When Jess was struggling with depression she found the Mind website helped her to understand her symptoms. When she got better, she wanted to give back and signed up as a media volunteer at Mind. Jess was recently asked to represent Mind at the Heads Together BBQ hosted by The Royal Foundation and Prince Harry. Jess blogs about her experience.
When I received the call from Mind’s media team on that Wednesday, I will be honest, I thought I was going to faint.
I was asked to be Mind’s representative by attending a barbeque at Kensington Palace hosted by The Royal Foundation for the Heads Together Campaign.
It was like meeting an ordinary person when Prince Harry came out. He has this way of making you feel very comfortable...
Led by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Heads Together aims to change the national conversation on mental health and has partnered up with a number of charities, including Mind. So far, it is the biggest single project Their Royal Highnesses have undertaken together.
The barbeque was attended by some of the other charities, such as, Young Minds, Place2Be, Contact and Best Beginnings along with of the UK’s top athletes including two-time Olympic Gold Medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, former England footballer Rio Ferdinand, Olympic medal winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton, European and Commonwealth Games champion sprinter, Iwan Thomas and former England test cricketer, Jonathan Trott.
The day started off pretty chilled out. I was introduced to the Heads Together campaign team who helped to prep us for meeting Prince Harry and being on camera.
At first, I felt quite anxious being there with the cameras around but once I sat down with the other mental health charity representatives, I felt at ease. We were extremely lucky with the weather so I was really looking forward to relaxing in the sun.
One thing that really resonated with me was when I overheard Dame Kelly Holmes speak of her depression
It was like meeting an 'ordinary' person when Prince Harry came out. He has this way of making you feel very comfortable and relaxed when he engages in conversation, speaking with eloquence and empathy. It was like speaking to a friend, especially when he asked me about my running and the various support groups I have found. He listened with intent and came back with very interesting points about different coping mechanisms surrounding mental health and support groups. We spoke a little about the aim of my blog and how I hoped it would help other people speak openly about their mental illness, which he was very fond of.
The most interesting part about this meeting was the people who attended. Each and every and every volunteer from the charities and even the celebrities, all had extremely different stories to tell.
I met Ben Brooks Dutton, who in 2012, was widowed after losing his wife in a tragic car accident in front of their young son. Speaking to him about how he has coped over the years was inspiring. Not only has he brought his son up as an only parent but he also writes a blog and has written a novel to help others deal with grief and loss. It showed that no matter what walk of life you are from, we are all human trying to survive and cope with life’s downfalls.
The one thing that really resonated with me that day was when I overheard Dame Kelly Holmes speak of her depression and how she hid behind it whilst being in the spotlight for her multiple Olympic wins, after suffering an injury. As an athlete myself, I could relate to this. When you are training hard, every single day, to reach a goal and your highest potential, and you become injured, your life comes to a complete standstill. Your schedule changes like you’ve taken a 180-degree turn and you have to wait it out in rehabilitation until you can get back on track. Depending on the injury, with 4-6 weeks being the average rehab time, weeks, if not months, is a long time to sit there twiddling your thumbs. Kelly, back in 2009, described this as the hardest time of her life.
With the day coming to a close...I felt like we had all achieved something.
With the cameras hovering and journalists taking down notes of the day, we all decided to have a game of French Cricket. When I was told, a week before, that we would be either playing Boules or French Cricket, I didn’t have the faintest idea what French Cricket was. But thanks to my very organized mother, I googled it and on the day, looked like a professional. You could tell that most of us had sport orientated lives because we were all very competitive and the game was very exciting, with Rio Ferdinand accidentally throwing the ball at my head (yes, I forgive you now).
What was a three hour barbeque felt like an eight hour day, with interviews being taken, games being played and photographs being taken.
We were all there for the same reason: to help eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness but with the goal to spread awareness this year and with a campaign like Heads Together, which has the backing of the Royal Family, it holds a bright future for the mental health sector in the UK.
2016 has been a year very focused on sport, with the Euros and Wimbledon coming to a close and with the Rio Olympics coming up, it’s not surprising that the Heads Together Campaign has been chosen to be the Charity of the Year for 2017’s London Marathon. Together, we can make a change by fundraising for such a wonderful cause by putting ourselves forward to run for Mind or Heads Together. You can sign up here.
Challenge Yourself. Do the Unimaginable. Make a Change. TALK.