My name is Phoebe, I’m a creative who lives in London. I was an actress who decided to move behind the camera and I wrote and directed my first movie last year; I’m currently just finishing up another script for my next film.
As a creative, I love to be busy and this isn’t always possible when you’re self-employed, so a few years ago I started modelling on the side which led to me becoming a kind of influencer. Also, a big part of my life has always been volunteering for wonderful charities like PAPYRUS, Make a Wish Foundation, and Crisis at Christmas.
What led me to PAPYRUS: I have always dealt with extreme emotions, which led to severe anxiety and depression. When I was younger it was difficult to express how I felt, I thought I didn’t have anyone to turn to. My family had no experience with mental health issues, so I felt they didn’t understand. No matter how much they tried to help I couldn’t express myself and I alienated myself, not showing the turmoil I was experiencing. I felt like I was alone in my struggle with my inner demons.
In my teen years, I was self-harming and having panic attacks often… but I was accused of attention-seeking whenever I cried for help at school.
We may have taken strides forward in suicide awareness since I was in school, but there is so much more we need to do. With the impact of social media, it’s even more imperative that the way we are taught about mental health is revamped to help the crisis we are in.
The best thing you can do for someone who is having thoughts of suicide is to listen to how they are feeling and be there for them. I want to make sure that people know how normal it is to feel this way, to know that there are always people who will listen and they will never be alone. I acted on my own thoughts of suicide not long after having lost someone to suicide, I was at rock bottom, but the love and support from my family kept me going. Once I learned how to talk to them and express my emotions I felt a huge difference – therapy was a huge part of this.
I decided I wanted to do something with my experiences, to turn them into something positive. I started volunteering here and there at some wonderful mental health charities, but I was desperate to find something related specifically to suicide, working to change the stigma and especially helping young people in need. I found PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide and began fundraising for them with various runs and bucket collections. I reached out to them and expressed my interest in volunteering more hands-on. This was the best decision of my life.
I did training supplied by PAPYRUS called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and eventually became a PAPYRUS ‘champion’ which entailed learning a talk specifically designed for places of work, schools, and universities – which enables more people to learn about suicide prevention.
I began attending events engaging with young people at universities and colleges promoting PAPYRUS – this was amazing to do because I met so many wonderful people interested in volunteering for PAPYRUS, as well as helping those in need of someone to talk to or worried about someone else.
I’ve been writing blogs and taking part in panels on behalf of PAPYRUS, for example, on the last two world mental health days, with Thrive London; and I’ve featured in PAPYRUS’s Annual Review.
It is these experiences of being a volunteer and using my own personal experiences to help others, that makes me so pleased to be named as a PAPYRUS Ambassador.
Now as an Ambassador I will work with PAPYRUS to extend its reach, to come up with creative initiatives to reduce mental health stigma, to share the PAPYRUS story, and hopefully create a safer environment online and in real life for young people.
I can honestly say one of the main reasons my mental health has stayed stable is due to the work I have done and continue to do with PAPYRUS, I still have low days and even weeks sometimes, but this is part of life and I’ve figured out tools which help me as an individual. But since volunteering with PAPYRUS – talking to people about their mental health and finding out I wasn’t alone in the feelings of depression, anxiety and thinking I’m crazy – I realised I had nothing to be ashamed of, I’m not alone and neither is anyone else who feels like that.
Having an incredible plethora of emotions is a gift which many of us are blessed with.
I cannot recommend enough to anyone who has dealt with any of the feelings I described to start volunteering with PAPYRUS, there is no better feeling than helping someone else; whether it’s raising money for PAPYRUS’s suicide prevention helpline, HOPELINEUK, by doing a bake sale or a charity run; putting up posters around your local area, or something else – any of these things might help save a life.