Fresh thinkers who are shattering the stigma 
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Fresh thinkers who are shattering the stigma 

Mathilde Frot finds out what some members of the community are doing to help others in difficult circumstances 

A card produced by Abigail Schischa as part of the Corona Cards project
A card produced by Abigail Schischa as part of the Corona Cards project

Young people are at the forefront of attempting to break remaining silence surrounding mental health issues.

Here we profile four mental health activists doing their bit to shatter the stigma.

Joshua Harris and Gabi Mendelsohn

Young Jami’s two committee co-chairs

Joshua Harris, 25, and Gabi Mendelsohn, 23, both from Barnet, seek to raise awareness of mental health issues and money for Jami.

Gabi, who is an analyst at Deloitte, got involved with the mental health charity in her second year at the University of Leeds, as chair of its JSoc ball committee.“Unfortunately, somebody close to my family passed away from suicide and so we were looking for a mental health charity and found Jami and began a relationship with them,” she says.

Meanwhile, Josh, who works in the civil service, hopes to break the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly among young adults and men. While there has been a “positive shift” in recent years, he notes, the issue remains “a bit of a taboo subject, and one that we need to break some of the stigma around and encourage positive and open conversations about”.

The committee, which has moved some of its events online during the pandemic, is now regularly uploading inspiring videos, challenges and pictures to its Instagram account, @youngjamiuk, including video sessions with fitness and yoga instructors.

2. Emma Levinson

Emma Levinson

Emma Levinson, 36, co-founded the monthly non-therapeutic peer support group Cake Before Therapy Café with a friend as part of her own mental health journey.

Emma, who previously worked as an accessory designer, left her career in fashion about six years ago. “I had a massive breakdown and was in and out of hospital and wasn’t able to do anything in that period,” she explains. “Fashion wasn’t for me, and my experience being in hospitals really showed my passion for helping people.”

Emma, who then trained as a counsellor, co-founded the pop up café with her friend Sophie Alston. “We met every week for tea and cake in different places around London, and we realised this peer support that we were getting from each other was something we wanted to offer and would benefit so many others,” she says.

Cake Before Therapy Café was recently moved online during the pandemic.

3. Abbie Mitchell

Abbie Mitchell

Mental health advocate Abbie Mitchell is the co-host of a new podcast series dedicated to young adults aged 18 to 35 who lost a loved one during their childhood or teenage years.

The five-episode series, entitled Living With Loss, launched with the charity Let’s Talk About Loss to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, aims to offer “hope, comfort and empathy” to listeners and remove the stigma around bereavement through the insight and recollections of Abbie, 30, from north London, and her co host Beth French, who both lost their mothers.

“I lost my mum when I was 14 so mental health has always been a part of my life, finding out more about what that meant and having my own struggles, and that’s why I do what I do,” Abbie explains. “We’re saying it’s okay to talk about these things … and that yes, of course it’s sad, but there’s a lot of humour in it. People need to still be able to share their fun, happy memories.”

You can listen to the Living With Loss podcast series on www.abbiesmind.com or Spotify.

4. Eleanor Segall

Eleanor Segall

Mental health blogger and author Eleanor Segall, 31, from Edgware, is part of a team of five campaigners – most of them Jewish – posting for free brightly-coloured cards bearing uplifting slogans and the Samaritans’ helpline number (116 123) to online users struggling during the pandemic.

The team, comprising Eleanor, Donna Davidson, Abigail Schischa, Emma Dorman and Becky Johnson, have also been sending cards to Jewish nursing homes in Manchester as part of the project. “I’ve had a lot of messages from people saying ‘I’m feeling really depressed and suicidal, can you send me a card because I’m not speaking to anybody’,” says Eleanor, who is also the author of Bring Me To Light: Embracing My Bipolar and Social Anxiety, a book detailing her experiences living with bipolar disorder, published last year.

To find out more about the Corona Cards project, you can follow @corona_cards on Twitter and @coronacards1 on Instagram.

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