Welcome to 2021’s editions of my column in local newspaper ‘The Coleraine Chronicle’ called ‘The Mind Matters’. I thought it would be a great idea to collect all entries in one space to share with those outside of the publication jurisdiction. Enjoy!

Entry 13

Hello Everyone! 

I am sure I am not only speaking to myself when I say that we haven’t exactly got the news we were hoping for in relation to the ongoing pandemic, I am aware than many people are feeling a sense of defeat and uncertainty for the future. As a part of ZGBTST’s commitment to the community, we wish to reiterate that we continue to work from all 3 of our premises 6 days a week with an active helpline open for those in need 24/7. You do not need to be suffering for an extended period of time or in a state of emergency to contact us. If all you need is a listening ear then we are here to provide that for you. 

The Telegraph recently declared the latest lockdown as a mental health emergency and highlighted the impact of lockdown on the nations minds which explored the fear and anxiety attached to growing restrictions, lack of face to face care and increase of social isolation. All of which can have a detrimental mental health effect on people from all walks of life, for how much longer will even those who are most steady, be able to cope with being caged? Of course, it is very important that we socially distance, wash our hands and wear our masks to save lives from Covid 19, but how many lives are we sacrificing in the process who are already suffering with mental health issues (which is hundreds of thousands across the UK). I am not saying we should drop restrictions as, to be honest, this would have an even worse effect, but I am expressing that the executive and wider governments need to take a look at the very real consequences that lack of support and appropriate funding is having on people.  

In other news the period between Christmas and New Year has been a strange one for my family for 4 years now, however I believe that many others felt the same through boredom, the inability to see their families and simply not being able to enjoy the festive period like they have before. ZGBTST was lucky enough to host our Alternative Xmas for the 4th year in a row, I was honestly worried that ZGBTST was stepping into a zone that we did not understand, and it was out of our lane. With 3 days to go we only had 2 people registered to receive our food packages however we were delighted that over the three-day period from 24th – 26th we had over 70 individuals benefit from our food packages which were filled with food and wellness products donated to ZGBTST by caring members of the local community. 

ZGBTST also received many donations from people which enabled us to remain stocked up on everything required for the packages. We received such a good response that it is definitely something we are going to be continuing in years to come!

Top Tip: 

At the beginning of every New Year, I sit down and look at the past 12 months and decide 3 things I wish for ZGBTST to achieve in the next 12 months. I have a simple rule for narrowing down my goals and that is that they must be within reach. I do not believe in the ‘New Year, New Me’ tagline as I think it sets an unachievable goal of changing yourself as a person, I think I am more likely to achieve reasonable goals in all areas of my life throughout an extended period of time. This year has been no different, on 31st December I sat down with my diary and gave myself 3 goals which I would like ZGBTST to achieve and we are only 2 weeks in and one of them is just around the corner already. 

Update: 

We have just launched our January – March online webinar timetable with a range of resilience workshops for both adults and children which are completely free of charge and a non-funded initiative! – to register just email our team at: zgbtst@gmail.com

My lines of communication are always open, you can find me at any of the links below at any time. 

& Always remember, 

                           You Matter 

                                                   Yasmin

Entry 14

Hello Everyone! 

I wish to use this month’s column to touch on the unfortunate events that have dawned on our community throughout the last few weeks. Again, more young people have fallen victim to their own mental health and although organisations work hard to maintain services and reach those in need, every time I see another person and their family suffer the life changing effects of suicide, I find it hard to come to terms with yet another loss. 

Where are we going wrong? 

What would have made this young person reach out to gain support in their time of need? 

4 years ago, I was in England completing some prospective graduate employment exams – I had just returned from London a couple of weeks prior from visiting Zachary in his university accommodation – and he had just made a quick visit home for valentines. Throughout our experiences with him, everything was never 100% ok, but by a long shot this wasn’t the most distressed we had been. Waking up on the 18th March 2017 and travelling home to receive the news he was no longer here is a feeling that is indescribable. I was numb, I couldn’t cry or think or speak – I couldn’t really do anything. 

Every time I hear of another young person who has suffered the same fate as my beautiful brother – that feeling returns, as if I am being told all over again. Some people may see my reaction and almost think its understated, but is the numbness, the confusion and the heartache that many do not see. 

4 years ago, I said goodbye to Zachary and gave him a hug for the last time. 4 years ago, Zachary never came home. It strangely feels as though it was a lifetime ago but also as if it was yesterday. 4 years later, young people close to us are still suffering the same destiny. 

I wish to open my lines of communication up, for those readers who believe there is something that we are missing in our community. Let’s put our heads together, work together and make change. 

ZGBTST has services, successful, well used services – where the difficulty lies is reaching those in desperation, crisis and despair we can do more. 

We can’t be ok with this – something has to change. It is not something we need to ask permission for, it is something we can make happen together. 

Please get in touch, lets arrange a meeting, discuss your thoughts and how we can put them into action.         

& Always remember, 

                           You Matter 

                                                   Yasmin

Entry 15

May is always an interesting and busy month in the world of mental health, from meetings, campaigns and most importantly mental health awareness week. Sometimes this week can be opened with a grey cloud online – with various versions of ‘don’t preach mental health for one week and forget about it the next’ statements, mostly made by culprits themselves. In hindsight the following is true: You really don’t know how important this week is, until you have experienced mental illness within your own life – may it be personally or through the eyes of a loved one. 

The importance of mental health awareness week is not about finding a cure or seeing whose story is more popular. It is about reaching the previously unreachable, landing in conversation with someone who is secretly struggling. Advertising and signposting organisations doing great work to help those who do not ‘fit’ into the statutory definition of what it is to have a mental illness.

This year’s theme was Nature and ZGBTST hosted various online campaigns as well as live interviews with individuals who recognise the importance of boosting mental health funding/collaboration/awareness within the community – all of which was met with a positive response. If you wish to catch up on any of our interviews, they are on our Facebook Page: Zachary Geddis Break the Silence Trust. 

After months of planning, our initial push for public opinion came to fruition during mental health awareness week when we announced the opening of our Men’s Support Hub which will be starting on Monday 14th June 2021. Ran by men, for men this group takes place every Monday to support one another through similar experiences. Each week will face a different theme along with monthly trips/speakers and additions; all with a refreshment. Support for the males within our community was one of the main responses from our public inquiry at the beginning of 2021, we are proud to be able to bring this to Coleraine and support those within our area and further afield. If you would be interested in registering and/or finding out more; please call: 07934187147 or email: zgbtst.mensgroup@gmail.com

Fundraising has finally started up again and we have several wonderful people within the community raising money for our free of charge voluntary services, with 2021 being the year without our popular cycle for suicide and the aftermath of the pandemic we are in great need of all donations at present and I cannot thank those who choose to support us enough. 

May was also a month of important meetings, namely with the PHA, AWARE NI and Lifeline to secure a collaborative effort to improve the current mental health services, which will be no easy task as for 4 years my everyday experience with the community is that of a negative one and reshaping the views needs more than a rejig and extra funding. I have been asked to contribute towards the Towards Zero Suicide Initiative, I believe that my role within this will be bringing the experiences of the community forward and highlighting the failures, gaps and problems that we are facing on a regular basis. I do not believe the current ‘improvement’ narrative that has been pushed upon us post pandemic and will work to emphasise its flaws in hope to bring awareness to the bigger picture. If you have an experience that you wish to contribute, both positive and negative surrounding statutory services, please email me: zgbtst@gmail.com

Thank you everyone for your continued support to ZGBTST and enabling us to make positive changes in the community. 

Until next month,

Stay safe & always remember, 

You matter.       

Yasmin