As the Mental Wealth Festival comes to an end, we reflect on some of the important things we’ve taken away from being a part of this years festival.
1. A supportive environment means you can be yourself, without judgement.
One of the most important things about this event is that, as a Mental Wealth focused festival, important conversations are often free-flowing among the many festival goers – noticeably, this is often already happening as people come through the doors. City Lit (and the incredible team behind the festival) do a great job at providing an open, safe and comforting space for those visiting – people just want to talk to each other, even if they seem anxious initially. For someone like myself who spends copious amounts of time hidden away, ruled by my own anxiety, I am more convinced than ever that supportive environments such as these are key to making us feel at ease enough to be ourselves.
2. Starting conversations about Mental Health is important but making them last is what makes the difference
The topics and conversations started by seminars and talks at the mental wealth festival often have such a profound and lasting affect on us that we feel compelled to continue talking about the injustices or lessons we may have learned. Its a great place to hear so many varying perspectives, as you are often sitting in talks with such a diverse mix of people. From psychiatrists to service users, there is something truly inspiring about listening to the many different sides of mental health, and you’ll always find a side that you can relate to. Sometimes, its quite comforting to hear a psychiatrist or psychotherapist say how dreadful the waiting times are for people in need of therapy. Sometimes, you’ll be outraged by those who have little to no understanding of the real crisis we find ourselves in with mental health services. The important thing is that you are getting a wealth of knowledge, perspectives, ideas and opinions from people so different to yourself that you really do start to see a much bigger picture and this, for me, is really important.
3. Realising you are not alone
Most of the work we do at Mental Movement Mag along with many other awareness campaigns, charities and start-ups, is focused on communicating to our audience that they are not alone. Sometimes, that’s not always so easy to take in, especially when you’ve been unwell several times and each time feel as if no one truly gets what its like to be ‘you’. When you are surrounded by people who have had similar experiences or have worked with people who do, it’s a lot easier to grasp that notion of not being so alone. It means, when you start to talk about your own story, people instantly want to listen, share advice or what they have found helpful. This creates memories and positive associations. If you attended this years event, I find it helpful to write down key points or conversations had with certain people that made you feel better. Put these away in your crisis box, recovery pack or special place you call upon when you feel yourself getting stuck in negative patterns. Bring them out and recall the important, uplifting and inspiring conversations you had and take yourself back to those moments. It may help you to feel less alone when you remember how many people you’ve spoken with experience the exact same things as you.
4. There are some truly inspiring people out there
You will see from the extensive list of talks and events that The Mental Wealth festival offers some really incredible opportunities to learn more about our mental wellbeing. For us, it’s great that Bryony Gordon wants to talk about her own experiences and incredible work or that other high profile people/celebrities give their time to discuss really important topics. But for us, the real stars of the show are those who dedicate their lives through their work, passion and commitment to improving mental health care/self care. They may not be on your TV, radio station or have the biggest followings on social media – but this does not mean what they have to offer is any less than those who have celebrity status’. Oftentimes, I am left more in awe of these people than those who host events that sell out in 5 minutes. If you are thinking about going to next years show, make sure you take time out to book talks with those who should be “famous” in their own fields. Be truly inspired by these people who are absolutely incredible and a credit to the festival in more ways than they may ever be aware of.
5. Don’t be afraid to talk to the stranger next to you
Probably one of the hardest things for people to do at the best of times, and I certainly struggle with this. But, if you can muster up the courage to chat after a talk, ask a question in a seminar or network your way around the cafe area, then do! Some of the most fascinating encounters I’ve had at The Mental Wealth festival have been by chance, in the toilets, corridors or just outside. Take advantage of these moments and just talk. It’s incredible when you do and realise quite how vast the network of people in attendance is. People travel from all over the country to come to this event and I’ll even go as far as saying life-long connections, friendships and associates can be made. Great things happen outside of our comfort zones. Challenge yourself. Meet people and get connected!
6. Take breaks between seminars
As tempting as it is to jam pack your day or fit everything in to one afternoon – don’t do it to yourself. It’s actually incredibly exhausting to listen to people all day, take things in and continue to overload your mind with information. If you can, attend both days and take breaks in between. Just because you don’t want to miss anything, doesn’t mean your own self-care has to take a back seat. You’ll end up burning out too early and struggling to concentrate in talks that are more important to you. There are so many things going on that it’s worth taking time out to properly plan your visit. Mix the talks up with some interactive browsing or a pre-booked massage taster. Take a moment for yourself to sit in the cafe downstairs and read a book that isn’t related to anything mental health. Breathe. If you find you are a little overwhelmed by subject matters or perhaps a little triggered by something, the student centre is a lovely airy, breathable and relaxed space to take a bit of time out.
7. Keep talking when the event ends
No doubt you’ll leave the festival with tonnes of new information, connections and ideas on how you can be a part of raising awareness in your own way. But just because the festival is over, it doesn’t mean you have to stop. Go over the connections you made and tweet them, Instagram them, find their websites and learn more about them. Try and keep a conversation going until the next festival. Perhaps there are ways you can get involved with some of the people you’ve met? Collaborations can open many doors as can developing new skills. City Lit run extensive courses throughout the year that can help you to develop and grow in many ways. Not only are they affordable, they are current and engaging. From courses in the field of mental health and wellbeing to dance, tai chi and podcasting. Why not start learning a new language? Sign language? or take a short course in web development or design? City Lit is a fabulous Adult Education College, with so much to offer, to find out more about what the winter has in store for your learning, you can find their Autumn course guide here.
To find out more about the festival and keep updated for next years event, please click here.
For now, we will leave you with one of the loveliest ladies we met over the two days. You may know her as the young woman who politely asked popular high street stores and brands to re-consider their offensive mental health slogan tee’s. You can read Phil’s story here. Other than being another great human – she’s a great vlogger. Engaging, natural and informative. Check her vlog out below covering this years festival and subscribe to her channel!