Mental health. I am not qualified to speak about this topic, but I do feel that it is a conversation we must all have. First and foremost, it should be a conversation we have with ourselves and how to be kind(er) to ourselves. As lock down easies and the pace of life accelerates, will we remember to facilitate moments in which we can breath a little deeper ? Whether we acknowledge it or not, the likelihood is that we all know someone who is struggling with various aspects of being human. Most of the time, we find ways to function through the fractures; nurture positive habits, guard our focus. But sometimes, this struggle to be human manifests in deep, heartbreaking ways, like the most recent passing of Nikki Grahame ; someone Davina McCall quoted as being “the funniest, most bubbly sweetest girl."
Sometimes, the struggle to be human is very well hidden. In the last year, I’ve had more than one conversation and done my best to reassuringly hold their gaze as they got lost in thought, relaying to me the confusion of hearing about how their friend’s son/father/daughter suddenly took their own life, leaving people they were connected to dissecting the last known time they interacted with them, mentally mining for red flags, clues from that last argument they had…that last Facebook post they made…that last not-quite-there smile they gave.
I have also found myself in conversation with friends who have reflected on how this lock down transition is impacting them mentally ; some have found ways to find spaces to breath deeply through these concerns, thoughts, anxieties. To function through the fractures. To practise self kindness when they don’t quite get it right. In one conversation my sister and I were walking along a beach and noted several cruise ships sat in captivity doted across the horizon ; almost ghost like in their posture. They had been there for the entire year. We tried to imagine the economic and social impact this would have on the communities that lived and worked on those cruise ships. The trickle down effect this would have. Then we moved onto other industries…. I jokingly wondered if the entire country might in fact experience a sort of collective post lockdown traumatic stress from this past year. From all the jobs lost. Opportunities missed. Sacrifices made. Lives lost. Thankfully, before we got to the ‘here, breathe into this brown paper bag’ stage of the conversation, my small human pulled us both out of our escalating spiral and demanded that we create hand prints in the sand.
Within this culture, mental health is a sometimes uncomfortable conversation that we don’t lean into enough, and as an organisation, we aim to do two things ; celebrate the city (mainly outworked though the Inspirational Women Of Portsmouth project ) and collaborate with creatives to lean into difficult conversations. I am grateful for Joe Hill and Gavin Mann ; film makers and absolute gifts to my creative energy who started a conversation with me over a year ago on how we can creatively lean into this issue. I have just spent the day with them filming our third and final film exploring individual stories around mental health. Claire, who very kindly volunteered her time to be part of the project is an incredible human being. A warrior. An overcomer. I can normally sit really still when engaging in conversation, and in so doing demonstrate to the person that I am fully present, fully engaged and honouring their story. There is so much of Claire’s story that resonated with me and left me in awe of her, especially as a mother that I found myself immersed in her story. Several times during filming, I realised my hands were struggling to contain this immersion and choreographing their own overwhelmed dance. I would have to consciously uncurl my fists and direct them to my laps in an attempt at stillness. I had conversations with my fingers and teeth about how chewing on my nails was not the most reassuring gesture to convey. I came away from the filming both depleted and exhilarated by her overcoming spirit, determined to celebrate that spirit in some way. Should I write this blog right now ? Or go for a run (don’t be impressed. That translates as move in the general direction of a quick-walk-aspiring-to-be-a-jog). Or glass of wine ? Run with a flask of wine ? No. Too messy. So I spent the first half hour treading a pathway to three obscure geographic points ; inspect the top left hand drawer in the hallway, check the bookshelf for that book I’ve been trying to find…..go back to the desk and frown at the laptop. I absently put the kettle on for a coffee five times.
So we’re going to share our films next month, and I hope for some of you at least, you have your own moment of being immersed in one of our participants brave story, and it will be a story that resonates with you but also leaves you with hope in overcoming. Because your mental health matters.
Lead Author : Kelly Marie Baker
Kelly-Marie is a tree loving, free spirited mum of two. Based in Southsea, she leads her family on a Home Education journey, learning from life and the world around them. Over the years her creative soul has been fed with the likes of poetry, dance, choreography and, more recently, writing. Her writing is predominantly focused on personal growth and development with a special interest in using the platform to challenge social norms and provoke deep thought. Kelly believes that The Arts are an immensely important tool to communicate complex and delicate issues and is proud to be collaborating with Pamodzi Creatives. Kelly’s favourites are nature, travel, personal development and coffee…all the coffee!