Categories
Wellbeing

Clowns Without Borders UK is now sharing live, online, weekly workshops to kids across the UK

Clowns Without Borders UK – whose work entertaining children with the healing power of laughter is usually reserved for refugee camps and humanitarian crises – are now sharing live, online, weekly workshops to kids across the UK, as it is kids in the UK who now need support.

Samantha Holdsworth, Director of Clowns Without Borders UK says ‘It’s important children in the UK feel a sense of normalcy at this time. Creating specific opportunities to engage in fun activities and imaginative play is a great way of achieving that. We are in a unique position to provide such opportunities and support the well-being of children at this time.’

‘Humour can help us process and accept what is happening. Without it, our current situation could become overwhelming. That’s the opposite of what children need right now. They need play and laughter to help them express themselves and interpret what is happening’

Clowns Without Borders UK has provided psychosocial support for children affected by humanitarian disasters since 2014 working in more than 13 countries around the world with performances and workshops in numerous humanitarian contexts. These include sharing laughter with children and their communities after Typhoon Haiyan and the earthquakes in Nepal and across refugee camps in Europe and Bangladesh.

Luca,  who is 10 years old and based in Chester, England says ‘Usually I am very active and do something almost every night like BMX, football and Cubs, but I haven’t been able to. I miss those activities but most of all I miss my friends.’

 ‘Clowning has helped me because it’s a fun thing to do and there’s lots of using your imagination. It just takes my mind off things. I like how I am allowed to be silly! I am enjoying learning how to be a clown. People often tell me I act like a clown but here I am learning to do it properly!’

Joey Robinson aka Joey Little Legs who is based in  Peckham, London tells us 

‘I’ve worked as a clown with Cirque Du Soleil and all around the world.  Never in my wildest dream did I think I’d ever be performing in my living room.’

‘I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to find a way to play and find laughter through Zoom but we have. In spite of all the restrictions, we’ve found a way, again, to be “without borders’ and honestly, it’s been wonderful to be able to make a connection with children from my living room’.  

Young people can sign up to the weekly Clown Camp here.

By Ellen Jones

Categories
Equality Wellbeing

The Trevor Project, has issued a report exploring the impact of coronavirus on LGBTQ+ youth

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ young people has issued a report exploring the impact of coronavirus on LGBTQ+ youth. 

Although youth and young adults are estimated to have a lower mortality rate from COVID-19, they are not immune to its consequences. LGBTQ+ youth even prior to the pandemic experienced poorer levels of mental health and were at higher risk of suicide, self-injury, anxiety and depression.  These risks are even more pronounced among youth who are transgender and/or non-binary. 

Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading organisation in the US providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning young people under the age of 25. The Trevor Project provides a range of services with a high success rate. In an external evaluation of Trevor’s crisis services, over 90% of youth with suicide risk during their interaction with Trevor were successfully de-escalated. 

A new report by The Trevor Project emphasises both the reasons for the increase in poor LGBTQ+ youth mental health as well as strategies to help tackle this. For example, social distancing has resulted in a decrease in positive social connection which is known to protect LGBTQ+ young people from suicidality.  The full report can be found here

All of their services are remaining open 24/7.  LGBTQ youth seeking community while physically distant from usual support can join TrevorSpace, the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth. It provides LGBTQ youth and allies with a safe, affirming community and the opportunity to connect with people who might be going through similar experiences. Finding a safe community online can be a powerful way to deal with physical isolation, receive support, and explore their identity.

TrevorText, TrevorChat, and TrevorLifeline, provide 24/7 support to youth in crisis. LGBTQ youth who experience anxiety and concerns over their physical or mental health or their economic situation can find a trained adult ready to listen and support them.

The Trevor Project is committed to ensuring that LGBTQ youth are supported throughout this pandemic by providing 24/7 access to an affirming international community for LGBTQ young people and trained crisis counsellors to talk directly with youth with youth in crisis. We hope others will join us in helping LGBTQ youth know that they are not alone and provide the social, economic, and mental health support they need during these unprecedented times.

As a charity, The Trevor Project relies on donations being made to ensure that they are able to continue their work

By Ellen Jones

Categories
Equality

This user-led charity that supports women with mental health needs in prison, hospitals and the community

Wish is a user-led charity that supports women with mental health needs in prison, hospitals and the community. Founded in 1987, they have been working tirelessly to ensure that all women’s mental health needs are met. 

 

Initially, they began by providing independent advocacy to women when they realised that the generic services were failing people by not taking into consideration someone’s individual history, background, journey, abuse or trauma and discrimination they might have faced. They aim to be as inclusive as possible, ensuring that women from a variety of backgrounds get the help they need. 

 

Emily Reynolds, Policy and Campaigns Manager, tells us that ‘we understand that people’s experiences of illness, health and care is affected by their class, race, sexuality and gender – a transgender woman won’t have the same experience of mental healthcare as a cisgender woman, for example, and we believe it’s really important to take those intersecting factors into account in our work.’ 

 

They achieve this in a variety of ways. As well as independent advocacy, they also prompted self-advocacy, giving women the confidence and skills to assert their needs by providing information, resources and skills training. 

 

Wish has a project called Community Link which works to support women moving from prison or hospital into the community. This intensive project is delivered one-on-one and every relationship has pathways tailored to an individual’s specific needs as opposed to simply offering generic services. Examples of what Wish does include helping women engage  with services or attend court, provide guidance around housing, accommodation, benefits and finance, offer opportunities for social contact and peer support, and try to foster creativity, talents, hopes and goals. 

 

Furthermore, Wish helps women get their voices heard at a policy and practice level. ‘Despite the rise in the popularity of co-produced services, many are still designed with absolutely no input from or understanding of the lives of those who use them. We make sure that women’s needs are actually being met and that they have some input in how that happens. We’re doing that partly through our Women’s Mental Health Network, through which we consult with women with experience of the mental health or criminal justice systems and boost their voices to help improve services’ says Reynolds.

 

 

A lot of the work Wish does is face to face and subsequently they have had to adapt due to the pandemic using technology and phone calls, though this is less than ideal. They have been working  with women to support them in a number of ways – on Instagram, for example, or by text for those who do not like speaking on the phone. The need for Wish has become increasingly important. Reynolds tells us that ‘lots of the women we support have trauma or a history of domestic or sexual violence, and they’re particularly affected by the current situation; distressing symptoms are coming back or are amplified, for example. So the online, video and phone support has been really extensive and we’ve been doing that as much as we can.’

 

Reynolds also tells us about their project piloting a gender-specific, trauma-informed counselling service for women in Tower Hamlets which was free or very low cost: ‘Just before Covid-19 happened, we were working on rolling this out to more women in more areas and that’s still something that we hope to extend this year if we can. ‘

 

The lockdown has also meant they have not been able to engage everyone and there are women who they have been unable to reach. In medium and low secure units that they work in, it has been difficult to get in touch with new admissions, particularly as not everyone on the wards has permission to use a mobile phone and relies on a payphone. 

 

Wish have also been trying to provide extra support, organising food parcels and helping with utilities debts, paying for extra minutes and data so women can stay in touch. They have also been sending out ‘feel good packs’ filled with puzzles, books, cards and other nice little gifts to make things a bit easier to bear. 

 

There are a variety of ways to support Wish’s work both now and in the future. They would love to receive donations, which can be made here and any companies that might like to donate food parcels or gifts for their feel good packs can also get in touch at e.reynolds@womenatwish.org.uk

 

Wish would also love more people to join the Women’s Mental Health Network, which you can do here

 

By Ellen Jones

 

Categories
Equality Wellbeing

The MAVEN Project works to support frontline providers

In the US, many people do not have access to healthcare due to a lack of insurance or because they live in rural areas. As a result, community clinics function as a lifeline for people who are uninsured or underinsured, making certain that they can access basic primary care. However, for patients with more complex conditions, the support they need is not always available. The MAVEN Project works to support frontline providers by connecting volunteer specialists with community organisations through Telehealth.

 

Meghan Guidry, Vice President, Communications & Donor Engagement for the MAVEN Project explains ‘We recruit physician volunteers with a focus on specialists in fields that everyone might not have access to like cardiology, neurology and endocrinology. People might have access to a community health centre or a charitable health clinic, but that provider might not have a specialist in the issue they are facing. 

In light of the pandemic, their work has become even more important. They have continued to provide their core programming to ensure there is no disruption to their services but have also launched new initiatives to provide information and amplify response efforts. Each week they are hosting COVID-19 update sessions for their clinic partners and providers led by a volunteer infectious disease specialist, followed by Q&A with a panel of volunteer physicians of diverse specialties including pulmonology, gynecology, psychiatry, and more. 

They are also running educational sessions led by psychiatry specialists to front line providers on managing anxiety for themselves and their patients during this difficult time. Additionally, the project has partnered with the Massachusetts Medical Society to recruit and aggregate volunteer physicians for state response efforts.

Meghan continues that ‘Our hope and our goal is that the MAVEN Project is part of the solution that increases access locally in communities where there is not healthcare access or there are insurmountable barriers to accessing speciality care.’

The MAVEN Project anticipates a greater need for their services not just during the pandemic, but afterwards too as in the US, healthcare access is tied to employment and many people have lost jobs whilst others have put off seeking help from healthcare providers out of fear of catching the virus, resulting in conditions worsening without treatment. 

The MAVEN project urgently needs support in the form of donations as well as support from volunteer physicians to continue their vital work. 

By Ellen Jones

Categories
Equality Wellbeing

Three Things Remember This Mental Health Month

This month, Smiley has partnered with Dessert Dreamer to help support  To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit movement dedicated to helping those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. 

This Mental Health month, they are highlighting three statements they believe to be non-negotiable in the fight for better mental health for all. To them, these statements are Black and White. 

Amber Gardner, Director of Partnerships for To Write Love On Her Arms, gives us some insight into the statements the organisation has chosen and why they are so significant. 

 We Need Your Presence, Not Your Perfection

‘We’ve been conditioned to place value on personal achievement, to highlight and boast about our successes while masking our “slip-ups” and “failures.” We’ve been taught to aim for perfection—at work, at school, as parents or siblings, as people. But to put it quite plainly: we disagree. Even in your faults, your mistakes, your mishaps, you have made this world more beautiful. Through your struggles, your heartache, your pain, you have brought humility and encouraged grace to grow in spaces that craved honesty. Today and always, we need your presence, not your perfection.

Hope Remains

Hope is many things: it’s universal. It’s real. It’s life-saving. Hope, in the face of fear, is defiant. Since our earliest days, hope has been the most central virtue. Hope remains in the ebb and flow of recovery, the patient expectation of the day your story encourages another. Despite circumstance, despite distance, despite doubt—hope remains.

No One Else Can Play Your Part

To this day, with all the ways you’ve learned to bloom and grow, you continue to bring a certain energy that we, and this entire planet, are grateful for. A world where you don’t exist is not one we care to imagine. Your absence would not go unnoticed or unfelt. After all, no one can see the world quite like you. Nothing can break through silence quite like your voice. And no one else can play your part.

If you or someone you know is struggling, we encourage you to reach out for help. For those living in the US, we invite you to use our FIND HELP Tool to locate local, affordable resources simply by entering your zip code and the level of care you’re seeking. For international resources, visit our FIND HELP page for a collection of options listed by country.

Throughout the month, TWLOHA will be sharing new content in honor of Mental Health Month across their social media channels and you can follow them on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Categories
Equality Wellbeing

During mental health month NAMI launches campaign ‘You Are Not Alone’

For Mental Health Month, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has launched a new campaign -You Are Not Alone- which focuses on the power of connection. 

More than 40 million people in the U.S. face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental health condition and NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organisation dedicated to improving the lives of these individuals and their families. 

The You Are Not Alone campaign features the lived experience of people affected by mental illness to reduce stigma, inspire others and educate the public on available online resources. NAMI is asking the public to share their own experience with mental health conditions by submitting their stories on their website.

The campaign also builds connection and increases awareness through digital tools, such as social media platforms, online support groups and the NAMI COVID-19 Information and Resource Guide, which is available in both English and Spanish. These resources make connection and community possible despite the current global pandemic.

 

‘Especially during this time of isolation, uncertainty and tragedy, it is vital that no one feels alone in their mental health journey,’ said Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI. 

‘The COVID-19 crisis not only shines a spotlight on our need for social connectedness, but also our need for real mental health resources. This Mental Health Month, NAMI is raising awareness to change our fragmented mental health system into one that serves everyone, so people can get the care they need.’

NAMI have seen an increase in service demand and are also calling for donations to be made to their website to ensure their work can be continued.

  

For the NAMI COVID-19 Information and Resources Guide (in English and in Spanish), please visit NAMI.org/covid-19. For You Are Not Alone resources, please visit NAMI.org/MentalHealthMonth.

By Ellen Jones

  

Categories
Equality

Bi.org is still providing resources to its community through the pandemic

Bi.org is working to ensure that bisexual people feel supported throughout the pandemic, from wherever they might be. Established in 1996 as bisexual.org, bi.org began initially with a simple goal:  letting bisexual people know that they were not alone. 

At that time, there were very few community resources and those that did exist were hard to find, highly sexualised, or catered to niche audiences. Since those early years they  have grown into a huge global community, one which now is being impacted by the international pandemic. 

Talia Squires, Editor in Chief – tells us that ‘our organisation does all of its work online, so I initially thought that it wouldn’t really change much, but as this goes on I’ve been surprised to find that things are different. We have renewed our emphasis on community, we have a lively online community and I’ve been trying to find ways to connect more with them. I did my first facebook live video and will be starting a newsletter in June. I’m just looking for more ways to communicate with our community and let them know that we are all connected and all in this together.’

With Pride month on the horizon and events across the world cancelled, the  organisation have also had to rethink their strategy. Usually, bi.org would be preparing for pride month, collecting articles on having the best pride month ever, talking to folks about their plans and encouraging people to go to their local parades. Obviously, this is no longer possible and so the organisation has had to change tact, working on alternative ways to celebrate Pride which will be announced soon.

Like many organisations, bi.org is also facing the economic impact of the pandemic and have been forced to make budget cuts. Talia tells us that ‘Bi.org is still going strong, but we are reducing our publishing schedule and have had to postpone some of our projects. We were working on launching a Spanish language version of the website later this year. It’s still in the works, but has been pushed until next year. I’m really excited about reaching out to more of our community.’ 

Talia emphasises: ‘Whether you’re just starting to explore your sexuality, or your child just came out to you, or you’re an educator who’s trying to be better informed, we are here for you.’

They are welcoming donations on their website, where you can also sign up for their newsletter. 

By Ellen Jones

Categories
Wellbeing

MHFA England is providing mental health training during the pandemic

At a time when mental health awareness and knowledge is more important than ever, Mental Health First Aid England are adapting their approach to ensure people are supported through the pandemic.  

 

Evidence from the Mental Health Foundation and LinkedIn research shows an increase in poor mental health as a result of working from home, and the Office for National Statistics reported an enormous increase in reported anxiety since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

 

MHFA England is a social enterprise with a vision to improve the mental health of the nation through training 1:10 of the adult population in mental health skills and awareness. Most of this training takes place face to face, which now can’t happen in the pandemic with social distancing measures in place and has resulted in the organisation having to shift their approach. Individuals or organisations can sign up for online training courses which vary in their depth and information, from being ‘Mental Health Aware’ to being a trained Mental Health First Aider. There is also a course specifically designed for managers supporting their workers at this time. 

 

Simon Blake, the Chief Executive of MHFA tells us that ‘the core focus of our work these last few weeks has been ensuring as many of our courses can be delivered online and in a virtual classroom. My team has been nothing short of outstanding – determined, creative and absolutely focused.’ 

 

Simon tells us that MHFA England have seen an increase in demand for their services as organisations realise the importance of mental wellbeing now more than ever. They have contributed to a larger than normal number of blogs, webinars, podcasts and that the pandemic has provided ‘an important opportunity to share knowledge about wellbeing, mental health and self-care whilst working at home/through the pandemic.’

 

Mental Health First Aiders, trained by the social enterprise, are helping to support people experiencing mental health difficulties right now. 

 

Simon explains how the importance of Mental Health First Aiders will continue after the pandemic: ‘We know that worry and uncertainty about health, jobs and finances, increases in domestic abuse, experiencing violence at home, bereavement, the pressures of continuing frontline work and many other things will continue to have a profound effect on the mental health of the nation way beyond the time we find a vaccine.’

 

MHFA England has also put together a variety of resources to support those they work with and have some recommendations as to what might help. Simon encourages people to look after themselves, to look after their mental wellbeing and practice self care and notes that MHFA England have some helpful resources for those working from home. He also notes that it is imperative that people look out for their friends, family and communities and to check in with them regularly. 

 

Mental Health First Aiders can consider how they might use their skills to help their communities and advice and guidance on how to do this can be found here. For those who are not yet trained but who are interested in learning more about it, you can find more here. You can also keep up to date with the latest news by following MHFA England on Twitter and Instagram.

 

By Ellen Jones

Categories
Culture Wellbeing

This charity started with a story. Now it’s a global movement.

To Write Love On Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to finding hope and help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. They do this through a combination of encouraging, inspiring and investing directly into treatment and recovery

Their founder, Jamie Tworkoswki, never intended to start a non-profit but instead wanted to help his friend tell her story. When Jamie met Renee Yohe, she was struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. He wrote about the five days he spent with her before she entered a treatment center, and he sold T-shirts to help cover the cost. When she entered treatment, he posted the story on MySpace to give it a home. The name of the story was “To Write Love on Her Arms.”

For Mental Health Month, Desert Dreamer have teamed up with the Smiley Company to release a limited edition ‘Peace of Mind’ collection which opens the conversation about mental health. For the entire month of May, Desert Dreamer will be donating 10% of net sales to TWLOHA. 

Since the organization’s start in 2006, they have invested $2.5 million directly into treatment and recovery for individuals who otherwise would be unable to afford the professional help they need. Last year alone, TWLOHA sponsored more than 2,600 counseling sessions and is aiming to cover the costs of even more this year. 

Across social media platforms, the organisation reaches over 8 million people worldwide, spreading their message of hope. They have been able to platform over 1,200 stories of mental health and healing on their blog and the To Write Love on Her Arms Podcast has created a new way to hold space for these conversations about mental health. 

In September of 2018, TWLOHA launched the FIND HELP Tool which connects people to free and reduced-cost mental health services in every zip code in the U.S. Since the launch, they have seen 60,000 program searches. For every four searches, someone will take the next step to make an appointment for a counseling session, attend a support group, or reach out to a helpline. They hope to be able to continuously expand their resources, including their International Resources, in order to get people connected to mental health services all over the world.  

Since 2006, they have traveled 3,952,590 miles bringing the message of hope and help to festivals, colleges, and community events. We meet more than 1 million people face to face with this life-saving conversation at the 100+ events we do every year. 

Amber Gardner, Director of Partnerships for TWLOHA, tells us that ‘while the work we do is always important, it feels extra necessary right now.’

The pandemic has resulted in increased levels of anxiety even amongst those who have good mental wellbeing, as causing loneliness and also reducing the number of coping mechanisms people have access to. ‘As we look ahead to what a post-pandemic world looks like, we’ve questioned what’s important to share, remind, instill, or revisit. We know that now more than ever, there is a need for messages of hope, and a space for real conversations about mental health.’

‘Times of crisis—whether personal or global—make for a rather difficult terrain to navigate. But what they do present us with is a chance to lean hard into deep truths—an opportunity to reflect on what is non-negotiable and undebatable during unexpected shifts.’

A spokesperson for Desert Dreamer said ‘We hope our donation to TWLOHA will aid the charity in reaching more people to normalize the topic of mental health and encourage people of all ages and situations to reach out for help and to help others. 

‘We are by no means experts on the topic, not even close, but if you’re struggling there are so many resources available to help you. TWLOHA is a great place to start. You matter.’

Throughout Mental Health Month, across social media channels TWLOHA will be delivering exciting and informative mental health content which you can find on their TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. They will also be exploring different types of mental health challenges every week on their blog and premiering mini-episodes on the TWLOHA podcast inspired by this year’s Black and White statements*. 

To find out how to access their resources and give your support through donations, visit the TWLOHA website.

By Ellen Jones

Categories
Equality

The Massachusetts UndocuFund supports undocumented children, families and communities affected by the pandemic

The Massachusetts UndocuFund for Covid-19 Relief has been founded as a direct response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Launhed by a coalition of immigrant service providers the fund works to support undocumented children, families and communities affected by the pandemic to recover and rebuild. 

In March 2020, the Massachusetts UndocuFund Massachusetts was launched by three leading immigrants service providers and advocates.  Massachusetts Jobs with Justice is a coalition of community, faith, and labor groups in Massachusetts organising working people to advocate for their rights, whilst the Mata Hari Women’s Workers Center supports women of colour and immigrant women. These organisations, alongside ONE FAIR WAGE – the campaign for creating policy and driving change to ensure all workers in America are paid the full minimum wage rather than relying on tips for income – form the founding organisations behind the fund. 

Supporting undocumented people is more important than ever before. 

Undocumented immigrants who are residents of Massachusetts and heads of household who have experienced loss of housing, vehicles, other possessions, wages, and/or jobs due to the pandemic will be eligible for a grant of around $300. 

In Massachusetts, there are an estimated 250,000 undocumented workers, who primarily work in the sectors most impacted by the pandemic such as hospitality, child and elder, day labour and agriculture. There are approximately 64,821 service workers are immigrants in Massachusetts. Across the state, there are around 41,000 undocumented immigrants who have at least one child living with them.  

Immigrants Rights organiser Yessenia Prodero tells us that ‘‘In the US, at least, undocumented immigrants don’t have  a safety net, though they still pay taxes. They’re not eligible to receive things like unemployment benefits or a pension. We are trying to provide some sort of relief to people that have very limited resources as is’ 

In Massachusetts, undocumented immigrants contribute about $184.6 million in state and local taxes (in addition to federal taxes), but as undocumented immigrants do not qualify for federal assistance, they and their families are placed at great risk. Even when there are services or resources which they are eligible for, their lack of immigration status, limited proficiency in English and fear of immigration enforcement stops them from accessing help, particularly when that comes from mainstream aid organisations, county government or organisations associated with law enforcement.

The fund urgently needs donations and awareness about the plight of undocumented immigrants during the pandemic. They also need volunteers and accepting applications here.

By Ellen Jones