Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Day six – the penultimate day of the festival – featured two events in the evening. We started things with an event run by Glug Bristol – with speakers and discussion tied into World Mental Health Day and Freedom of Mind Festival. Following that was our Homelessness and Mental Health Panel Discussion at Barton Hill Settlement.
Missed the events?
Check out our thoughts on how they went…
The discussion led by Lewis from The Big Issue, aimed to answer questions targeted around the current condition of homelessness within Bristol along with the mental health challenges which can be a cause or a result of the situation. It was eye opening to hear from different perspectives from the journey of homelessness and mental health either by personal experience or through line of work.
Many homeless people live by relying on friends, sofa surfing, hostels or abusive, dangerous relationships rather than sleeping on the streets. The stereotype of someone living on the streets begging for money may be the most common image, but is not the always the biggest issue we are trying to deal with being homeless. Often being without a home can negatively impact your mental health which can result in making poor choices. Alcohol and drugs are sometimes coping methods, a bad one at that, but they are very rarely the cause for homelessness.
It’s clear more needs to done to tackle the problems which can lead to homelessness, focusing on the source.
We need to target young people and educate them, informing them of what help is available. We need to speak with families experiencing problems to resolve issues before it’s too late.
Being homeless often holds a stigma that they are there due to personal failings, but truth is, it could happen to any of us. It is so important we speak to our family and friends, to make sure they’re doing okay. To let them know that they have a support network behind them in case things don’t work out.
It’s fantastic to find out there is so much support available in Bristol, but the challenges lie with cuts being made at government level contributing to the housing crisis.
Four years ago, if you were in need of non-urgent supportive housing the process would take two weeks.
Today, it takes four months.
Homelessness and mental health services are understaffed and the demand exceeds the support.
There was an opportunity for a Q&A session at the end and a personal take away for me was what we can do to help.
I loved hearing the different perspectives explored. Giving someone a choice by asking them if you could get them anything could be so powerful to someone who doesn’t have a lot of choice in their life. More importantly though, that engagement of talking to them is often worth more than whatever you end up getting them.
There is help available out there – the Bristol Homelessness Connect website has information on where you can get food, or have a shower – and it’s more long lasting help than a one off gesture.
If you are interested in making a difference there are shelters across Bristol which are always looking for volunteers. Especially as Christmas approaches. Caring in Bristol will be running it’s Caring at Christmas project if you are able to volunteer some time. Challenge misconceptions and talk to friends and family to ensure support networks are in place. Campaign for change, vote and donate to organisations if you can.
The road from homelessness to a better life is linear on paper, but the reality of it is there are often many loops.
After a bit of casual networking, attendees sat down to hear stories of dealing with mental health issues while working in creative roles.
James Routledge, founder of Sanctus kicked off the evening by sharing his story of setting up a start-up, and the pressure he felt to be successful.
This led him to creating an alter-ego which he struggled to live up to. After some time, he began to realise the toll this was having on his mental health, and wrote a blog post about mental health in startups. The blog reached hundreds of people who began to share their similar experiences. This inspired James to start Sanctus, a movement which aims to change the perception of mental health and put the first mental health gym on the high street.
Next up was Ciara Hillyer, who shared her incredible story of living with cystic fibrosis and the mental health issues it has caused.
She spoke passionately about how she believes mental health should be spoken about more, and shared how creativity had been both a solace for her during difficult times. Throughout her entire talk, the room was completely silent – you could have literally heard a pin drop. It was a truly powerful and inspiring 20 minutes.
After a quick break, Whalecake founder Wes Hosie took to the stage to share his story of living with chronic anxiety and panic disorder. Wes is determined to encourage men to become more comfortable to speak about the “taboo” topic, and has just launched a podcast, I’m Not Mental, which will feature him sharing his own experiences and inviting interesting guests. Finally, photographer and Community Manager Jess Siggers, Giggle Studio founder Steve Garrett, Digital Marketing Specialist Charli Tomney and Glug host Keri Hudson sat on a panel and discussed the challenges of working in the creative industry while experiencing mental health issues.
The evening rounded off with many attendees agreeing how refreshing it had been to hear so many people speak candidly about their own mental health journeys.
The general consensus was that many more of these events should be held to help further conversation – which is something Freedom of Mind will continue to strive to do.