Back in February, Jess blogged about losing her Dad to suicide. Here Jess blogs about the overwhelming response she received to her blog and how it inspired her to hold a fundraising event in aid of Mind.
Jess is 36, has 3 children and is currently in her final year of an Adult Nursing degree at Brighton university. She tweets at @jessneal1979
When I wrote my last blog, Time to talk, nothing could have prepared me for the reaction.
My dad’s suicide has taught me so much. About him. About myself. About relationships. About people.
I have always lived by the ethos that if you smile at people they will smile back and whilst sharing my story via the blog made me feel vulnerable, it showed me that if you show people your vulnerability they will connect with you. Openness doesn’t equal weakness.
I was genuinely moved by people’s kindness and openness with words. My blog set out to start a conversation and I felt like I had started an avalanche of them. People were identifying with me. Not all, thankfully, could identify with my situation, but many could identify with being too scared to talk.
Even local businesses were contacting me about donating raffle prizes following on from an interview I did for the local newspaper.
It inspired me to think about using the attention to do some more fundraising, so I started to think about what sort of event I could hold.
I was already fundraising for my Mind Hike in July but people wanted to give more than money, they wanted to give their time.
So with the help of friends I decided to organise a charity gig.
I approached a well-known local band, Murdoch's Crazy Eyes, who I knew would give a great party atmosphere to my event-and they didn't disappoint on the night!
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Once I had MCE confirmed, the momentum really started to build, with more local businesses offering up prizes. Everyone wanted to be involved! Friends started to share the gig on social media and within 2 weeks I had sold out of tickets.
As the gig grew closer people’s generosity saw no bounds; and actually it wasn’t just about the donations. The gig was a night of celebration, a night of laughter.
We raised over £3,500 on that night, taking my fundraising for the Mind Hike to over £5,000 so far.
I had many moments over the night, but my real moment was at the end. Watching a dance floor full of people, linking arms and singing:
“Hey Jude, don’t be afraid”
It encapsulated everything I had been striving for.
“Take a sad song and make it better”…
I wondered after the gig, what was it, about what I was saying/doing that was having such an effect on people? What was it about this charity that made people want to share? I suppose the thing with the mind is everyone has one! And everyone is acutely aware of what happens when it becomes poorly. For some reason stigma dictates we can’t talk about this and of course I, like millions around the world, always hope this will stop.
At a party in Worthing on the 16th April 2016 there was no stigma. 200 people saw to that.
Let’s see if we can have a party every day. In every town. And everyone is invited…
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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.