Pride at Recovery Focus

“No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us” – Micah Bazant

Katie Howlen, HR Shared Services Coordinator in People & Organisation Development, gives a short history on the background of Pride month and why it is still important today.

June marks Pride Month, usually, a cause for celebration but circumstances feel very different this year. Pride month is a joyous month where people come together to celebrate the amazing achievements of the LGBTQ+ community, raise political awareness of current issues, and show unity and solidarity.

The Covid-19 pandemic already meant that Pride this year was going to feel different. Now even more so as the Black Lives Matter movement sees people globally taking action to protest racial inequality.  While it may be hard to feel the same sense of joy and unity while so many are in pain it is important to remember that the gay rights movements started with protests led by black members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pride has been an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York with the first UK Pride Rally in London 1972. The Stonewall uprising took place in the wider context of the civil rights movement. After a decade of raids, arrests, police brutality and oppression faced by the LGBTQ+ community, the Stonewall raid was the catalyst for riots and protests. Led by black trans women, drag queens, gay men & women as a collective these protests and riots lasted several days and marked the start of the gay rights movement we know today. Courageous individuals such as Marsh P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin- Gracey lead the fight against brutality and injustice towards the gay community in America which then spread globally.

Although this Pride month may not be what we usually know it is still so important to celebrate the achievements that have been made over the past decades and are being made right now. We should use the current climate to provide context and steer for the work that still needs to be done.

So this Pride I am happy that our organisation shows unity with and celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and is committing to that work ahead. However, it is imperative that as a national charity, we maintain this support all year round and not just for Pride month. We must ensure that all voices within the LGBTQ+ community are heard especially those who may be less visible and marginalised. As a national charity with equality and inclusion at the heart of what we do we should and must ensure all our employees are heard, and that they can challenge and provide input into how we can make our organisation more inclusive and diverse. With the Black Lives Matter movement taking place globally, there is an opportunity to address inequality and create a society better for everyone. It’s been over 50 years since the Stonewall Riots. Now more than ever we must all come together and push to create changes that will continue to shape a better future for all!

Now more than ever we must all come together and push to create changes that will continue to shape a better future for all!

Aimee’s story – blog for Time to Talk Day

On Time to Talk Day, Aimee Wilson, who uses Richmond Fellowship’s services in Northumberland shares her own experiences of talking about mental health and reiterates why it’s so important.

“Talking about mental health is becoming less and less taboo and it’s partly thanks to days like Time to Talk Day! Ten years ago, when I began experiencing auditory hallucinations, mental health was a subject greeted with hushed voices and spiteful gossip. From my personal experience, being diagnosed with a mental health disorder in 2009 came with a million negative connotations and assumptions that left the person feeling isolated and hopeless; believing that because no one else was talking about mental health, they were alone in their experiences.

I spent almost two weeks hearing voices before I finally told a professional and when I did; it was a result of an act of desperation and panic following my first suicide attempt and admission to a psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health Act.

No one could comprehend why I felt suicidal, so it was with great struggle that I fought my doubts and fears and confided in a nurse one night in the ward communal sitting room. This was a relief, but I was still so afraid of judgement and being misunderstood that even after speaking out I struggled to continue the momentum into the following day when the psychiatrist came rushing into my hospital room talking about psychosis and medications. However, once the medication started to take effect, I was able to see how talking about my mental health enabled the staff to be better placed to help and support me.

This thought was encouraging; it filled me with a sense of hope that if I opened up more, then maybe I could get better. It was this reason that motivated me to continue to be honest about my mental health; I told professionals when I’d self-harmed, I spoke about my trauma and my hallucinations, and I talked about any overwhelming emotions that influenced my behaviours.

In fact it was this openness and honesty that inspired me to begin my blog: ‘I’m NOT Disordered’ four years after I was first hospitalised. Over the past six years, my blog has been praised and commended for its honesty, having instilled hope and confidence in its readers. The feedback from my readers has been that by sharing my own experiences of hallucinations and explaining how overwhelming my emotions were, others have gained a better understanding of how they can support those they love and care for, who are having similar experiences.

Similarly, speaking out about my trauma and the impact it has had on me via my blog, has inspired my readers who’ve also experienced trauma to seek help and support. For example, one of the greatest messages I’ve received was from a reader who had experienced a trauma over 30 years ago. After reading my blog post about finding the strength to report my trauma, this person made the decision to report their own trauma. The realisation that my words and experiences had had such a significant impact on someone’s life was overwhelming, but it only spurred me on to write more. I continued to write about my self-harm and suicide attempts aiming to reassure others that they weren’t going through similar experiences alone.

Ultimately, it is these things that make mental health such a worthwhile and potentially life-saving topic of conversation. One that should be on everyone’s lips.”