Why I decided to organise a Mental Health Campaign

“I’m a firm believer that it’s not what you’ve been through but how you respond to life experiences that’s important. It’s often the steeper climbs that lead to the better views and we all live through experiences that can make us stronger people if we have the right tools in place.”

I haven’t written much about mental illness on this platform before, mainly for wanting to keep things light hearted and easy to read, but also because I escaped from the topic for a while.

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Why Mental Health 

Mental Health, or mind health as I prefer to call it has been a big part of my life for years but when I left London in 2014 I aspired to put my experiences in a box and re-define myself.
Why? Well, I was afraid of being judged and people making certain perceptions that would effect my opportunities, especially when I took part in Below Deck, a TV show. However, I can say that my career in yachting and the TV show helped change my life for the better and curb me into full recovery, something that puts a big smile on my face.

I can actually think of countless forms that I’ve filled in and contracts I’ve signed when I’ve blatantly lied about my medical history. I’m not a deceptive person and I held guilt in doing so, but I believe that because of the lingering stigma, especially in certain industries – I sadly wouldn’t have managed to experience and achieve what I have done if I’d been honest, purely because I’d have been perceived differently.

This is the first reason that I decided to run this campaign. I want to help change this, to make a little mark in helping reduce the stigma and make a point that suffering from mental illness shouldn’t be a scary topic for people to talk about and it shouldn’t be something that holds you back. I almost wish that I could turn back the clock and see whether I would have been given the same chances if I’d been open about the fact that I struggled with depression and eating disorders for 7 years, spending time in and out of therapy, hospitals and clinics.
Phew, that’s out then. – (I’ve never written that for public view before).

Georgie Spurling, PT, Cofounder of Pillow Chats and recovered Eating Disorder sufferer

The Campaign …

This campaign is meant to empower and show that it’s okay to have suffered, suffer or know someone who’s suffering from a mental illness.
I also wanted to share the message that you can recover! To have been affected my a mental health disorder doesn’t make you any weaker, i’d actually say that to have lived through a mental illness and know people who have can make you a stronger person.
I always get asked why I seem so old for my age and I suppose I just have an emotional maturity, an understanding of how to deal with life in different ways and a sheer drive to live that came from reaching a point where I saw my life crumbling around me. I decided that I deserved to invest my energy in working on what life could be and from the very start of my recovery my long term intention was to be able to help those who have suffered from similar things.

I woke up this morning so unbelievably touched by the response I’ve received from this campaign and by the stories that each girl involved has managed to share. I know for myself how hard it was to open up and I witnessed first hand how these girls responded to exposing their vulnerability and having their portraits taken with such a poignant message being behind each one.
This wasn’t for a brand or even a charity. While it was collectively to share a message, to help our followings and to raise awareness on World Mental Health Day, the campaign highlighted to me how much this is also for the girls involved. Sharing their story and being open in such a way was a life experience, one that I believe we should all be able to do without the fear of judgement, rejection or exposing a weakness.

Cristina Steif, Mental Health Advocate, Depression sufferer and lover of fitness

The Girls

Each girl involved is aligned with the health and fitness world on Social media (and in real life) in some way. I made this decision as I feel that this industry has such an influence, online and offline to the daily lifestyle choices and mentality of the public. The mind and body connection is so profound and with the exponential online growth of this industry over the past few years, I think that it’s the influencers that have the power to make a difference. These girls have devoted followers who take away insight and make decisions based on what they see and hear us doing. This is why I believe that it was important to share an alternative side to the “very together”, balanced lifestyles that can so easily be perceived over social media. We share what is attractive, aspirational and strong without exposing the other half of the story and I am touched that these influencers climbed on board to help do this.

It’s a big thing for each of the girls involved to have exposed their vulnerabilities and post about a personal experience. I hope that even a small percentage of our following will relate, feel moved and be empowered to believe that it’s OKAY to talk about their feelings and get help, that it’s okay to not be perfect and that we’re all on our own journey that we should be proud of!

My Story 

I mentioned earlier that I have only really started talking openly about what I went through quite recently.
Doing this wasn’t easy. It was actually VERY scary and I will be honest that I tried to do a youtube post but I felt too overwhelmed after routing out my recovery files and reading back. I realised that I had actually BLOCKED a lot out and I needed to do this in stages.

I’ll touch on my story in parts but I don’t want to get majorly heavy on here,plus i’ve never properly written about my experiences.

So, when I was 13 I became slightly lost and I can’t say that it’s down to anything specific. I was a happy, healthy young girl with a loving family and a lot to live for. Somewhere along the line something went wrong and I started to lose all of my self esteem, confidence and belief that I was enough. I found it hard to cope with my feelings and I didn’t know how to ask to help, or accept it.

At this stage I was at boarding school, my parents divorced when I was 4 but I was close to them both and I have to mention how incredible they have been through my journey. They helped me fight and they never gave up on me, however unlovable I became. (I find that when you are very ill it’s hard to see the good in life around you and you end up rejecting those closest to you – a very toxic trap).

I wanted to be numb from the world and escape my feelings which I achieved through focusing on 2 things, my academia and my eating disorder. I didn’t WANT to be like this, but I felt trapped in something that I couldn’t get out of. I suffered from this for the next 6 years, coming in and out of school, hospital and not really getting anywhere aside from achieving highly academically. One tip I would like to give is to try out different sorts of therapy and therapists if you find that you haven’t bonded with one, or progressed with your treatment. It took me a challenging 6 years and 2 hospital admissions before I clicked with a therapist and worked on my willingness to tackle my subconscious mind.

I am beyond thankful for the care that I received from the NHS on my last admission as an inpatient. It is here that I was propelled into being SO UTTERLY DETERMINED to recover and live a life that I could be proud, that my parents would be proud and that would enable me to LIVE fully. I took the steps and did it – and I can safely say that the work I put in was the hardest, yet most rewarding that I have done yet.
It really is working on yourself that enables you to give the correct energy into other things and while I’m proud of my academic achievements I can say that if I had been taught more about self confidence, esteem and dealing with life when I was at school then I may have less A*s on my cards but I would have lived my teenage years properly, rather than being in and out of hospital. I personally believe that there’s too much pressure on children at school to succeed and be pushed in ways that may not be right for them.

Charlotte, Teacher, Fitness and Self Esteem

What Now? 

A few months ago I started spending more time in the UK again, I reconnected with old friends who’d last seen me when I was very ill and I found that the change I’d gone through was rather empowering, when it had once been scary.
I felt strong enough to start giving something back and helping others going through similar things to myself, however challenging it was going to be.

On social media I’ve dib-dabbed very lightly; touching on self esteem, confidence and a little depression. It can be tricky as it’s a sensitive platform but the positive response always shocks me and is extremely rewarding.
In the “real world” I’ve been doing private talks and mentoring. The work is incredibly touching – albeit very emotional and rather challenging. I know how much I once valued hearing recovered sufferers talk and how much hope that it gave me, so to know that I can make a little difference in that way, even to one person means so much to me.

Isa Robinson, Eating Disorder Blogger and Nutrition Student

Anyway… 

Anyway, this World Mental Health Day I decided to organise a campaign that would raise awareness, make the words “Mental Illness” a little less scary (I personally prefer mind Health) and share a message of solidarity, acceptance and strength in speaking out and sharing. The thing is, there are so many people who live a very busy, publicly active life with a smile that can sometimes be a cover.
Social media can only tell half the story and it’s important to know that it’s never the whole picture. We’re all on our own journeys and no one is worth more than another. When people seem like they have all of their shit together, happy, confident and complete, know that this is often far from the case. Take away positivity and messages that help YOU grow as a person from social media, enable it to give you a voice and feel part of a community because the main thing is that you’re not alone and it can be used as such a worthwhile platform if it’s used in the correct way.

Emily xxx

Check out my interview on Social Media & Mental Health with Balance Magazine HERE

Instagram handles for the girls involved:

Myself @English_ems
Georgie Spurling – @georgiespurling
Indigo Hull – @indigoalicefit
Emily Hartridge @emilyhartridge
Amanda Bootes @amandabootes
Rhiannon Lambert – @rhitrition
Laura Mua – @Mangoandbliss
Charlotte Maton – @fitchar.uk
Isa Robinson – @goodnessguru
Kirsty Grant – @Kissybell_fit
Sian Ryan – @sianliftsweights
Sarah Malcolm – @sarahmalcs
Zara Williams – @zaralwilliams
Cristina Stief – @cristinastief

Domenic Pendino, Photographer : @domenicpendino

 

Please see below for some resources and links to help you if you would like to seek further advice, help or information:

 

Pillow Chats, our Youtube Chat Show : HERE

Beat : HERE

Mental Health Foundation : HERE

MQ : HERE

Rhitrition, Nutritionist specialising in Eating Disorders : HERE

Comments 20

  1. Thank you for sharing. People in my age group, baby boomers, do not understand. If I hear another person tell me to cheer up, it’s all in my head! At least they got half right, it is in my head and no I cannot just “snap out of it “. Thanks to all the girls, wish I had a support group like that!!

    1. You’re right, Teri, depression isn’t something one can just “snap out of”. Why would people think we WANT to feel the way we feel?! That’s just insane.

      Thank you, Emily, for being so open and honest. And for being you. I feel very lucky to have “met” you on Below Deck and am more thankful than you know for the time, energy, and love you put into each of your posts.

      Much love to every one of you who are suffering. Please know you are not alone. ❤️❤️

  2. Being a teenager is very challenging for all girls. Growing up in the 70’s was not as competitive as today’s world with many added pressures. Making wise choices and learning coping strategies make it much easier to navigate.

  3. Dear Ems,

    I just sent you a tweet about this but I wanted to reach out to you further. Thank you for coming forward with your story as I find it hugely inspiring. You are so brave to do this as I’m not sure I hold that in me to be so bold. I suffer from severe depression, PTSD and a scathing case of Inattentive Type ADHD. It’s very difficult to concentrate on anything, making me a failure more than successful sometimes. But I try.
    Recently I met a wonderful man on Twitter that I fell in love with. I drove halfway across the country to meet him. Ultimately he told me that we could not be together long term because I am on medication. He doesn’t know who I am without it. (Uh, depressed? duh!). Even though we get along great and love each other he will not give up on the notion that I need to quit taking my meds of which I never will. That is the type of stigma I have been living with for my entire life. People like you that come forward to help erase the stigma are the one’s I most admire. I always see your tweets and am so envious of your life in many ways… the yoga, the sea and the sun, travel, etc… To know you have had to deal with this and seeing you now with all of this confidence gives me great hope. God Bless You.
    Love,
    Deb (Sea Goddess)

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      Deborah, your support and insight from day one has just been so warming for me and your story really touched me. That is so sad but I hope that you can take away from it no more than you deserve better. It’s funny that we wouldn’t have known this about each other if I hadn’t shared this and you’re an incredibly strong lady! Keep going and channeling your energy into good things. I have had times on Anti Depressants and it was the sunshine, nutrition and changing my lifestyle that helped weaned me off them. Please have hope that this can be the case for you as you deserve it – for YOU xxx

      1. I am a year late in this conversation. I have a daughter who deals with manic depression and has been in mental hospital two times and is currently on medication and in therapy. I do feel a bit worried at the advice of getting off meds which could be disasterous in some cases. What sort of miracle diet are you on that would enable people with medical disorders be able to stop using them. I’m wondering as it seems that would be the first antidote prescribed. Also are you sure you had a proper diagnoses of mental illness? As the years you had it could also be a hormonal imbalance or just plain teenage blues as most teens go thru? I’d appreciate a response. Thank you

    2. Hi Debroh
      I just read your message and let me say this to you. I don’t know if you’re religious or a spiritual person and I don’t know if you believe in God but I do and I am spiritual. That man that you met that is rejecting you because of your medication is a man you do not want to be with,for that is only the beginning of his character but yet reflects everything about him. Would he ask you to stop taking your insulin if you were diabetic, would he ask you to stop taking your allergy medicine if you had seasonal allergies, or if you were allergic to certain foods???? . This is a man that could not possibly be your partner and unless he develops a clear understanding of mental illness . I don’t mean to overstep my boundaries but I’m sure I’m a lot older than you and I’ve had life experiences that I can assure you this is a telltale sign of someone you don’t want to be with . I’m sure he has beautiful qualities and you love him but it doesn’t mean he is good enough to be your partner . Never ever ever compromise your health or your well-being to be in a relationship . It’s more important that you take care of you in order for you to function in a relationship and have your partner complement everything you are . Love who you are, love you for what you’re going to become. love what you need and take care of yourself . Praying for you. Kathy

  4. Thank you for this campaign, and for your brave honesty. Every single little thing you’re doing is helping others to get better and helping to end the stigma associated with mental health. Keep up the good work and keep being the beautiful soul you are! ?

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      Thank you so much! very scary but actually a huge weight off my shoulders! More than I imagined. The feedback and support has been incredible and to hear that i have helped even a small number of people is incredibly rewarding! XXX

  5. You are a very courageous young lady. Feel proud that you have taken an inner struggle and created something very powerful and positive for others to learn from. I wish I knew what you know now when I was your age. I suffer greatly with depression and anxiety and I hid it very well. It was always exhausting and sometimes still is. I’m a teacher and I’m very afraid of being judged and unfit to teach when I know that I’m my strongest when I’m teaching. Helping children grow and learn provides me with a great deal of comfort. I too want to instill social and emotional growth and health with my students.
    Thank you for help making mental illness real and as acceptable as diabetise or any common illness. We will all get there as long as we continue to help people recognize it’s ok to talk about it and it IS MANAGEABLE with proper care, therapy, medication and support.
    If there is ever anything I can do to help just ask.
    Much love and success to you on your journey.
    Love, Kathy

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      Hello Kathleen!
      Thank you so much and I can totally see how it would be very challenging being open within the line of work that you do, however sad that is! Raising awareness and breaking down the stigma is one thing and I feel so warm to have been able to touch some good souls who have related to me and taken something away. More needs to be done within certain industries and thank you for sharing what you go through! Stories need to be shared more and I would also like to do more work with charities with where the money goes and what changes are being made as there are so many issues with people getting the help that is needed, which I witnessed through my experiences….
      Keep going and I hope that you feel slightly empowered to have shared and feel apart of a community. You’re not alone! Thank you so much, Emily xx

  6. Emily, what you have been through, and what you have achieved is truly moving! The path that you have taken cannot have been easy, and here you are today a very brave, gifted, selfless, and inspiring young lady! What you have created is a piece of magic, a sanctuary for the good of all! I am an old friend of your mothers and so I am very proud of what you and the other girls have done, you should all stand with your heads held high, you are all young, brave, and embracing the love of life! This is a lesson for us all! Live life with love. Thanks truly inspirational x

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  7. This is such a pure meaningful post, I actually shed a tear reading this as it is similar to what I have been through and finding your blog and instagram has helped me immensely in my own journey. You have inspired me to recover and find balance and empowered me that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel!!! I remember hearing your recovery talk at a clinic and from that moment I felt determined that their was hope for me too as I’ve been in and out of hospital for so long!! You are a true inspiration and you left such a lovely atmosphere at the clinic everyone took the positivie yet real approach to recovery and your own hard journey! ❤️❤️ If it’s one thing you definitely have helped me in my own recovery so thank you so much!!

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      Laura, thank you so much for this comment and reaching out to me on Instagram. The fact that you were there in my first recovery talk and took things away from it is extremely touching for me and almost brings tears to my eyes! That was a scary first talk sitting where i had been as a patient a few years prior!
      It also fills me with joy that you are out of the clinic now and working towards an amazing life that you deserve, however wavy the ride will be! Stay in touch and know that you’re special and capable of so much, you’ve already come so far. lots of loVE, Emily XX

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story!! So brave of you and so inspiring!! So important for us to raise awareness on such an important issue in our society today.

  9. Emily it was very brave of you to share your story especially because you probably wanted to leave it in the past, as something you overcame. However it is through our brokenness that we reach people and make a true difference. Making a change in a persons life and connecting with people threw our humanness is our true purpose in this world. I applaud your bravery resisting the need to promote the superficial things in this world and attack the bigger problem of self love and kindness to others maybe struggling with some of the issues you and the other ladies have been through in your life. Have a wonderful day!

  10. Emily, such an inspiring campaign full of true, honest and genuine girls. Your story in particular resonated me as I went through a very similar experience and it is so incredible to read someone else share such a positive story of survival. When you’re stuck in that deep dark hole of the eating disorder too often it can be so easy to think there’s no way out…. but there absolutely is and, with a little bit of help, I believe everyone can gain their life back and become an even stronger person as a result. Whether it be an eating disorder, depression, or any other of the far too commonly found mental health issues I hope that as a community we can help take away the stigma, encourage people to seek help, and ultimately return to leading the full life they deserve xx

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