Kew resident, parent and lifestyle blogger Susie Weaver has raised £12,000 for the mental health charity YoungMinds, selling over a thousand T-shirts bearing the slogan “It’s OK to feel S.H.I.T.”.  Here she talks about her campaign and a cause which has felt even more important as young people struggle with the challenges of lockdown.

 

Lockdown is an unsettling time for us all, with everyone’s mental health being affected in some way. Our daily routines have been put on hold, and with no interaction with our friends, family and colleagues, our mental health is one of the first things to suffer.

Last year, long before any of us had even heard of Covid-19, I launched my first campaign to raise awareness of young people’s mental health and to raise money for YoungMinds, the UK’s leading mental health charity for the under 25s.

Mental health is something I feel passionately about after depression and anxiety first hit me in my early twenties. Back then, in the 90’s, the stigma surrounding mental health was still huge – in fact nobody had ever talked to me about it before. Sadly, anyone who struggled with anything like that was branded ‘weird’ and a bit of a loser. I was even guilty of thinking that way myself, and felt ashamed that I obviously couldn’t cope as well as the rest of my peers seemed to be able to. And so, like so many others, I masked my struggles because I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone and it was an incredibly lonely and dark place to be in.

More recently through my work as a teacher and as a parent myself, I’ve seen how many young people are sadly struggling with mental health issues, and I know from experience how hard it is to find support. Unfortunately, the stigma is still very much there and so many youngsters are suffering in silence for fear of being judged and ostracised by their peer group.

I felt I really had to do something to help raise awareness among young people that mental health is something that we all have, just like physical health. It’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about if you’re struggling, and it’s really good to talk about it.

And so the T-shirts were born, with the slogan ‘It’s ok to feel S.H.I.T’ – a play on my lifestyle blog, So Happy In Town. The message has had a big impact, by opening up conversations between youngsters and their parents and peers about mental health – the power of a naughty word!

That first campaign raised £7,000.  Just as importantly, I could see that it was doing a lot to raise awareness, so I decided to launch another one at the beginning of this year. Little did I know then how even more important mental health awareness would become with the effects of lockdown on all of us.  Unsurprisingly, YoungMinds are being contacted by more young people than ever right now. Many children and teens are feeling confused and displaced without the familiarity of their everyday lives. Many see school as their safe place, and without the contact with their friends and teachers they are totally lost.

Local rugby legend, Jason Leonard, has supported both campaigns as well as England rugby players, Joe Marler, Ben Earl and Brad Shields, actresses Lucy Benjamin, Hayley Tamaddon and Nell McAndrew, BBC breakfast presenter Rachel Burden and Olympic athlete Jack Green.  We’ve been able to give YoungMinds £5,000 so far this year and hopefully we’ll be able to give them a lot more, as well as letting children, teens and young adults know that they are not alone, it’s ok to not be feeling ok and it’s really good to talk. Something which we all need to know right now.

S.H.I.T. T-shirts and tote bags can be found at www.sohappyintown.com/shop with 100% profit going to YoungMinds, who are committed to supporting every single young person who reaches out to them.