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Reflection on Mental Health and the Importance of Connections

Mental health awareness is hugely underrepresented. This blog either shares Britain’s history that sparks an interest for both Dave and, I or its about creatives that have gained my personal interest in one way or another and I’ve given them promotion in this space because I believe in the good they are doing—that they have broken through adversity (whatever and wherever that begun).

The bottom line is, wherever our paths lead us, whichever direction we choose—and it is a choice—its possible to make changes. Some of the stories I’ve shared show that however close to death we get, the consequences of survival mean there's a tough journey ahead before that survival means a worthwhile life again. Another harsh choice was for someone to live among the worst kind of folk inside a prison in order to come to terms with their own mind. This allowed them to move forward, to redeem their past and ultimately to break the cycle that would have meant returning to prison. This has given them opportunities to serve the community today, in their life going straight, to strive and to enjoy a crime free life. Adversity affects us differently and the healing process from it takes on differing forms. In order to fully understand each of these journeys, you would need to fully understand each person and their personal story, which I urge you to do.

My story is relatable to both these gents. Like the first, I was attacked but under different circumstances. I too could have died and now live with the consequences of having survived. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affected both of us, and I’m sure each of those journeys have differed—that just human nature. With regard to the second gent, who lived and had therapy with the worse the prison system could offer, I worked with similar individuals. I understand how difficult this process would have been for him, listening to them legitimise their actions—its horrific. I am talking of Darren Barden who survived a brutal knife attack in his home that he shares in his book, Let’s Skip to the Good Bits and of Terry Ellis whose book Living Amongst the Beasts conveys his time at Grendon Prison. Through our writing we have connected and shared our experiences of survival, mental health, adversity and triumph.

I’d not have met these two inspiring people had it not have been for my own adversity and fight for survival or my own journey into writing and publication. Nor would I have met singer and songwriter Levi Perry. Levi is, perhaps, the most inspiring lady with gutsy determination I’ve met. She too is a survivor and if I may quote a song title of hers, a ‘warrior’. I’ve blogged about her struggles but mainly about her rise towards success—which she is now enjoying. In Levi I’ve discovered a friend worth her weight in gold, one that carries me when my health declines and who I love for her generous heart.

I have some thanks to dish out, as its easy to gloss over those… so in general groups where I can, my family, Levi Perry, that fab group filled with folk like me with brain injuries, Stephen Rhoades Sheridan Thomas, London Crime, Bobbie Barker... thank you for checking up on me, making me laugh—keeping my head above water. You all rock—especially Levi who physically rocks it out!

I've one more post in this Mental Health series for October. I hope this one shows how connections can be made from different paths in life, how important those connections are and that mental health affects men and women alike. Take care and look after each other.

by Donna Siggers