as well!

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Exercise

NO GYM REQUIRED. Fear not- this isn’t a you-must-start-a-spinning-class-and-go-to-boxercise-every-day article. Just get out and about. It doesn’t have to be a lot and it doesn’t have to be the same thing each time. In fact – the more variety the better. If you’re someone who likes exercise or sport then fab! Doing what you enjoy is a great way to get out of the house. It can be gross to go into *nature* when it’s cold and wet and windy, but when the weather is relatively calm, jump at the chance to go out and explore. Anything from a quick stroll to a little micro adventure to a local park.

Remember the Vitamin D we talked about earlier – making the most of the daylight hours is key when it is of limited availability. If you have a hobby that you can adapt to doing outside then use it as an excuse for a change of scenery. For example, photography or other artistic pursuits are a great way to explore outside and get some exercise in at the same time.

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The Power of Plants

There’s a lot of research to show that plants can have a positive effect on us. Having some greenery or flowers around the place can be a mood booster. Equally, having to care for a plant reminds us to care for ourselves. When we’re watering or feeding the plants, and making sure they get enough sunlight, it’s a casual reminder to make sure we pay attention to our own needs. Caring for something else and having that small responsibility with plants can also make us feel good and remind us that we are accomplishing things even if they’re small. (Also, they look really cute!!) 

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Another thing about FOOD

If you’re someone (like me) who finds it a drag to prepare food when your wellbeing isn’t amazing, here are some ideas. Find foods that minimise prep time and are good for you. For instance, yoghurts require zero effort and can be eaten whenever. Also, consider fresh veg and fruit that is in season and doesn’t need a lot of intervention. (And when you do feel like making stuff, stews are great, because they use all the in-season veg, you just leave the pot to do its thing, and you can freeze portions for ages.) Lastly, meal replacement powders (not weight-loss ones – just complete nutrient ones) could also be a solution for some people – I find them handy when my work schedule is a bit crazy or if I don’t have the energy for a big food shop.

In the new year, when everyone’s insisting they’ll start going to the gym, hating going back to work, and remembering how cold February is, this can all be handy to remember. Having quick fix food around that is not just junk food makes it much easier to look after yourself.

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Reach out!

We shouldn’t leave it until we’re actually feeling unwell or not taking care of ourselves to reach out to others. Make sure you check in with your loved ones over the winter period. This can be especially important if you live away from the rest of your family or are a university student away for the holidays. Reach out to close friends and make an effort to get together, or at least call for a catch-up.

Socialising can be difficult to organise over the Christmas period when people can be quite busy and public transport ceases to function, but come the new year when everyone’s aligning themselves with the ‘normal,’ it’s really important to make sure you’re maintaining those connections with people.

Depending on individual needs, doing what you love either solo or sharing it with friends can give you some well-needed space to relax – which does wonders for wellbeing.

Remember not to put your wellbeing on hold just because normality gets a bit suspended during Christmas and New Year, and opportunities to get out and about can seem to dwindle during winter as a whole. When considering your self-care regime, factor both your physical and mental wellness into it!

 

I hope this gets the ball rolling with some ideas you can utilise for maintaining wellbeing this winter. Below are some further sources of wellbeing advice, and also more distinct mental health resources:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/wellbeing/#.W_24Yq2cbPA
https://www.wellbeingnands.co.uk
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/improve-mental-wellbeing/
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/what-wellbeing-how-can-we-measure-it-and-how-can-we-support-people-improve-it
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/things-to-do-this-weekend-to-boost-your-mental-wellbeing_uk_5bd2d714e4b0a8f17ef6413f?utm_hp_ref=uk-wellbeing
 

Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem Online.
Images from Be Brain Fit, Mental Health Zen, Garden Collage, The Best Brain Possible and Practice Business.

How To Be A Bystander

I went to a training course last week to learn about what I can do to improve my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. We talked about unconscious stereotyping, addressing people from minority backgrounds with respect and how their needs might differ from our own. Eventually, the speaker began talking about being a bystander to a negative situation. This really caught my attention. What could I possibly do to help? How do I know if I should intervene?

She told us the story of an 18 year old girl named Emily who ended her life after being physically and emotionally abused by her boyfriend. There were people in Emily’s life who knew that this abuse was going on, including friends. She even reached out to a student resident assistant before dropping it so as not to get her boyfriend in trouble. It is easy, with hindsight, to say ‘someone should have done something!’ but this has nothing to do with blame. I think we have all been guilty of standing by because we didn’t know what to do or how but it is this behaviour that allows things to escalate.

Take cases of severe sexual assault. It is, of course, true that not all men are rapists; if we take the whole population of men, the number who have sexually assaulted women is fairly small. But these offenders are protected by the many who affirm this behaviour with their catcalling and their ass-smacking and their ‘it’s a compliment’, and the people who witness this and do nothing, say nothing, never speak up just re-affirm this unsettling thinking. Our silence says, ‘It’s okay, you won’t get in trouble for this’.

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I’m not saying that it’s always a good idea to confront someone who is harassing another person. It’s not. In a lot of situations, it could make things worse – the harasser could get angrier, become more violent towards the victim or even target you – which is why I’m going to tell you the steps I learned to figure out what to do.

First, recognise the situation. Is there someone at risk or someone who is being threatening? Am I reading the situation correctly? Is it safe for me to intervene? Second, ask for help! Check if there is anyone around you who might be able to help diffuse the situation. This could make it safer for you to do so. Third, consider your group size. Is there enough people to safely intervene? As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers, so please do not try and approach on your own! Finally, be a role model. Often, people won’t do anything to help because they see others not doing anything, but you can be the person to pave the way (just not alone!). 

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I think it is important to point out here that being a helpful bystander does not always mean jumping to the rescue during a bad situation. Sometimes you can be more helpful afterwards by providing support, showing empathy and helping someone deal with a situation.

This is especially true now, with rates of sexual assault at university being horrifically high. A recent survey by Revolt Sexual Assault found that 62% of people who had gone to university had been sexually assaulted, with this rising to 70% when considering females alone. Outside of uni, there is evidence to suggest that men experience more emotional abuse from their partner compared to women whilst women reported more forced isolation.

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Being aware of these facts helps us appreciate the weight of the problem. No more ‘oh, it can’t be that bad,’ no more ‘it’s not my problem.’ We live in a society that has turned a blind eye under the pretence that it’s not our business. But violence, and especially relationship violence, is our business. Looking away is what allows things to spiral out of control until it’s too late. Don’t let it be.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Stand together. Help each other. Break the cycle.

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Words by Jessica Yang for Anthem Online.

Sources: The Guardian (2017), Revolt Sexual Assault survey (2018), Karakurt and Silver (2013) Emotional abuse in intimate relationships: The role of gender and age.

Image sources: itsonus.org, Sarah Newey for Revolt Sexual Assault, Google Images