Thursday, 21 May 2015

‘My green ribbon shows I am up for a conversation about mental health’

Today I gave myself a pep talk. I sat in a room by myself and I talked, out loud, to me!  Things I had been fretting about were causing doubts within me about how strong I really was, not just physically, but mentally too.

I'm not going to relay what I told myself here, but I would like to tell you about one of the most important parts: my big, red cape with purple splotches.

Georgie Cantwell (second from left) pictured with other IGG Leaders
from Douglas who did the Darkness Into Light walk in aid of Pieta House
My name is Georgie, I am 21 and I am a Leader of Douglas Guides and Senior Branch in Cork. I wear a necker, like all of you, but on mine I have a green ribbon. You may have noticed one falling out of your May/June Trefoil News.

This green ribbon is not a label identifying me as someone with a mental illness. It is a green ribbon to show that I am up for a conversation. It is a green ribbon to let those around me know that it is OK to talk about mental health with me; no judgment. It is a green ribbon signalling the fight against stigma.

On my wrist, I wear an orange bracelet. I wear it every day and, like the green ribbon on my necker, I do not wear it as a message to you that I deal with mental health issues. I wear the orange bracelet to remind myself, and everyone who sees it, that it is OK not to feel OK and that it is ABSOLUTELY OK to ask for help.

The Green Ribbon campaign and the Cycle Against Suicide are just two of a plethora of mental health organisations and movements and, as the largest female-only organisation in this country, I think it is vital we share the message amongst each other and with our girls. We need to encourage conversations and reduce the stigma within our units. It is one small step that can make the world of difference.

I give myself pep talks where I speak to myself in the third person, as if it were another Girl Guide I was talking to. And I have a big, invisible, red cape with purple splotches on it. That cape is MY cape and with it I am a super hero. I am a super Leader with super strength and super courage. It combats my anxieties and helps me fly even when I'm down.

But YOURS can be different. You can be your very own superhero, and you can have any cape you like: an orange one, a rainbow-coloured one, one with a picture of Leonardo Di Caprio’s face printed on the back.

You can give yourself pep talks, although, my mother did advise me earlier that it would be best not to do it in the shops .... I won't lie: you would probably get a couple of looks.

There really are a million, billion ways to look after your mental health and what works for me may not work for you. The cape might be a little too silly, and the pep talks a little bit too weird. And that's OK!

Personally, I also find creativity helps me. Every day, I take a photo with a set theme. Sometimes it does my head in, but it keeps me motivated. And at the end of every day I can pat myself on the back (which is another thing I do quite a lot; patting myself on the back for even the smallest little thing. I did it today after cleaning the bathrooms for example) for sticking with it and, best of all, I have a lovely photo to show for my day.

It's all a step-by-step process; minding ourselves and supporting each other. But with those little steps and a little determination, as a unified organisation we can help reduce that stigma and promote conversations and positive mental health.

~ Georgina says of the photo she took of two glasses: "This is a recreation of something I saw on Pinterest. I just fell in love with the concept of 'Point of view'. Everything is as you choose to see it. Like the age old 'glass half full or glass half empty?, some prefer to look at it more positively than others. But in the photo, even though the glass on the right does not have any water in it and appears to be empty, you could view it another way and realise that it's full of air. Nothing is ever as empty as it first seems."

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