Get involved Volunteer What Mental Health Means To Me I think about my mental health like a battery. Batteries work by using electric energy they have stored inside of them to power an object. At each end there is a positive terminal and a negative terminal which equates to the positive and negative side of mental health. From something small like a television remote to something bigger like a car, batteries are the ultimate power source. Even though everybody is different, I believe we all have a battery of some kind inside of us. No two batteries will be the same, with each one being unique to the individual. Each of them will have different stages but there is one thing all batteries have in common. When your battery is full, you are able to meet your own needs and reach your full potential whilst feeling great. However, when your battery is empty you feel both mentally and physically drained. Everyday skills like getting out of bed and brushing your teeth feel impossible to complete. Understanding how your battery works could be the key to knowing your own limitations, and when to act on self-care. I learned the hard way about what happens if you ignore a near empty battery. I was too busy trying to take care of others that I forgot to take care of myself. You go through several different stages; like confusion as to what is going on, anger because you are trying your very best, followed by feeling like a victim in your own body. You ask yourself what you have done to deserve this. Not knowing what was going on inside my head and how I would react to situations terrified me. People walked on eggshells when I was around, muttering to each other in case I was triggered. It takes longer than a night of self-care to heal months of warning signs. Time and patience are key when trying to put all the pieces back together again. It may be difficult to make time for yourself but you begin to realise that it is necessary. With the help of others you learn about which activities refill your battery and how to open up about your feelings. I have recently left my main support system, which was my high school, to continue my education at Strathclyde University. When people talk about their ‘safe place’, Coatbridge High School was mine. I knew every part of the building, and which classroom belonged to each teacher. Even just walking through the halls I felt like I could do anything, which is what my teachers have always taught me to do. The staff were the main reason why I felt so secure and comfortable there. They will never understand the impact each one of them had on me and I will be forever grateful. No matter if I was sad, angry, annoyed or stressed, I always had a place to go when dealing with my emotions, with a member of staff on standby. I learned so many different techniques on how to cope with the feelings I had. “Writing has always been a big outlet for me. I feel it is easier to write about what is going on in my head instead of saying the words out loud” Writing has always been a big outlet for me. I feel it is easier to write about what is going on in my head instead of saying the words out loud. Thankfully, I had an incredible English teacher who encouraged me to write personal essays from my own experience with mental health. I was never judged or looked down on. It was this writing that helped me get through a difficult stage of my life. I was able to fully process my situation and look for a better outcome for myself. Throughout my time at high school my confidence grew with thanks to the performing arts department. Through music and drama I was pushed completely out of my comfort zone in the best possible way. The way I felt whilst performing was something I had never experienced before. All the worries in my mind seemed to escape and my focus would be on how far I could push the bubbles coming out of my mouth. When singing and delivering lines you are told to project your voice as far as you can for the audience to get the best experience. I was told that projecting your voice was like pushing a bubble coming from your mouth to the very back of the room. The more powerful and louder your voice was, the further the bubble would go. I fully believe I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for three teachers and one youth worker. These are the type of people that I aspire to be one day. I regularly used the battery analogy when I was delivering mental health talks in school, as it is a very clear example of understanding the difference between positive and negative mental health. As mental health is not visible, this is a perfect way of seeing many of the emotions we may experience as a scale. At the beginning of the lesson I would have pupils rate their feelings using this method. By the end of the lesson the atmosphere and mood in the room was significantly lifted. This gave me the drive to develop the work on mental health within my school. We had a full week dedicated to mental health and the benefits of mindfulness. This was filled with different activities, morning meditation, yoga, workshops and assemblies from NHS professionals. From this the Mental Health Ambassador Programme was introduced, where senior students were given training on how to promote positive mental wellbeing. Focus groups and drop-in sessions were set up for anyone that needed them. I continued this work by helping to organise Time to Talk Days, after-school events, and I even created an information booklet surrounding mental health and what was being done in my school to tackle the stigma. “Mental health is a topic I am very passionate about. From dealing with my own experiences to supporting friends through difficult stages I have learned so much more about myself” I am incredibly proud to say all of this hard work and effort was recognised when I recently received The Diana Award after being nominated by two of my former teachers. The Diana Award is a charity set up in memory of Princess Diana and her belief that young people have the power to change the world. I am honoured to be one of the 17 people in Scotland who have received this international award. And now I have been nominated for a Pride of Britain Award. It feels unbelievable to have been recognised for the work I started to help my own wellbeing and others. I am so excited to continue the work I love to do, by volunteering for Support in Mind Scotland. I have been welcomed with open arms by the team and I look forward to the voluntary work ahead. Mental health is a topic I am very passionate about. From dealing with my own experiences to supporting friends through difficult stages I have learned so much more about myself. Looking back to where I was in 2017, my life has changed drastically for the better. I have never felt prouder of myself than I do now. If you're struggling with your mental health, we're here for you. Our information line is open M-F, 9-4pm on 0300 323 1545 or you can email [email protected]. You can also message us on Facebook. If you are feeling affected by money worries, we have a Mental Health and Money Advice line that are here to support you. Please find out more by clicking here. We are also part of the recently launched Clic online community forum, which is open 24/7. Full of information, it is a place where you can open up about your mental health with others in similar situations. Visit www.clic-uk.org/ to sign up for free.