Mind is sponsoring a place at this year's Campaign Bootcamp for someone who has experience of mental health problems and wants to campaign around mental health. Tom from our Policy and Campaigns team explains why we think this is important, and what campaigning means for him and his mental health.
If I had to sum up what worries me most about my own mental health, I'd say it was the fear of not being in control. Obsessive thoughts can make you feel like you can't make your mind focus on the things you want it to. Anxiety can make you feel like you are on the brink of simply not being able to cope. Depression can make you feel like you don't have the energy to fight back. Combined, you can be left feeling that you're just not able to be the person you want to be.
In my experience, when I've tried to wrestle back control by attempting to out-think these three foes - explaining them, rationalising them, analysing them - I've not only been unsuccessful but I've often ended up retreating further within myself; feeling more consumed by them than before. What I've learned over time is that looking outwards rather than inwards is my best route to regaining a sense of control - accepting that I can't always dictate the way I'll respond to the world, but trying to shape my little bit of it to give myself the best shot of staying well.
In many ways, working as a campaigner is an extension of this: it keeps me focused on the world outside of my head; it gives me a sense of purpose; and it allows me to try and make life better for other people experiencing mental health problems, who often aren't as lucky as I've been with circumstances and support. The world is complex and challenging - campaigning is about trying to exert some sort of control over how it works.
That’s why I’m so excited that Mind is sponsoring a place at this year’s Campaign Bootcamp for someone who has experience of mental health problems and wants to campaign around mental health. I hear from and meet so many people with experience of mental health problems who want to change things so that others don’t have to go through what they have. But making change happen is difficult and people often don’t know where to start.
I can’t think of a better way to get a foothold in the world of campaigning than attending Campaign Bootcamp, which involves a week’s residential training from some of the best campaigners in the country, followed by ongoing support over the course of the year to learn and develop as a campaigner.
Mind’s connection with Bootcamp started last year, when I was invited along to talk at the residential about how to look after your mental health when campaigning (I had a great time, and especially enjoyed the ‘Tunnel of High Fives’ all speakers have to walk through after their sessions!).
It’s really encouraging that the organisers are recognising how important an issue this is, and I was blown away by how much the participants opened up about their own experiences during my session. It was clear that Mind could be confident that someone with experience of mental health problems attending the course would not only receive exceptional training, but would also be supported and understood.
So if you are interested in learning about campaigning, or becoming a more effective campaigner, I wholeheartedly encourage you to think about applying to attend. Even if you don’t have experience of mental health problems, or aren’t selected for the Mind-sponsored place, there are other places and scholarships available. If I’m lucky enough to be invited back, I’ll hopefully see you there!
Find out more about Campaign Bootcamp and how to apply at campaignbootcamp.org
If you’re interested in the Mind scholarship we would encourage you to mention your own experience of mental health problems and why you’d like to campaign for mental health when answering the questions about your skills and ambitions.