mental health

Blue Monday, Blue Winter, Blue Year.

Blue Monday is not the most depressing day of the year, nor is it any more or less depressing than any other day of the year.

January can be a difficult month as we tend to pile even more pressure onto ourselves with sweeping New Year’s resolutions that often force us to think we should be fitter, stronger, or better than we already are. My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to watch more films because I keep watching the same ones over and over .

I do not plan to get smarter, thinner, or better at riding my bike because I have as much control over the year as I do the weather. This year I’m going to try my best to look after myself while I attempt to embrace the mess that is life after uni.

I don’t believe I will be happy all year. I don’t believe I will be healthy and happy for the next New Year because I don’t know what life will bring. My attitude differs to the popular resolve I’m sure, but it seems fair to me.

As such, I know people will think I’m being negative by saying that Blue Monday is as depressing as any other day. I feel I should however remind you that Blue Monday is false, has no scientific backing, and was made up by holiday company Sky Travel in their 2005 press release. Blue Monday is pseudoscience, and an angle for marketers. So all of this (see below) is bullshit.

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My point with this piece isn’t to mock you, or to tell you how foolish you are to buy into all the companies and newspapers telling you to be depressed every January 16th. My point is to tell you that for many people, the entire month, season or year can be so awfully blue, that one day won’t make a difference.

We should not see Blue Monday as a day to feel bad about ourselves unnecessarily, but as a reminder of how much work we need to put into looking after ourselves, as often as we can. Whether it’s a seasonal affective, or year-round depression, it’s important to focus on the good.

Articles from the Daily Mail (*cough* trash) telling us why things are terrible and ‘more depressing than usual’, should be replaced with good news, and things to be happy about. We should not feel bad for being upset, and we should definitely not feel bad on behalf of others when we are sad. It is a human right to feel. It is a part of living to cry and feel down, as much as it is to laugh and feel joy.

This Blue Monday, I ask that you stop reading articles about the bad in the world and to instead watch a film, or have dessert or a hot chocolate. I don’t want you to feel bad because you’ve been told to. I ask that you look after yourself as well as you should every other day of the year, and to do your best to keep it up from now on.

Blue Monday isn’t real, but your health and feelings are. Look after what counts, and be kind to yourself.

 

Words by Briony Brake

The Lions Barber Collective

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 years old in the UK. Let that sink in for a second.
In 2013, over 4,000 of a total 5,140 suicides were male. Nearly 80%.
For every female who commits suicide, there are four males who do, but the numbers aren’t going down…

The ratio of male to female suicide shows a sustained rise over the last 30 years.  In 1981 men accounted for 62 per cent of suicides, this rose to 70 per cent by 1988, 75 per cent by 1995, and 77 per cent in 2012, to 78 per cent last year” (CALM, 2013).

The statistics are worrying, and aren’t even slowing down. So what the hell can be done about it?

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The Lions Barber Collective is a group of professional barbers from England, Ireland and Holland who are trying to help prevent it. How? They want to talk. It’s widely known that people are often likely to confide in bartenders, salon workers and barbers more than their friends or family. It’s not a bad thing, but it does raise the idea that perhaps these guys should know what to do when dealing with vulnerable members of the public.

This particular group has begun working in partnership with #BarberTalk and Papyrus (suicide prevention). Their general work, in conjunction with BarberTalk involves raising awareness, and training. The training aims to have barbers recognising, talking, listening and advising their customers. Here they’ve realised their relationship with the men they work with, and the trust that already exists, and are putting it to good use!

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Through a variety of public projects, demonstrations and merchandising (you might even have seen these badass t-shirts before), the charity is able to spread the training, knowledge, and most importantly, the awareness. It may seem like a little change, but being able to actually tell someone what’s going on in your life, or how you’re feeling can make the world of difference. For men who frequent the barber multiple times a year, it can become a chance either to get a few things off your chest, or simply be distracted from any problems long enough to have a nice chat.

Founded by Tom Chapman, the organisation is still very young, and really deserves the chance to grow and become a household name. Having lost a friend to suicide himself, Chapman felt the need for a safe and open environment where men were free to express themselves, and be listened to if they were feeling depressed or suicidal. The work they have done in such a short space of time has already saved lives, and as Chapman says in the interview below, if they can shave off just 1% of the suicides, it’s still lives being saved.

I emailed Lions Barber Collective and received a joyous reply from Tom Chapman who wanted to pass on the main goals of the collective; “to destroy the stigma around mental health and suicide, and through the BarberTalk program to train barbers to recognise the signs of mental health, the skill of non-judgemental listening, and signposting”.

It seems like a small ask that could save lives.

You can like them on Facebook to keep up to date with their events and partnerships here: https://www.facebook.com/TheLionsBarberCollective

Or check out their website instead for more information and merchandise: http://www.thelionsbarbercollective.com/

All photos courtesy of The Lions Barber Collective
Words by Briony Brake

Statistics from CALM: http://www.thecalmzone.net.gridhosted.co.uk/2014/10/male-suicides-in-england-and-wales-hit-15-year-high/

My Body Image & I: From Feud to Friendship

Body Image. Seems like quite a self-explanatory phrase doesn’t it; an accurate reflection of your body. But it hasn’t meant that in a long time. Instead it stands for the dislike many young people feel towards their own bodies, how uncomfortable they feel in their own skin, how looking at themselves in a mirror makes them feel like they’re never going to be good enough.

“I’m too fat.”
“My hair’s too frizzy”
“My nose is too big”
“My cheeks are too round”
“I don’t have long legs”

Words you would never think of saying to the people around you. So why do we talk like that about ourselves? Thinking more about your body during puberty is normal. We develop, we grow, we change and all do so differently. And that’s normal. But when I was growing up looking at adverts spread across billboards and magazines all I saw were the perfect bodies of models and celebrities.

I began to see this ‘perfection’ as normal, found myself wanting to achieve beauty standards that are beyond possible without the help of Photoshop or silicone. Looking at myself in the mirror, I was constantly comparing; my waist wasn’t as small as the celebrity’s in the next advert so I was fat, my hair wasn’t as smooth as the model’s in the magazine so I was obviously ugly. This seeped into everyday life. I saw girls in school who seemed to have achieved this amazing image, making me question what I was doing wrong. Why couldn’t I look like that too?

The sad reality was that seeing the girl sitting in front of me in class with a figure like Kate Moss, my first thoughts weren’t “she looks lovely like that and I look lovely as I am” or “everyone is built differently, I shouldn’t compare myself”. Instead thoughts of “why don’t I have that figure?”, “I need to lose weight”, “she looks amazing and I look horrible in comparison” led me to continuously beat myself up about the way I looked. Influenced by the media, my self-esteem was pushed down to a point of sadness and self-loathing, never feeling like I was perfect.

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I looked at myself in the mirror and cried. Got angry. Was I fat? No. I was overweight for my age by a few kilograms, but I was also 12, loved the Sugababes and covered my Facebook profile pictures in stickers. I was a normal child, with a bit of puppy fat that would disappear in a few years’ time. I had nothing to worry about. But everything made me feel like I did. I was sure that I’d never be thin or pretty and therefore never good enough.

Honestly, I had this mind-set for most of my teenage life, until I came to what I thought was the solution. Of everything I saw when I looked in the mirror my weight bothered me the most. So I decided that action needed to be taken. I monitored my diet, measured portions, made sure I covered all food groups, didn’t eat sweets and followed a strict exercise plan. Did I lose weight? Yep. Did I feel amazing? Nope. But to me this was the logical solution. Alter my body until I looked like I thought I should.

I’m 5”3, let’s be real I was never going to look like a model, but that didn’t even cross my mind. I was determined to carry this through until I felt happy with myself. Until I came to uni, struggled with my course and fell into this pit of sadness. I would look at myself in the mirror, and see my round 12-year-old self. No matter what weight I had lost, it still hadn’t given me the confidence or the happiness I so desperately wanted.

Throughout first year, with the help of some fab people, I did a lot of thinking, learning about myself and appreciating who I am to get myself out of the rut I had become stuck in. And this led me to a realisation. My body image had far less to do with how I actually looked, and far more to do with how I thought of myself. I didn’t see a confident and happy person because I wasn’t. I was broken and frail and that made me feel worse and worse about myself.

I realised that it felt so much better having positivity shine through your body, than having my positivity rely on my body.

Appearance is never something to rely on. Everyone who looks at you will perceive you differently, and most likely won’t be half as critical as you are of yourself. Any physical change you make, should be to aid your mental well-being, something you want to do, not something you feel like you have to do. I wear make-up, because I enjoy it and I honestly find it relaxing, but I don’t feel any less pretty not wearing it. I just feel normal. Like me. Which is why it’s so important that you learn to understand yourself as a person, not just a shell.

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Study your personality in as much detail as you would otherwise look at your face for spots. Know your ins and outs, the things you love, the things you want to improve and familiarise yourself. They’re yours. And next time you go out wearing that crop top you doubted would suit you, think about yourself. Not your appearance. But you – your great sense of humour or your open-minded attitude. The satisfaction you feel with yourself will emanate from you like a confidence you’ve never experienced before.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want to go to the gym 5 times a week and tone up, you do that! But do it because you’ll feel good showing off your hard work or it’s your hour to get away from everything, not because you won’t go to the beach this summer without a “bikini body”.

Now, someone out there will have read this and thought “but there’s nothing good about my personality either”. I know this, because a few months ago, I would have thought the same. Learning to love yourself is a journey that everyone has to go on themselves, at their own pace, with their own ups and downs. But I do have a word of advice, something a friend told me recently which has really stuck with me: go out, and do something good.

Don’t think about whether you’ll be good at it, don’t even think about it too long. Just do something good. Be it buying a homeless man a meal, or baking muffins for a bake sale. Something that you can walk away from, knowing that deed benefitted someone besides you. And from that point forward, every time you doubt yourself, or think there’s nothing to have a positive attitude about, remember that thing. Remember the good you did and it’ll help remind you that you are, and always will be a valuable human, an amazing person, someone you can always be proud of.

There are days where I wake up, take one look at myself and feel so sad. My mood reflects in my appearance and I just feel worse and worse. So instead, I for example, remind myself that I’m vegan [oooo controversial] and that through that I’m doing so much good for the planet, which in turn makes me very happy. So yes on that day I might think my thighs are too big, or my eyes are too small, but that’s okay, because I know that I’m more than that, in fact I’m great, so I smile and carry on with my day, and I hope that after this, you lovely ladies and gentlemen do too.

 

Words by Maxene Sommer
Photos courtesy of Maxene Sommer

How To Cheer Yourself Up When You’re Down

This post is an interesting one, because it’s not just me talking about my issues, it’s not just interviews with friends on similar issues, and it’s not just advice being passed on to you lovely readers. Instead, it’s all three.

The Personal

Since going to university (and generally just growing up some), I’ve become notoriously bad at looking after myself. It’s something millions of people struggle with, and it’s not something they teach you at school, but it is important to deal with. Often the worst part isn’t just feeling sad or upset, but feeling that way when you’re alone.

Everyone has friends, or partners, or family that they feel comfortable turning to, but sometimes these friends are asleep, at dinner, at work, or uni or so on. Sometimes, they can’t help. In some cases, people don’t want to reach out, or ‘bother’ their loved ones, but whoever you are within this mix, I’ve gone out to research what other people do, to help us both.

When I used to feel sad as a teenager, I would often watch YouTube videos and vloggers, or listen to my awful iTunes playlists, but I don’t really go for that anymore. These days I tend to light candles, carry on listening to music, don some comfy pjs and eat (and not just when I’m sad). It’s basic but effective. On better days, I’m smarter when it comes to looking after myself.

As a result, I’ve decided to ask what other people do. I’ve asked around and posted to social media to work out how my friends look after themselves when they only have themselves to turn to, and the results are all achievable and easy things to do. Seems only fair to start with myself…

The Interviews

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When I get down these days I tend to watch a classic Disney film like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, because they’re very uplifting. Alternatively I’ll stick on The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh – sounds childish I know but it’s so innocent and pure that it just makes me so much happier. Other methods involved adult colouring or dot-to-dot, and ultimately a cup of tea and an early night.

 

Next up, my housemate Nathan offered up his solution:anthemnathan
Most of the time I’d message a friend, but if I couldn’t do that I’d probably find a film or TV programme to watch. That always takes my mind off whatever is wrong, and I can just keep up with any current show I’m watching. If not, I try to get some fresh air and go for a walk. If all else fails, music can a God send, for me rock or grime especially – it’s a bit more fun and energetic.

 

What about fellow Anthem writer, Jess? She always seems to have wise words:anthemjess
To be honest, I do tend to just watch TV, or binge on whatever series I’m on currently and then I can forget about being down. Occasionally I’ll paint, bake or maybe cook a meal. A lot of it is mental, and so a lot of the time if I’m down I’ll sort of sit and take a moment to just redirect my thoughts to things that I know I’m lucky to have like family, my degree and so on. Something that always helps is going for a walk to look at all the lovely things that exist, and then I’m able to tell myself that good things have to mixed in with the bad so that we can understand and appreciate them better.

 

If you haven’t quite got the hang of the mindfulness skill yet, sometimes it really is quite simple to cheer yourself up. I asked my friend from uni, Jamie how he went about it: anthemjamkie
If I need cheering up, I’ll normally turn to a film and most of the time it will be Love Actually. It always makes me laugh and smile.

 

And what about my friend Amber? Well hers made me feel a bit better too:
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I had to think about this quite hard. It depends why I’m feeling sad I guess, and what kind of sad; like if I’m feeling defeated or shit about myself then I tend to write things down that are good about myself or that I have achieved. Sometimes I do something simple like having a nice long shower, or ‘mindful’ washing like really taking in smells of shower gel etc. which might sound super lame but it works. I have a teddy (judge me) and I cuddle that sometimes. If I need distracting, I watch Netflix or I’ll read. I like to go for walks as well if it’s a nice day and really take in my surroundings and tune out of my head if I can. A lot of them seem quite obvious but whatever works!

 

The Advice

So it’s not as hard as I (probably you as well) make it out to be sometimes. Just have a drink (tea/hot chocolate/wine) and some food, watch a film that makes you happy, binge on some TV, do some painting and colouring or writing. These guys are a great bunch of people who I consider quite happy people as well, so how can I be sure I can do this next time I need to?

I guarantee that a lot of time if I’m sad I’ll either text Jess into the night until I fall asleep, or moan at my friends and boyfriend until they tell me I’m probably being silly and should just have a cup of tea and calm down (which is correct), but when I’m alone it is harder to get happy again. Something that you, I, and generally all of us can do is plan ahead. I know it sounds stupid but hear me out. 

Blurt Foundation Buddy Box Depression Care Package

There are companies built entirely on care packages (see: BuddyBox, PinkParcel), but if you’re as skint as I am, then you can make your own, or be super cute and make one for a friend. The idea in this case is to make sure you have what you need to look after yourself when sadness strikes. You can either go full Monica Geller and set aside a box full of snacks, treats, books and fun things and DVDs, or you can make sure you know what makes you happy. Simple as.

Asking other people has been useful because I feel like I’m not missing something that everyone else is doing. It seems clear that looking after yourself is as simple as eating, drinking, sleeping well and making time for a walk, or bath, or favourite film. If I can just remember that there are good things and happy things then all I need to do is find them and make use of them.

What else do you think is important to remember? Let us know how you look after yourself!

 

Words by Briony Brake
Interviews with Nathan Oliver, Jessica Yang, Jamie Clarkson, Amber Berry
Photo by BuddyBox: The Blurt Foundation

20 Pieces of Advice I’d Like to Give After Being a Woman for 20 Years On This Planet We Call Earth

Look for other great women. Around you, near you, in the media. Don’t copy them, but learn how they do it, and then you do it too.
Caitlin Moran made a snap decision one day to stop sitting around and do something. Bridget Christie thought, fuck it, a comedy show about feminism, why not, got nothing to lose. My mum keeps on going, keeps plowing through, and she’s the bravest woman I know. Every day on Women’s Hour there are more and more examples of incredible women doing amazing things. There’s always someone to look up to and there’s always someone that they learnt from too. You’re part of something. You’re part of a line, so look back at it.  

You won’t get anything if you don’t ask.
Want to do stand up? Ask someone how. Want to go to university? Ask to. Want to have a job? A career in a certain area? If you don’t ask, no one’s going to offer it to you. You’re already at a disadvantage, the world views you as something less. You’ve got to ask, because it’s not going to be handed to you. You make your own luck.

Take every opportunity you have.
Women couldn’t always vote but you can, so go and vote, because you’re very very lucky. Malala Yousafzai was shot for trying to get an education as a girl. If you live in a western country, you have the chance for free education. Use it. I simply can’t say this enough. We certainly don’t live in a post-feminist society, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have opportunities or that we’re not lucky that some things are the way they are.

There is no one way to be a woman, and it’s not dictated by feminism.
Do you like wearing dresses? And make up? Or don’t? THAT’S TOTALLY FINE. The point of feminism is that you have the choice to do all those things, or not do those things. Do you want to shave your legs? That’s fine. Don’t want to? Also fine. Gender is not binary, gender is not fixed and gender should not dictate your actions.

Sometimes you have to shout a bit louder.
It’s ingrained in society, from a historical standing, that women should be seen and not heard, and that they’re objects, accessories, possessions. We’re slowly moving away from this mindset, but you might still need to remind people of this. Argue your point. Tell them they’re wrong. prove you have a voice, and an opinion, and that it matters, because it does.

Your body belongs to you and no one else.
As long as you’re happy with it, and happy inside your own skin, then what else matters? It’s your body and you’re the one who has to live with it forever, so look after it and treat it right. Fill it with yummy food, and laughter and fruit and veg, and air from the seaside, and excellent alcohol that warms you up and makes you dance. Love your body; all its flaws and all its brilliant bits. Love your boobs and your vagina, and your thighs and your toes. Please, please, please look after your body. You only get one and it’s so important and beautiful.

Your soul is yours, but lend it out.
I’m not talking divine spirit things here. What I mean is that feeling when you see your very best friend dancing their arse off. I’m talking about when all your family are around you and they’re all absorbed in each other. You can only get these feelings if you let people in, and give them that little piece of yourself to hold on to.

You make your own happiness.
It’s important to give away these little pieces of yourself to the people you love, but you’ve also got to learn to be happy on your own, being on your own, being by yourself, doing things for yourself. This is one of the most important life skills you can learn.

Surround yourself with good, kind, intelligent, funny, women.
You’ll learn more about yourself by spending time with them, as well having a jolly good laugh.

Surround yourself with good, kind, intelligent, funny, men.
Ditto.

Always take free furniture from the sides of roads.
Painting chests of drawers is like a kind of meditation. Plus, free furniture.  

Walk, don’t get the bus.
You’ll feel insanely better for it, even if you are slightly sweatier.

Your bodily functions are FINE.
We all fart and poo and sweat and that. It would be weird if you didn’t, why are you pretending that you don’t?

Look after your mind.
If you don’t feel okay, tell someone. If you feel sad, or confused, or lost, tell someone how you’re feeling. Meditate. Read books and watch films and let your mind act like a sponge soaking it all up. Your mental health is so so so important, please look after it.

Sometimes, you do just have to adult.
You have to do your washing and ring the doctors and cook food for yourself. It will make you feel like a proper grown up, and that’s well fun.

When your friends tell you that that person is no good for you, they’re probably right.
They know you pretty well, and they only want the best for you, so they probably know what they’re on about.

Ring your mum.
She’s done it all before and she will always know what to say. She’s the best advice you’ll ever get.

Listen to music by women.
Read books by women. Watch films made by women, about women. Watch comedy by women. Let them inspire you and course through your veins.

Not everyone is learning these things as quick as you, be patient.
Learn for yourself, and don’t get angry when other people aren’t getting it right. They need more time.

Don’t beat yourself up for getting things wrong.
You’re learning too, remember – it’s okay to fail, and try, and fail and try again. As long as you’re trying.

 

Words by Sian Brett.

ANTHEM: Origins

All my life I’ve written, and I’ve loved writing. When I was little I wanted to be an author, and I remember nearly peeing myself when a cherished author at the time, Jean Ure, responded to my email and gave me tips on how to be like her; how to become an author. Since that day, I’ve never finished a book, a screenplay, or anything that would remotely classify me as an author.

Something that’s also happened since those childlike, utopian days is the rise of writers like Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Roxane Gay, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jenny Lawson, Caitlin Moran, Laura Bates and the wonderful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. These are largely, but not all, feminist writers and big believers in essays and articles and pieces of feminist writings. The rise of these women has in some ways allowed for feminism to be cool, to be relaxed and funny, and easy to digest.

Feminism is massive, and no two people see eye to eye on every single matter under the umbrella of its gender equality beliefs. People are still very much scared of the F word; while Justin Trudeau believes it should be as normal as declaring a religion or political belief, David Cameron struggles to use the term without clarifying that he prefers equality between people rather than a dirty word like feminism.

At its heart, feminism is equality between genders. Simple as.

These women that I talk about, I don’t call them authors, but writers. I’ve been writing on my own film blog since 2012 but lack motivation, and I have written for a young women’s blog not dissimilar to this one about mental health and women in the movies. I was always looking for somewhere new to write and only recently realised I could just make a new home for my writing on my own, or better yet, I could create a new platform for girls like myself, and join the expanding voice for young women online.

I had a very movie-like moment in November last year, where I realised I wanted to be a writer, and on that same bus ride into city centre, I came up with Anthem, and I knew a few great women who could help me out.

I went to an all-girls school, and growing up surrounded by 1000 other girls I soon learned to rely on the support of other girls. By sixth form, most of us had stopped trying to impress boys by being ‘gamer-girls’ or those kind of girls ‘who just got on better with guys’. By sixth form, we had learned that feminism was actually pretty cool, and that if Beyoncé could pull it off, so could we. Girl power was it. Two years in that little old common room and I’ve seen girls pierce their friends ears, girls wash their friends hair, girls give out tampons and pads like they have unlimited supplies. I’ve seen girls cry endlessly, girls making their sad or poorly friends’ cups of coffee or tea and letting them sleep on their lap, and I’ve seen girls gorge themselves on Domino’s more times than I have legitimately had roast dinners. I can only speak for the girls I knew then, but the support system within that sixth form common room was immense, and powerful.

Feminism is about equality of the sexes, I know, yet on a smaller level, this site is for the lesser known, less frequently heard voice of young women and what they care about. Feminism is something that will appear frequently on this site (it being something these women care about and are concerned with on a daily basis), but it is not here to push you away, it is here to invite you in for a cup of tea and a chat. We’re here to make feminism accessible, that’s the goal.

So welcome to ANTHEM, the voice of young women you know (or wish you knew). If you want to find out more about the beautiful people I’ve got helping me out, please look at the About page to meet me, Jess, Sian, Sophy and Maxene (the original five!). I’m excited to show you just how talented they are, and I hope you love it just as much as I do.

 

Words by Briony Brake