Welcome to the blog for Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign

This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
The blog consists of informative and, hopefully, entertaining articles/posts.
Enjoy! :-)

Sunday, 27 March 2011

All Walks Book Club

Free Your Mind is proud to be taking part in the All Walks book club.

All Walks is a project co-founded by Debra Bourne, Caryn Franklin and Erin O'Connor which aims to challenge both the fashion industry's, and society's, view of body image and beauty.

Anyone can take part in the All Walks book club; all you need is Bodies by Susie Orbach, which is the first book we will be reading. We will be reading one chapter a week starting with the introduction and chapter one. Discussion will take place on Twitter with the hash(#) tag #AWbookclub and on the following Facebook discussion forum: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?topic=17591&uid=275187151550. Make sure you are a part of it!

Find out more about the All Walks book club on the All Walks blog here: http://allwalks.org/?p=2214

FYM on Twitter: @FYMcampaign - http://twitter.com/#!/FYMcampaign

All Walks on Twitter: @allwalkscatwalk - http://twitter.com/#!/allwalkscatwalk

Also involved in the discussion:

Michael 'Frost' Williamson: @mwfrost - http://twitter.com/#!/mwfrost - fashion designer and stylist, and blogger of Safety Pin Charm fashion blog, whom is also involved in All Walks.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Upcoming 'Broken Paths' Art Exhibition at Croydon's Fairfield Halls

Click above image to see enlarged  version
of the official flyer for the 'Broken Paths'
art exhibit at Fairfield Halls in Croydon in
the South of London.
Between Monday 4th April - Saturday 16th April an art exhibition called "Broken Paths" will be open at the Sun Lounge at Fairfield Halls in Croydon (South London). A 'Main Event' will also be held during the exhibit on Friday 8th April between 2-5pm which will be a 'meet and greet' with all of the artists involved.

The Broken Paths art exhibition is being organised by Imagine mental health charity's Croydon branch and will be showcasing a selection of some of the creative talents of the mental health community in Croydon.

The artists featured in the exhibit are all at varying stages of recovery. And I am honoured to be among those having their work on display during Broken Paths.

Imagine mental health charity want to help those with mental illnesses live independently and improve our social inclusion. Imagine in Croydon has unique service user groups ("service user" being the phrase attributed to those of us who use the community's mental health services) which are service user led.

Broken Paths has been organised as part of the battle against stigma towards mental illness. Which meant Free Your Mind had to get involved with this art exhibition. As I've stated before, I genuinely do believe creativity and mental health effectively go hand-in-hand with one another.

The 'meet and greet' will be the "official" time to meet all of the artists, but I will be available during most of the exhibition promoting FYM. So be sure to come and find me! ((I'll be the short one dressed all in black - pretty much..))

Should you express an interest in buying any of the art on display at the exhibition, please contact Kato, from Imagine, by email: kwalmsley@imaginementalhealth.org.uk.

Join Free Your Mind and Imagine at Broken Paths for great art, to show your support and help us fight stigma and discrimination towards mental illnesses!

We hope to see you there!
(Nicola from FYM)

Directions to Fairfield Halls in Croydon:

Fairfield Halls is situated next to Croydon College on Park Lane in Croydon's town centre.
Park Lane, 

Fairfield is approximately 20 minutes by train from London’s Victoria and London Bridge stations. There are also fast regular services from Charing Cross and Waterloo.
East Croydon station is a 3 minute walk away and West Croydon station is about a 12 minute walk.

Bus Routes:
50 (from Stockwell), 60 (towards Old Coulsdon/Streatham), 75 (from Lewisham), 109 (from Brixton), 119 (towards Bromley North/Purley Way), 154 (from Morden), 166 (towards Banstead/Epsom), 197 (from Peckham), 250 (from Brixton), 264 (from Tooting), 312 (towards Norwood Junction/South Croydon), 403 (from Warlingham), 405 (from Redhill), 407 (towards Caterham/Sutton), 412 (from Purley), 455 (towards Old Lodge Lane/Wallington), 466 (towards Addington Village/Caterham-on-the-Hill), 468 (towards Elephant & Castle/South Croydon).

The Tramlink which runs through the centre of Croydon stops at East
Croydon, George Street and Wellesley Road which are all 3 minutes walk

Imagine mental health charity -- http://www.imaginementalhealth.org.uk/
Croydon Imagine -- http://www.imaginementalhealth.org.uk/Croydon.php
Fairfield Halls -- http://www.fairfield.co.uk/

Event Information on Facebook --

'Broken Paths' art exhibit Twitter hash-tag: #BrokenPaths

Imagine would like to apologise to both Free Your Mind and you
for allowing incorrect information to be printed in their promotional material.
((Corrections have been made by FYM to this blog post to ammend Imagine's

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

My Mental Illness Does Not Define Me!

Often when I tell people I have a mental illness they immediately want to know all of the specifics of my diagnosis. Admittedly this interest in my diagnosis could just be a general curiousity, but it all too often feels as if their interest stems from feeling they need to know the specifics in order to modify their behaviour toward me in some way.

As much as I'm all for advocating educating people about mental illness and mental health issues in order to reduce stigma - asking someone point blank about their diagnosis is not only a bit invasive (some people are willing to talk about their diagnosis, but normally on their own terms!), but also, more often than not, they may not actually know the specifics of their diagnosis. 

But, more to the point, when dealing with an individual, the specifics of their diagnosis is not of any importance, unless they are being placed under your care (in which case one wouldn't be required to specifically ask that person about their diagnosis). If you want to get to know someone, you get to know them - not their mental illness.

A person's personality; morals; intelligence; appearance; class; wealth; social status; friends; hobbies; actions; and so on, are not defined by their mental illness.

In other words; a person cannot be defined by their mental illness.

Sometimes when I tell people I have a mental illness they express surprise; some even go as far to say they do not believe me. I have questioned these people who say they don't believe me as to why they think that; the response, "You seem too normal", never fails to surprise me! 

Unfortunately, stigma towards mental health issues means people hold views that anyone with a mental illness should stick out from a mile away and are distinguishable from "normal folk" as they are busy "acting crazy". 

An ignorant view which is supported by most of the media: as soon as anyone does anything out of the ordinary they're labelled "crazy" or "mad"; even in the cases of murderers, etc. words like "psycho" or "nutter" are used - and then these same adjectives are attributed to those with mental illnesses!

Yes some really horrible people are mentally ill. But so are some of the most honest, decent, beautiful (not in the aesthetic sense) individuals you could ever hope to meet!

Having a mental illness does not define a person. Mental illness does not pertain to whether someone is a good person or not. Knowing a person's diagnosis is not largely useful when getting to know an individual; however, I do believe that educating yourself on mental health is a highly commendable idea. But a person will always be a whole lot more than their mental illness!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Should interviewer have given Charlie Sheen "bipolar diagnosis"?

Recent events involving Charlie Sheen have really disturbed me - when I say this I am actually talking about not only the media treatment of his mental illness, but, more specifically, why anyone would ever think it is okay to "diagnose" someone during a televised interview!
(See Below)

In the above interview Sheen is being interviewed and asked questions about his drug addiction. At the end of the interview the interviewer tells him that "psychologists" say he has bipolar.

My thoughts on this are that I feel it is highly irresponsible to take someone you believe to be seriously mentally ill and having a manic episode, interview them purely for "entertainment" purposes (I honestly can't see any other reason to conduct an interview such as this), and then "diagnose" them at the end of it.

The interviewer also talks of "psychologists" coming up with a bipolar diagnosis. This doesn't sit right with me. I'd genuinely would like to know who these "psychologists" are?! Psychologists can't (or, at least, shouldn't!) diagnose anyone without a proper assessment. Personally (please tell me if you disagree) I think  that to reach a "conclusive" diagnosis several assessments have to take place over periods of months or years.

And surely if a psychologist had diagnosed Sheen why would they be giving this information to an interviewer, and not to him personally or to someone else close to him???

If I were in the above situation, chances are I would have said the same or similar as Sheen.

Speaking as a recovered drug-addict with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), whom has also experienced manic episodes, I can honestly say Sheen's behavior in the above interview is pretty "normal"  for anyone suffering a manic episode or a bipolar "high". Also, before I did finally get sober, if you'd asked me then if I got high or if I thought I might relapse I would have denied it whatever the circumstances were. And as for trying to make me see I was ill or getting me to understand I could die - if it was back then - you could forget it!

Obviously Sheen is mentally ill - drug-addiction is in itself a mental illness - and he does appear to be on a manic bipolar high. But my big issue (the subject of this post) is with the irresponsibility of conducting the above interview and then claiming to have a diagnosis. As I said before, even if a trained psychologist/psychiatrist had been saying the same as this interviewer to me when I was manic and on drugs, it would have gone in one ear and out the other; therefore, I know if I were in the above situation, not only would the interview have pushed me further into denial but it would also have messed my head quite a bit. ((For example; a few years ago, whilst I was suffering a manic episode, my parents were asked to  keep notes on my behavior, and when I found these notes I was convinced my behavior was being recorded so that they could report back to the "government" whom I believed were studying me as part of a large-scale "experiment" that everyone else in the world was in on.))

Whatever you think of Sheen - it's not nice to see anyone suffer in this way.

I'm writing this after taking issue with what I believe to be a irresponsible way of treating someone with a mental illness. I could speculate Sheen's diagnosis - but I don't see the point. Or I could discuss the fact that anyone else (i.e. someone who isn't a Hollywood actor) is likely to have been sectioned by now - but I don't feel I could add anything to the discussion which hasn't been said before.

After watching the above interview, I strongly felt a need to express my thoughts on this. What do you think? Have I got a point? Or do you feel I'm going over-the-top?