Today I’ve decided to do something a little different. I want more mental health related posts on my blog, and, since my best friend is a mental health advocate, why not do an interview? Enjoy!
Firstly, can you introduce yourself please?
I am Angela, a mental health and lifestyle blogger over at Unapologetically Angie, a Time to Change young champion, a recent modern languages graduate and a lover of dogs. Welcome to my corner of the internet.
What issue(s) are you an advocate for? What motivated you to get involved?
I have been a mental health advocate for the past few years, although sometimes I think that is a rather big title for what I really do. I share my personal story in the hopes to educate and encourage others to do the same. I actually decided to start sharing my story after a girl at school shared her own regarding her battle with anorexia in an assembly. I’d never heard anyone discuss mental health on such a large scale before this, and when I saw and felt the effect this could have, that it did have on me, a 16 year-old who was really quite unwell, is when I decided I too wanted to use my hardship and turn it into something far more powerful than just a sad story.
What kind of advocacy do you take part in?
I have been blogging for the last 3 years on my blog Unapologetically Angie and talking all things mental health. This is where I started in my advocacy story, finding comfort in being behind a screen. And still to some extent I am far more comfortable talking about my own mental health through a keyboard than I am face to face. When I became comfortable with blogging, I decided to follow in the footsteps of the girl who inspired me to start all this and I did an assembly at my school. It was by far one of the scariest things I’d done, but the reception was absolutely amazing. So many people were touched and shared their stories with me afterwards, that I realised how bizarre it is that as a society we don’t discuss something that will either affect our lives or the lives of those we love.
Here was born my love for doing speeches; as someone who hates speaking in front of people, it is weird that I grasp any opportunity that I can to do them, but the feeling after is just amazing. I know that I am making a difference. Since, I have done quite a few speeches, in schools and at my university, I have worked closely with Student Minds and Time to Change and I created a petition to try to allow for dual registration to GPs for students as many fall through the net when trying to access help for their mental health.
Has being an advocate taught you anything about yourself?
I think being an advocate has taught me that I am able to go further than I ever imagined: if someone would have told 16 year-old me that I would have a meeting with parliament with a chance to present my petition, I would never have believed it possible. It’s amazing where passion can drive you. Being an advocate has really awakened a passion and has lead me to people who feel just as I do, who want to really make a change in our society and it’s amazing to be able to connect with people in this way.
Being an advocate has also taught me to look after myself. When you claim online to be a mental health advocate many take that as though you are a counselor, or that you have a PHD in psychology, which I am/have not. People will try to take from you, and as an empath and compassionate person (that often us mental health advocates are) we keep giving until there is nothing left to give. Being an advocate has taught me that I need to put myself first, you cannot be a good advocate if you don’t put your own mental health first. It has also taught me that breaks from advocacy are vital. Living, breathing mental health/illness can be exhausting and it’s easy, I’ve found, to forget that there is still good in the world. So I take breaks, quite regularly, where I don’t blog, where I don’t do speeches or help in campaigns, I take time where I simply only look after my own mental health and live life.
Has it taught you anything about the world we live in, and people?
Being a mental health advocate has got me thinking about our society in general and how in fact we are fed unhappiness, fed this idea of happiness if we buy this product, go to that university, get that job, tick off certain life goals and yet we always fall short. It’s the same society created from a government which pretends to care about mental health by lighting up Downing Street to commemorate those who have taken their lives, yet is constantly taking money away from mental health services. It’s the big companies who during Mental Health Awareness Week will talk about how important mental health is and yet a week later are selling merchandise that uses some sh*t play on words with OCD.
On an individual level I do believe people care more about mental health, however, on a larger scale there is still SO much work to do.
Is it difficult to remember to take time for yourself and not get overwhelmed?
Yes! I wish I could say it isn’t but this is still a lesson I am learning, although today I am better at taking breaks than I used to be. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed because passion often drives me to take on 3000 projects, forgetting that I already have a degree, and a job, and a life to live.
Do you wish to continue being an advocate in the future?
I do! Being a mental health advocate is a huge part of who I am. However, in the past I have lost sight of myself and have felt like a mental health advocate is all I am. So at the moment, I guess I am on a bit of a break from advocacy, taking a bit more of a backseat with it, in order to find out what else I am passionate about, what else I enjoy. Being a mental health advocate is extremely rewarding but it also requires me to be incredibly invested, so at the moment I am looking after myself a bit more. Sometimes I wonder if that makes me a bad mental health advocate, but I have lovely people around me who remind me that actually perhaps I am giving out one of the biggest lessons we all need to learn: if you don’t look after yourself, you can’t help anyone else.
Thank you Angela for answering these questions.
You can find Angela over on: