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JUNE 2019 £4.00

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We've got the formula to energise your day

GARDENING GUIDE INSIDE! Let your creative side blossom

The realness

FIND your


Internet sensation Louise Pentland on keeping it real while shooting for the stars

Let your true self shine





Lucy Spraggan

Celebrate self-worth. Every body is beautiful


Ollie Ollerton



Nadiya Hussain

Live Truth

Hacks you need in your life 9 772514

Between the sheets, recovery gets intimate



Photography | Joel Mott

It’s a helluva start, being able to recognise what makes you happy – LUCILLE BALL

Never give up When we’re going through a tough time, it’s hard to imagine an end in sight. It can constantly feel like two steps forward, and one step back. Sometimes, we need a reminder to really look for those magic moments, even if it’s only a few minutes in a day when there was something good. Something that encouraged us to smile for a second, made us feel special, or brought a moment of relief. In the dark times, it can be hard to notice, but if you really try to look, you’ll find that spark of light.

For musician Lucy Spraggan, it’s about reflecting and cherishing the positive moments where we can. And for Nadiya Hussain, it’s moving forward by working to ensure that nobody has to feel alone, as she did. No one knows what the future holds. There will be times that test us, and bring pain; but there’ll also be the moments where we feel pure love and joy, and make memories to hold on to. There’s a song by Raleigh Ritchie (who you may know as Grey Worm from Game of Thrones) that says: “I fall, but when I rise I’ll be stronger than ever.”

This month we feature some incredible stories from people who’ve been through the unimaginable. They’ve felt as low as you can get, and while it’s not as simple as ‘things are fine now’, their journey has had many highs, too. As our wonderful cover star Louise expresses, as hard as today might be, you never know what life has in store for you in a week, a month, or year’s time.

Get in touch with us on social media, we love hearing from you!


We want this issue to encourage you to hold on to hope – to remember that tomorrow is a new day, and who knows what possibilities are waiting for us? Keep going, you’ve got this.




In this issue EXPERT PANEL


Experts are at the heart of what we do, ensuring we can offer high quality advice that you can be confident in. This month, meet the team of people who have come together to deliver information, guidance and insight throughout this issue

EDITORIAL Rebecca Thair | Editor Kathryn Wheeler | Staff Writer Tia Sinden | Editorial Assistant Keith Howitt | Sub-Editor Fe Robinson | Expert Advisor



UKCP (Reg)

MBACP (Accred) BACP Reg Ind

Fe is a psychotherapist and couples counsellor, based in Durham.

Graeme is a counsellor working with both individuals and couples.





Rachel is a life coach encouraging confidence and motivation.

Susan is a nutrition coach, food writer, and vegan chef.



MSc PsychD CPsychol


Sarah Jane is a chartered psychologist, executive, and life coach.

Lindsay is a life coach and author, focusing on building confidence.





Lee is a psychotherapist, and clinical director of The London Practice.

Deborah is a registered nutritional therapist, and founder of Fresh Horizons.

FURTHER INFO Happiful magazine is FSC® certified. Please help us preserve our planet by recycling this magazine. Why not pass on your copy to a friend afterwards? Alternatively, please place it in a recycling bin. Our two-for-one tree commitment is made of two parts. Firstly, we source all our paper from FSC® certified sources. The FSC® label guarantees that the trees harvested are replaced, or allowed to regenerate naturally. Secondly, we will ensure an additional tree is planted for each one used, by making a suitable donation to a forestry charity. Happiful is a brand of Memiah Limited. The opinions, views

Amy-Jean Burns | Art Director Charlotte Reynell | Graphic Designer Rosan Magar | Illustrator

CONTRIBUTORS Gemma Calvert, Kat Nicholls, Bonnie Evie Gifford, Katie Conibear, Lucy Donoughue, Laura Graham, Fiona Thomas, Lee Valls, Salma Haidrani, Tom Green, Louise Barling, Ellen Hoggard, Deborah Lacey, Laura Hearn, Bruce Hills Lindsay Maclean, Rosie Weldon

SPECIAL THANKS Joseph Sinclair, Krishan Parmar, Lo Dias, Susan Hart, Graeme Orr, Rachel Coffey, Dr Sarah Jane Khalid, Sally Bunkham

COMMUNICATIONS Lucy Donoughue Head of Content and Communications Amie Sparrow PR Manager

MANAGEMENT Aimi Maunders | Director & Co-Founder Emma White | Director & Co-Founder Paul Maunders | Director & Co-Founder Steve White | Finance Director Happiful c/o Memiah, Building 3, Riverside Way Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3YL Printed by PCP

and values expressed in Happiful are those of the authors of that content and do not necessarily represent our opinions, views or values. Nothing in the magazine constitutes advice on which you should rely. It is provided for general information purposes only. We do not accept liability for products and/or services offered by third parties. Memiah Limited is a private company limited by shares and registered in England and Wales with company number 05489185 and VAT number GB 920805837. Our registered office address is Building 3, Riverside Way, Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3YL.

Contact Us

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To find out more on other services, visit where-to-gethelp

GENERAL LISTENING LINES SANEline SANEline offers support and information from 4.30pm–10.30pm: 0300 304 7000 Mind Mind offers advice Mon–Fri 9am–6pm, except bank holidays: 0300 123 3393. Or email: CALM The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is a line for men, and is open from 5pm–midnight: 0800 58 58 58 Switchboard Switchboard is a line for LGBT+ support. Open from 10am–10pm: 0300 330 0630. You can email:



ADVICE FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE Children can access a confidential support line, as well as information on a range of topics, including abuse, bullying, families, and much more. Visit or call 0800 1111


SUPPORT FOR THOSE HEARING VOICES The Hearing Voices Network is there for people who hear voices, see visions, or have other perceptions. Find information, support groups, and an online forum at


NUTRITIONAL ADVICE Find a nutritionist in your area and browse hundreds of expert articles on


INFORMATION FOR TRANS CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES Founded by a group of parents in 1995, Mermaids UK provides resources for young trans people and their families. Visit or call the helpline on: 0808 801 0400


SUICIDE LISTENING LINE A charity tackling suicide in young people, Papyrus offers information and a confidential support line. Head to or call 0800 068 41 41


The Uplift 8 In the news 13 The wellbeing wrap 14 What is ikigai?

Discover your true passion and what gets you out of bed in the morning

67 Family ties

Affecting up to 20% of parents, we take a closer look at perinatal mental illness

Features 16 Louise Pentland

The social media phenomenon and 'mumfluencer' speaks about bereavement, life after abuse, and the importance of having gratitude for all the little joys in life

26 Nadiya Hussain

The Bake Off queen on her goal to ensure that no anxious child suffers in silence

62 Hi-tech health

With 74% of us reportedly overwhelmed by stress, could tech help us find Zen?

72 Gender dysphoria

What does it mean to experience dysphoria, and what help is out there to reconcile the body and mind?

Life Stories


37 Learning to slow down

31 Playlist picks

As extreme burnout led Rosie to lose the use of her legs, she spiralled into depression and daily anxiety attacks until she took time to understand the mindbody connection, and the power of rest

51 Memories live on

Following the death of her dad when she was just a child, Sherene battled feelings of guilt and confusion for years. It was only when she began using her pain to guide her future that she was able to move forward and connect with others

Listen to five artists capturing life's quirks

71 Things to do in June 80 Happiful reads

Exploring what it means to be a black man in Britain today

90 Quickfire: MH matters

83 Through highs and lows


At a time when transgender people had little visibility, Bruce was secretly struggling with gender dysphoria. But after transitioning in his 30s, he's since found a new lease of life




Lifestyle and Relationships


32 Sex in recovery

After going through a mental illness, can sex become part of the healing process?

47 On-air honesty

Kiss FM radio presenter, Tom Green, pens a letter about his body image anxieties ENTER CODE:


77 Lucy Spraggan


The X-Factor star on her journey to a more confident place

87 Lions Barber Collective


The man using the intimacy of the barber's chair to talk about mental health




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Food & Drink

Happiful Hacks

56 Veggie delight

24 Help for hearing voices

Celebrate World Meat Free Week with this simple, delicious dish

58 Shrug off sluggishness

Sick of tackling constant tiredness? The answer could be sitting on your plate

40 Avoid graduate burnout 44 Conquer public speaking 54 Escape with audiobooks

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More than one million gardeners are helping birds, bees and butterflies

The Uplift 8 • • June 2019

Green-fingered gardeners throughout Europe, Canada and the United States have taken up the Million Pollinator Challenge to protect and help our pollinators to thrive. This call to action is creating a network of nearly five million acres of habitats for pollinating species, from birds to bees. Since 2015, the scheme has helped gardeners learn how they can help vital pollinating species flourish with just a little extra TLC. Responsible for a third of what we eat, pollinators are an important part of our ecosystem; increasing the number of friendly habitats and spaces for them is vital. To take part, gardeners should use plants that provide nectar and pollen, create sunny spaces with breaks from the wind, and use minimal pesticide. Ensuring, if possible, that there is a source of water, and gardens are in bloom from spring through autumn, is also important. To find out how you can make your planters or outdoor space more pollinator-friendly, visit Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford



SANE launches Creative Awards scheme The mental health charity is encouraging creative sparks to fly In a bid to encourage those who have been affected by mental illness to fulfil their artistic potential, mental health charity SANE has launched its Creative Awards scheme. Building on the original scheme launched in 1994, the Creative Awards invite people to submit a combination of visual art and creative writing, along with supporting documents on their current situation, and how they would put the award to use. Successful applicants will be awarded £70 to £300 towards the cost of materials, such as paints, frames, classes, exhibiting work, or providing replacement care for those who are currently carers. Speaking about the scheme, SANE CEO Marjorie Wallace says: “Exploring the relationship between art, mental illness, creativity, and human experience, is central to our ethos. “The creative output stimulated by the granting of the award will be the visible difference the scheme makes; the unseen impact on the award-

winners themselves will be the difference it makes to their quality of life.” For more details and to apply, head to or call 0203 805 1790. Applications are open from 9 May until 10 July, so roll your sleeves up and get crafty – this could be your chance to let your creativity fly! Writing | Kathryn Wheeler ‘Surrender’ by Anthony Cleyndert, a previous winner

The simple way to improve grandparents’ mental health Spending time with grandchildren has mental health benefits for grandparents, reveals a study by Parkdean Resorts, in conjunction with Dr James Brown, director of the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing. The study found that 91% of grandparents feel both younger and happier when they’ve spent time with their grandkids, and 56% believe their mental health benefits from this time together. “Spending time with the grandchildren can kick start the process of improving mood, enhancing memory, bettering physical function, and reducing loneliness in older adults. All of these benefits can help to slow down elements of age-related decline,” Dr Brown explains. While this is promising, the study also found 51% of grandparents don’t see their grandchildren as much as they would like. Dr Brown’s suggestion is to book a family holiday in the UK to prompt memories. “Autobiographical memory contains the information you have about yourself and, for most grandparents, a UK holiday will trigger nostalgic thoughts.” Time to crack out your favourite board game, and practise your sing-a-longs – all in the name of improved mental health, of course. Writing | Kat Nicholls

June 2019 • • 9

Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later – WALTER REISCH


It’s official – naps are good for us Having regular hour-long naps is an effective way to lower blood pressure, according to new research from doctors at Asklepieion General Hospital, in Voula, Greece. Not only is this important info for your physical health, but high blood pressure has also been linked to cognitive decline. Greek scientists analysed data from 212 people who have high blood pressure, asking some to take daily hour-long naps. Participants wore a blood pressure monitor, and those who napped saw an average drop of 3mm Hg in blood pressure compared to those who didn’t. Co-author of the study, Dr Manolis Kallistratos, explains the power of a good nap: “Midday sleep appears to lower blood pressure levels at the same magnitude as other lifestyle changes. For example, salt and alcohol reduction can bring blood pressure levels down by 3–5 mm Hg. Based on our findings, if someone has the luxury to take a nap during the day, it may also have benefits for high blood pressure.” High blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart disease, so anything we can do to keep it in check is ideal. Added to this, naps have previously been reported to increase concentration, enhance our memory, and boost mood. We don’t know about you, but we think it’s time to hit the hay… Writing | Kat Nicholls

June 2019 • • 11

Take 5


How did you d o? Search 'freeb ies' at shop.happiful. com to find the an swers, and more!

Embrace your inner Sherlock by solving the puzzle below – it’s like a crossword, but with no clues! Impossible, you might say, but it’s all about logic. Every letter of the alphabet is used, and is represented by a number in the grid, so each time you figure out a letter you’ll uncover more of the puzzle. The game is afoot! HINT: WELLBEING 10















17 16















































20 2


















S 22











23 14










25 1








17 1


















20 11

































1 2


































E 1









N 10


P 2



S 19


U 26







New Zealand accent voted 'sexiest in the world'

Taste the rainbow

To celebrate Pride 2019, Skittles has released four limited edition packs created by LGBT+ artists, illustrators and designers. Tasked with creating an image that reflects what the Pride flag means to them, it's something truly to be proud of...

Smear tests save lives, but attendance in the UK is at its lowest in years. However, there may be good news, as initial research is suggesting that urine tests might be as effective, and could be done from home!

LEGO BRAILLE BRICKS Record breaking UK's longest coal-free electricity period

Whale of a time Birth boom for North Atlantic right whales

Bottled water An environmental disaster

Hot desking 92% of workers aren't feeling it

Going down

In a fantastic innovation, LEGO is building the foundations for a more inclusive learning and playing environment, with the creation of its braille bricks. Featuring bricks with studs representing the braille alphabet, ith printed letters on the side, the brand is creating an engaging way for both visually impaired, and non-visually impaired, children to learn braille.


A handlebar, soul patch, or goatee? Whatever your preference, it appears facial hair is growing on us. A study in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology discovered that when it comes to long-term relationships, women found bearded beaus more appealing than clean-shaven ones. So if you're looking for a long-term lover, it could be time to ditch that razor – hair, hair!


Nature's calling

and she needs just 20 minutes of your time each Ride on day to reduce your stress Doctors in levels. So take a hike, or Modesto, USA, ride a bike – get your have come up dose of fresh air! with a novel way to soothe nerves in their smallest of patients. Children on their way to surgery are now being given the option of driving themselves in miniature toy cars, rather than being wheeled in on a gurney. A great way to put nerves in the backseat.

A lesson in wellbeing

A teacher from Cincinnati, Ohio, has gone viral after posting about her way of encouraging kids to open up about how they're feeling – and it's a lesson we can all learn from. Tara Mitchell Holman created a board where students put a sticky note next to a category, such as 'I'm great,' or 'I'm having a tough time and wouldn't mind a check-in.' They can put their name on the back of the note, and throughout the week Tara checks in privately with the kids. A fantastic initiative helping students learn to open up.

Going up

wellbeing wrap

Making money while you sleep – in your dreams!

Getting paid to stay in bed all day? It sounds too good to be true, but NASA have genuinely been advertising for the job we've all been waiting for; €16,500 to spend 60 days in bed.

For astronauts in zero gravity, muscle and bone mass are lost faster

But if you think this job will be easy, dream on. The study is investigating how long periods of time in space impact astronauts, so it's two months of bed-rest. That's essentially leaving your bed only to use the bathroom, eat, and exercise. For astronauts in zero gravity, muscle and bone mass are lost faster than on Earth, so the experiment will see if artificial gravity can support them on missions to outer space.

What is


We’ve all got something that drives us to get up in the morning. That special something – a cause, a person, a purpose – that helps us enjoy life. What’s yours? Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford Illustrating | Rosan Magar


et’s be honest, we all feel lost sometimes. We may ask ourselves: ‘What am I doing with my life?’ or ‘Aren’t I supposed to have a five-year plan by now?’ As teenagers, we think we’ll have everything figured out by our 20s. In our 20s, we think we’ll have made it by 30. By our 30s? It dawns on us that somewhere along the line, we’ve become a fully-fledged adult, and we still don’t have all the answers. If you’ve ever felt like you’re treading water and aren’t sure what the big picture is for you, it may be because you haven’t discovered your ikigai yet.


A Japanese concept – roughly translated as our ‘reason for being’ – your ikigai is based on your life, values, and beliefs. It’s a reflection of your inner self and what really matters to you. Similar to ‘finding your passion’, discovering your ikigai encompasses what fills you with joy, gives you a sense of

14 • • June 2019

purpose, and an overall feeling of wellbeing. Aiming to balance the spiritual with the practical, ikigai transforms all areas of your life. Mixing together your passion, profession, vocation, and mission, finding your ikigai is essentially about combining what you love and what you’re good at, with what you can be paid for and what the world needs.


Money doesn’t buy happiness; it’s an old saying, but it can cause a lot of guilt and conflict. We all like the idea of living with meaning, yet in order to do this, we need the security that comes from having money to support our goals and ideals. Discovering our ‘purpose’ can feel like a privilege reserved for those who can afford to focus on ideals over survival.

We may already have a passion for writing, painting, or photography, but take the ‘safer’ career path that pays the bills. Uncovering your ikigai can help you to find the balance between what you need and what you want.

Ikigai | noun | Japanese Pronounced ick-ee-guy Roughly translating to ‘purpose in life’ or ‘something one lives for’


Take time to ask yourself what you love; what you are good at; what you can be paid to do; and what the world needs? A goal that fulfils only one or two of these may leave you financially secure but feeling unfulfilled, or your sense of wellbeing may increase while your stability decreases. What you are passionate about, and how you express it, can cover a huge range of possibilities. It could be through art, giving back to your community, or passing on your skills to help others achieve their full potential. It doesn’t have to be career-based; your ikigai may be found in taking care of your family, or working towards social change. It’s easy to think of our passion, job, family, and desires as separate entities, or parts of life that rarely intersect. Discovering your ikigai is all about uncovering how all aspects of life are connected – helping us feel joy, fulfilment, and balance in our day-to-day life.


It can be hard to describe. Really feeling your ikigai can be a combination of satisfaction, love, happiness, and a feeling of personal maturity. It can lead to a clearer sense of what you value in life, as well as a better understanding of yourself. It isn’t like a lightbulb moment; you won’t wake up one day with a clear picture of what your purpose is. It’s more of a journey; you need to actively seek it, spend time reflecting on all aspects of your life, and consider how they are connected. Once you have found your ikigai, always remain curious. Just as in many ways we aren’t the same person we were 20 or even 10 years ago, so our reason for being can evolve over time.

Really feeling your ikigai can be a combination of satisfaction, love, happiness The path towards finding our ikigai allows us to see meaning in the everyday, and discover happiness in places we may not have considered before. It’s about being inquisitive, open, and looking at our desires and needs as a whole. It’s about recognising and celebrating what truly matters to us.

June 2019 • • 15

Guiding light

In the world of vlogging, Louise Pentland, a self-proclaimed ‘mother and badass, empire-building businesswoman’, is at the head of her pack. Her intimate, and often emotionally raw, videos have clocked up more than 237.4 million views, and this year she was hailed the UK’s most influential mother – or ‘mum-fluencer’. Everything she touches glitters – quite literally. Louise’s charisma and infectious energy are undeniable when we meet – and it’s clear why she’s so celebrated online. Despite her 2.4 million followers, Louise is one of the most down-to-earth people you could imagine. Her warmth and welcoming nature will come as no surprise to those who’ve followed her journey, but what may prompt you to pause is learning just how treacherous that path has been. In this searingly honest interview, Louise opens up about the years of abuse she suffered as a child, the healing she’s found in therapy, and spreading the poignant message of never giving up Interview | Gemma Calvert

Photography | Joseph Sinclair

ocial media phenomenon Louise Pentland is clutching two armfuls of sartorial cotton candy from her wardrobe – an array of pink, peaches, and cream. “When I saw the mood board for today’s shoot, I was like: ‘Yay, this is so me!’” she says cheerily, when we meet at the photographer’s studio, boasting panoramic views of the River Thames on a gorgeous day. Louise is pleased. Straight out of the taxi, sunglasses on, she’s at the water’s edge hoovering up content for her eponymously titled YouTube channel. One of the vlogging ‘originals’, Louise started out a decade ago, launching an arts, crafts and pregnancy-focused blog called Sprinkle Of Glitter. A YouTube channel followed, which was devoured by a teen market that warmed to her big-sisterly charisma, and often silly content. For the former admin assistant, vlogging became an escape from the seriousness of everyday life. “It was nice to feel really young, because my life became adult very quickly. I got engaged at 21, bought my first house at 23, was married by 24, and then had a baby at 25. It was a nice release,” explains Louise.

18 • • June 2019

With an ever-expanding following, she began earning enough to quit admin and vlog full-time. Soon she signed to a management agency, and her profile began scaling new heights. In recent years, Louise has written four books, secured interviews with everyone from Kim Kardashian to Ed Miliband, and, such is her power of influence, was appointed a Change Ambassador for the United Nations in 2016 – the same year she met Pope Francis at a three-day summit at the Vatican about the power of social media to inspire peace and empathy. Since rebranding her channel in 2016, the year of her divorce from Darcy’s dad after separating in 2014, Louise has favoured content on topics like relationships and careers. Every post is filter-free and searingly honest, frequently reinforcing girl power mantras like ‘good enough is good enough’. “I think we’d all be happier if we said: ‘We’re just doing our best.’ I don’t know a single person who’s like: ‘I’ve got my life fully together, thank you very much,’” says Louise. “I feel like my audience is inspiring me to be more open. I feel nice because I’m constantly mentally offloading on everyone else. You’re all my therapists!” When asked whether she gets comfort from the feeling of never

I think we’d all be happier if we said: ‘We’re just doing our best.’ I don’t know a single person who’s like: ‘I’ve got my life fully together’ being alone, Louise takes a sip of Diet Coke and looks pensive. “Yeah, I like it,” she says, flashing a cautionary look. “This is going to get deep, quickly,” she warns. “Lonely is my default, so it means I like working alone; I like spending a day on my own, but I also really like that it’s not forced loneliness.” The forced solitude Louise refers to began when she was five, and her mum, Diana Jane, was diagnosed with cancer. It started in her breast and spread to her brain, and she passed away two years later at the age of 37. What followed for only-child Louise, was the stuff of nightmares. Soon after her mother’s death, someone in Louise’s family began systematically physically and emotionally abusing her; an ordeal that lasted almost a decade.

Blazer and Jumpsuit | Monsoon, Shoes | Aldo, Earrings | Freedom @ Topshop

“It was super, super physical, emotional and mental abuse – never sexual abuse, which I’m really thankful for – but you know those awful books you read where people say all the horrible things that have happened to them? That was my life for eight years, until I was 15,” explains Louise, who was so frightened of her perpetrator, she kept her ordeal a secret. Her expression now reveals no apparent pain, only fight, and as a supporter of children’s advice charity ChildLine, she is committed to teaching youngsters that if they are being abused or mistreated, they are never alone. “Abusers are very clever people. They’re really good at manipulating things. Add in a fear of violence, and it’s easy to make a child not say something. It’s why, in our household, we don’t have secrets, not even ‘here’s a sweetie, don’t tell mummy’, because as soon as you start promoting that in kids, it’s easy for them to keep a secret when something shouldn’t be hidden.” During this traumatic time, Louise sustained a catalogue of injuries, including broken ribs and bruises left where clothes would hide them. She lost all her friends, such was the emotional impact of the abuse. Then at breaking point, on the eve of the Millennium, at the age of 15, Louise found the courage to tell her dad. Continues >>> June 2019 • • 19

Dress | Preen at Debenhams, Shoes | Jimmy Choo Dress | Matthew Williamson @ Debenhams, Sunglasses | Quay Australia

My biggest inspiration is my mum, because she was such a good egg. She was really funny and kind to everybody

“I told dad I was going to kill myself if he didn’t do something,” says Louise. “I spoke up and on 1 January, 2000, he said that it was going to end. Then that was that, it was done. We call those ‘the dark years’. There’s no pictures from the 90s, there’s no video of it. We just think about it as a sad time. I try not to dwell too much on things, because I would spiral down, pretty quickly.” Louise, who has a postgraduate diploma in counselling, and once dreamed of being a psychotherapist, is an advocate of therapy and has had “loads” over the years. Louise now turns to counselling during “big life” moments, such as her divorce. “That was really healing, because I found it hard to know that Darcy was going to have a step-mum. That was really challenging,” she explains. “Recently, I started going to counselling again because, for the first time in my life, everything is really stable and happy. Suddenly I’ve started thinking a lot about what happened and how I feel about my dad, so we’ve started going to counselling together. I love my dad very much because he’s my dad. I don’t love all the choices that he’s made.” One of Louise’s fondest memories is a holiday to Disneyland Paris when she was seven, which her parents arranged knowing it would be their last “special time” together as a trio. Soon after, Diana’s health deteriorated and in Louise’s heart-wrenching vlog post, My Pink Hair Story, recorded in aid of Cancer Research UK in 2015, she weeps remembering the pain of seeing her mum in hospital:

“She belonged at home, with us, in our house, making dinners and watching The Generation Game on a Saturday night with a Domino’s pizza, which is what we did every single Saturday.” Louise has now been without her mum for 27 years, and although she can’t accurately remember the sound of her voice or her mannerisms any more, Diana remains her hero. “My biggest inspiration is my mum, because she was such a good egg. She was really funny and kind to everybody,” smiles Louise, telling the story of when her parents spent a weekend in Moscow and Diana was so moved by the plight of one local single mother, she went straight to the Russian Embassy in the UK, armed with a box of chocolates, and refused to leave without their visas. Louise smiles. “She somehow traded chocolates for visas, went back to Moscow the following week and came back with the family. They lived with us for six months until mum found them a house in London.” Suddenly, the source of Louise’s go-getter mentality is obvious, and it’s touching when she shares her advice for anyone who’s lost a mother. “Live your life twice as happily, because you’re living for your mum as well as you.” Louise “scraped through her A-levels”, got into Liverpool John Moores University through clearing and, at 18, against a backdrop of determination over tragedy, embarked on a degree course in psychology and biology. Overnight, feigning confidence and extroversion until it felt natural, she reinvented herself.

“These people didn’t know I was Louise with the dead mum, or Louise who’d been abused,” she says. “I realised I could be anything I wanted to be.” Now, there’s no reason to pretend. Louise is blissfully happy in her skin and, unlike so many on social media, she speaks as proudly of her insecurities as her triumphs. She still suffers selfdoubt – “I’ll always just feel a little bit like the podgy, lonely girl that didn’t have a lot of friends, or the slightly crap receptionist” – and experiences “flat” days when “the wires don’t add up” in her brain. It’s this authenticity that underpins Louise’s appeal. She’s completely relatable – and also fabulously comedic. One of her stories involves a wardrobe malfunction in front of the Prince of Wales when they met at YouTube HQ last May. “I shook Prince Charles’ hand and got so excited I breathed out so hard the material ripped and the button fell off,” recalls Louise. “But instead of playing it cool, I said: ‘Oh my God, Charles. My button’s just broken!’ Then he was looking for it.” Another time, she “f**ked up” an interview with Kylie Minogue by getting embarrassingly star struck. “At one point, she said, ‘OK!’ and I said, on camera, ‘I’ve got an auntie called Kay!’ Then I kept calling her Kylie Minogue and she was like ‘you can just call me Kylie’.” Louise shakes her head at the memory. Minutes after Kylie bid farewell, she unexpectedly returned to the room to retrieve something, only to discover Louise having a “level seven meltdown”. Continues >>>

June 2019 • • 21

“She knelt down and said, ‘It’s OK, you did your best,’ and I said, ‘That wasn’t my best, I’m much cooler than this’,” says Louise. “She stayed for 40 minutes while I was a loser.” Like every working mum, Louise admits struggling to juggle things. While seeing her books do well is amazing, the writing process generates “so much anguish” because of the time required “to do a good job” – a luxury the busy mum-of-two is severely lacking. Louise’s youngest daughter, Pearl, was born a year ago and appears in some vlogs alongside Darcy and Liam, Louise’s boyfriend of nearly three years – not forgetting their five cats. While some mumfluencers have been criticised for uploading content with their kids, Louise is very mindful about what she shares – and what she doesn’t. “If someone says, ‘you share everything’, I take that as a compliment because if you feel like I am, I’m doing it right. Actually, I’m not sharing a whole lot,” she says, confirming details including Darcy’s personal thoughts and hobbies, Liam’s surname, plus the intricacies of their relationship, are never featured. “I focus on the dayto-day aspects of motherhood, my job, my feelings and my personality because I’m making that choice to put myself out there. My children aren’t making that choice.” She says the biggest pressure of having a 2.4 million following is the impossible task of pleasing everybody. When Louise recently scaled back her daily vlogs to one a week, she received negative feedback from a disappointed few who accused her of becoming lazy. “I’m not as exciting as I was when I was 24, because I’m not 22 • • June 2019

Even in your darkest days, don’t give up because you never know what might happen jumping around being silly any more,” concedes Louise. “I don’t want to share five days of my week. Sometimes I think: ‘This is a great time to enjoy in my brain.’” In March, Louise uploaded a vlog from Disney World in Florida titled ‘Disney World! Don’t Give Up!’, which finished with her answering fan questions from her hotel bathroom floor. In response to one, she referenced her turbulent past and urged her followers to keep going, however hard life may seem. “Even in your darkest days, don’t give up because you never know what might happen,” she echoes her poignant words as our interview draws to a close. “If I’d have given up when I was 15, I would never have had this career or two beautiful children, or burst open in front of Charles, or chatted to the Pope. I’ve got lovely dresses in my wardrobe and five cats. You never know what’s going to happen to you. It makes me cry to think how lucky I am.” Louise’s book, ‘Wilde About the Girl’, is available in paperback now (Zaffre, £7.99. Follow Louise on social media @louisepentland

Styling | Krishan Parmar Hair & Makeup | Lo Dias using NARS & GHD

Blouse and skirt (Louise’s own) | ASOS, Earrings | Accesorize

Hearing voices Writing | Katie Conibear Illustrating | Rosan Magar

Someone with voices in their head may be frightened, anxious, fragile, and vulnerable. But don’t be daunted – here’s what you can do to support them through their torment


earing voices comes in many guises. The voices can be comforting and neutral – but sometimes they can be terrifying. Hearing voices is common in some mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. But you can hear voices without being mentally ill, such as when grieving. Between 3% and 10% of the general population hear voices that other people do not, according to the Hearing Voices Network charity. I have been hearing voices during periods of mania and depression, as part of my bipolar disorder, since I was a teenager. They’ve ranged from a voice almost like a best friend, to one that will shout and scream vicious words at me. Over the years I’ve opened up about my experiences, and have learnt to live with what I hear.

It’s important to know that even though it can seem daunting to help someone when they’re struggling with hearing voices, there are simple steps you can take to provide support.



It’s likely that someone hearing voices is in a fragile, vulnerable place. Panicking about what to do could make them feel stressed and anxious, which might amplify the experience. When I’ve been hearing voices, I can often almost see the gears in people’s heads going into overdrive. The vast majority of people who hear voices are just struggling with what they’re hearing, and are not a danger to anyone else. If you’re worrying about what you can do, then ask.

The vast majority of people who hear voices are just struggling with what they’re hearing, and are not a danger to anyone else

You don’t need all the answers. It’s just important to stay calm to not add to the fear and anxiety they may already be feeling.


The simplest action, and often the most genuinely useful, is just sitting and being there. When you hear voices you feel out of touch with reality. It can be an intense and scary experience. You’re not always sure what’s real and what isn’t. It creates a surge of fear and anxiety. I find that having someone sit with me helps to ground me. Knowing the person next to me is real, and I can talk to them if I need to, is a huge source of comfort. It’s a really simple act that can make a huge difference.


Similar to talking, distraction helps draw their attention away from the voices. If you’re not sure what to say, this might be the best option. Encourage them to use their hobbies and interests as a distraction. Also put yourself in their shoes and think about how you’d like to be treated. When they’re feeling better, perhaps ask them about techniques


Helping them to rationalise the experience may reduce the fear. The voices might be cruel, or telling them to hurt themselves. It’s important to tell them the voices aren’t real, and can’t cause them harm. It might be scary right now, but identifying that these are voices in their head is a vital distinction to make. It’s like having a panic attack – they’re not going to die. Repeating this, like a mantra, can give them the strength to ride out the experience.


About literally anything – the weather, or the surroundings. Tell them your life story. It can be as mundane or as interesting as you’d like. The idea is to help the person focus on what you’re saying, rather than the voices. Hearing a voice can help the person you’re with concentrate on something that is real and tangible. The more relaxed and chilled out you can be, the better.

they find helpful, so you know how best to help next time. It might be as simple as listening to music in their headphones until the voices subside.

Katie Conibear is a freelance writer, focusing on mental health. She blogs at and has a podcast, ‘A Life Lived Vividly’, with a focus on hearing voices.

June 2019 • • 25

One of the hardest things to do when you have a mental health issue, like panic disorder, is to talk. It’s tough to say: ‘I am not well’

Anxiety and me Nadiya:

Nadiya Hussain is on a mission to tackle the taboos around mental health, starting with her own. In her new BBC documentary, she explores the condition that has plagued her since she was seven years old, and her ambitions to ensure no child suffers in silence in the future Writing | Lucy Donoughue

Nadiya Hussain became a firm household favourite in 2015, when she first appeared on our screens as a contestant on the much-loved The Great British Bake Off. Her baking brilliance, megawatt smile, and rapport with contestants and judges alike, meant that when she won first place, the nation wanted more. Books, columns and TV programmes soon followed. Nadiya’s widespread appeal is in part due to her resolute centering of her own family life in all that she does. A glimpse at her website reveals her life before GBBO; from growing up in a busy household in Luton with her five siblings, to her marriage to Abdal, the

birth of their beautiful children Musa, Dawud and Maryam, and the moment her husband encouraged her to enter the baking competition. Abdal, she says, was confident in her ability, and wanted to see her fly despite her own misgivings. The rest, we know… Or do we? Because, actually, that’s not the whole picture. Nadiya’s story to date, also includes the presence of ‘a monster’; her name for the crippling anxiety she has lived with since childhood. She has panic disorder – a condition that can be debilitating, exhausting and isolating. Continues >>>

‘Nadiya: Anxiety and Me’ is available on BBC iPlayer, along with other programmes in the Mental Health season. Twitter | @BegumNadiya Website |

Continues >>>

For those who have followed Nadiya’s progress from contestant to chef, author and presenter, panic disorder might not be a something you’d associate with her warm, friendly and seemingly outgoing persona. The fact is any of us could be living with mental illness and challenges, regardless of how we, and our lives, appear from the outside. Now, Nadiya wants to open up a conversation around her own mental health, along with how we collectively view mental illness. In spite of the anxiety and panic 28 • • June 2019

disorder that could hold her back, she is forging ahead. An hourlong special, Nadiya: Anxiety and Me, developed with the BBC, will be released in May to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, and it’s a must-watch. The programme has been a long time coming for Nadiya: “I’ve had the idea for the past two years. I really wanted to make this documentary, but one of the hardest things to do when you have a mental health issue, like panic disorder, is to talk. It’s tough to say: ‘I’m not well.’

“From the very beginning, aged seven, there have been so many opportunities for me to say it and I haven’t. So I do know how hard it is. It can take decades to speak out and admit there’s a problem.” Nadiya says the attention she receives, both positive and negative, made her wary of speaking out initially, but she got to a point last year where she simply felt she had to talk “right now”, and reached out about making the documentary. But, the end result was still “by far, one of the hardest things [she’s] ever had to do”. It’s understandable why the project was so difficult. The nature of panic disorder and anxiety can mean that conversations regarding the thoughts and sensations you experience during an episode, can trigger you. In this film, Nadiya shares not only the fact that she has the disorder, but how and when it started, along with the impact it has on her daily life, relationships, and career. But alongside the difficult aspects, the process came with some truly positive moments for her. One being when looking online at the list of symptoms for panic disorder with Abdal. “For me, the realisation was at that point – it’s an illness! Even though a doctor tells you, ‘You have a panic disorder,’ somehow, it does

It was a real lightbulb moment to understand what I experience is an illness

Images | BBC / RAW / Phil Sharp

not seem real because it has become the person you are. That was always ‘just my personality’. It was a real lightbulb moment to understand what I experience is an illness.” To address her panic disorder, Nadiya agreed to see a therapist, and for her sessions to be filmed. This was the first time that she’s had therapy as an adult, having previously had just one cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) session on the NHS when she was 18. She notes: “That was all that was allotted at the time, and at that age, I couldn’t afford more.” The therapy she received on the programme helped Nadiya to explore the origins of her panic disorder, and to question her coping methods and routines. This could, understandably, feel quite overwhelming. “To talk about these issues was really difficult, and I did struggle. It was also really contradictory for me, seeing a therapist. Part of me wanted the panic disorder to go away, and part of me wasn’t sure who I would be without it. When you’ve had this ‘thing’ since you were seven, that’s a whole lifetime – if it goes away, what part of me goes away with it?” Nadiya’s honesty about the challenges of addressing her mental health is refreshing; she does not try to paint a picture of perfect forward progression. It’s also deeply heartwarming to see her move from an anxious state with regards to her own mental health, to enthused about what can be done to support and educate children now, following a visit to a forward-thinking school for the documentary.

“I’d like go into schools to help our children, so they don’t get into their 30s and 40s without any mental health support,” she says. “I’d like for children to understand that anxiety is normal, and mental illness can happen to any of us.”

Part of me wanted the panic disorder to go away, and part of me wasn’t sure who I would be without it As hard as making the documentary may have been, it appears to have spurred Nadiya on to explore mental health further. Nadiya notes she is still on a journey with her illness, but as a result of the programme, she’s gained knowledge that has completely changed the way she reacts when she feels her ‘monster’ approaching. “There’s one thing I discovered that astounded me. Whenever I had a panic attack I would breathe

deep – in through the nose, out through the mouth. I learned that when I breathe that way, I am reinforcing the panic attack. It’s like saying: ‘I know you are here and I am going to breathe hard and long and make it really obvious.’ Rather than doing that, I’ve learnt it’s better for me to just ignore it and keep going. “Genuinely, that has transformed my life. When I feel the panic bubbling away, rather than stopping everything I am doing and breathe life into it, I say, ‘You are just a feeling and you are going to go away,’ and I carry on. It’s happened close to 50 times since doing the filming, and every time it’s passed.” With this better understanding of her own illness now, what would be her advice for anyone who’s struggling? “When you are so low, you are at your most fragile, so it’s hard to know what to say… But anyone who is reading this at their lowest, I’d just remind them that they are not alone. “We are all at different stages of anxiety in our own journeys, and although it’s one of the most isolating illnesses to have, if you’re reminded you are not alone, it does feel better. And if other people can make it out the other side, then you can too.” She pauses. “I don’t feel like I’ve come out the other side, but I feel like I can hold more hands now. As a mother, that’s really important. As a person out in the public eye, I also want to be able to say: ‘We need to hold each other’s hands.’ I feel stronger – and I feel more honest about saying that now.” June 2019 • • 29

Happiful Hero

Photography | Toa Heftiba

Cuddling before bed releases oxytocin, reduces stress, and sends you off to dreamland 30 • happiful • December 2018

Face the music

Music has the power to connect us in ways that little else can. So plug in your headphones and get ready to be transported on a journey through the human experience, as we highlight five musicians who put mental health on the playlist Writing | Kathryn Wheeler


Source | Columbia Records

1. Solange

Experimental R&B artist Solange Knowles (younger sister of a certain Beyoncé Knowles) has been breaking barriers around mental health since the release of her third studio album, A Seat at the Table, which received widespread critical acclaim. Documenting her life with an autonomic nerve disorder, and creating rallying calls for selflove, Solange’s tracks offer a radical look at modern life. Playlist picks: ‘Cranes in the Sky’, ‘Dreams’, and ‘Weary’


Source | Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

2. Bob Dylan

4. Car Seat Headrest


5. Paramore

With a career that spans six decades, and a Nobel Prize in Literature under his belt, the king of folk surely needs no introduction. His deeply poetic lyrics explore every corner of the human psyche, expressing challenges, complexities and anxieties that we can all relate to. Playlist picks: ‘Not Dark Yet’, ‘Every Grain of Sand’, and ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’

Source | Ministry of Sound Recordings LTD

3. London Grammar

The eerily stunning vocals of London Grammar frontwoman Hannah Reid are instantly recognisable, and have the ability to transport you to another realm with their rich tones. The band themselves have been open about the effect the recording and touring process has on their own mental health, and so many of their tracks capture the lethargy and lulls of mental health. Playlist picks: ‘Strong’, ‘Leave the War With Me’, and ‘Non Believer’

If indie music is your thing, Car Seat Headrest will take you on a toe-tapping journey through the frustration and humour of mental illness. With their low-fi sound, and creative concepts, they’ll make you chuckle while reflecting on the quirky reality of life with mental health problems. Playlist picks: ‘Fill in the Blank’, ‘Something Soon’, and ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’ American rock band Paramore are legends among their legions of fans. From their roots in poppunk, to the more dialled back sound on recent albums, there’s an era for everyone. But what rises above the guitar riffs and the catchy beat, is the concise, raw lyrics from lead singer Hayley Williams, documenting one woman’s experiences with depression. Playlist picks: ‘Fake Happy’, ‘Last Hope’, and ‘Hard Times’


Source | Atlanic Recording Corporation

SEXUAL HEALING Anorexia, low self-esteem, and a need for approval and acceptance, led Laura into a series of dismal, meaningless encounters. Now, on the road back to health and with a loving partner by her side, she is discovering that taking your time can be truly liberating Writing | Laura Hearn


ex, nudity, orgasms... these were all off limits for me for years. I’m not entirely sure why, because I didn’t grow up with messages that sex was a bad thing. I remember my sister and mum feeling comfortable walking around naked, whereas I would do everything possible to keep myself covered – even when I got out of the shower. From a very young age, I was embarrassed about being stripped of my clothes. My eating disorder began in my late teens; a crucial time when you are meant to be exploring your sexual self. Not for me. My anorexia crushed any desire to find out what made me ‘tick.’ I lost my virginity at 16 in the most embarrassing of ways; in a friend’s garden with a guy I had barely spoken to. I’m not proud of this, but it set a precedent for what was to follow.

32 • • June 2019

I’m not entirely sure of the number of people I have slept with, partly because I just haven’t given it much thought before now. I’m 36 and have only ever had two meaningful relationships; the first with a guy at university, and the other with my current boyfriend. The rest were brief encounters. I’m not necessarily talking about onenight stands, but guys I met in transient stages of life. Each experience shared a common theme: inequality. I was mostly the subservient player, often both sexually and emotionally. I put their worth and value above my own. Their needs and satisfaction was more important than my own. This had consistently been my experience of men, until I met my current partner. Recovery from my eating disorder was, by no means, a straightforward path. I spent

many years in and out of relapse – and in and out of treatment centres – all to no avail. But I was incredibly fortunate to be able to spend seven months at an inpatient centre in California, USA, where I truly learned to heal from the inside out. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, but also by far the best thing. The staff’s loving commitment to my recovery, enabled me to nurse my mind, body and spirit, and gave me the tools to cope in life without using my eating disorder. Now that I am in this more positive place, I can reflect and I’m not entirely surprised that my behaviour with the opposite sex took this path. Alongside the meaningless liaisons, I also experienced a pretty hideous sexual attack in a foreign country to add to my fear and mistrust of men and their intentions. Continues >>>

I had an innate feeling of being ‘less than’. I craved approval and acceptance from others, and without knowing (as I do now) how to get my needs met, I demonstrated this by being a peoplepleaser. I was the giver and never the receiver when it came to pleasure between the sheets, and I thought this was normal. It’s the guy that needs to be satisfied, right? As long they have had a good time, then I’ve done my job properly. Perhaps this was why I never really enjoyed sex; it wasn’t something I cared much for and was always a physical act, with little sense of closeness. I am in no doubt that my low weight switched off my hormones, resulting in zero sexual desire. Eating fat is necessary for the production of oestrogen – a vital sex hormone in women – and without it, sex was easy to forgo. My sexual relationship with myself – and others – has changed massively in the past few years, for which I owe a great deal to my recovery and my current boyfriend.

I wanted to be close to someone, but not that close. I wanted to be desired, but I didn’t feel worthy of being cherished

34 • • June 2019

I learnt that my readiness to be so dismissive of relationships was down to a fear of being rejected at an emotional level. I attracted

men who only were only after one thing, and that suited my eating disorder. If I didn’t let them into my emotional self, then they couldn’t hurt, dismiss, or leave me. I wasn’t hugely keen on being seen naked, but my avoidance went much deeper than my physical self; I didn’t want to be ‘seen’ at all. I have never ‘needed’ a partner and have always enjoyed

my own space. But since meeting with my current boyfriend I have realised the absolute joy of being part of a team. It may have taken me until my 30s, but I’m grateful to have found someone who doesn’t judge me, who excites and motivates me, shows me love and support, and never leaves me wondering or questioning my belonging. He has shown me what it feels like to enjoy sex on equal ground, to feel close to someone, and to appreciate sex with myself without shame. The latter has been a work in progress. I felt embarrassed and disgusted at the thought of masturbating. I now realise that it is a really big part of my recovery and selfdiscovery as a woman; something my eating disorder prevented me from embracing. When we first began dating I didn’t even know how to answer the question: “What do you like?” I didn’t know, because no one had ever asked me before. I had to Google what it felt like to have an orgasm because, again, I didn’t know. I wondered if there was something wrong with me, because in the very beginning I couldn’t. My boyfriend didn’t rush me or place any pressure on me, he was just patient – and then it happened. I have discovered that sex can be simultaneously exhilarating and tender. Finding someone who took the time to meet my needs, and helped me to finally let go, liberated me. Since then I have gradually relinquished the shame around my body and being intimate.

The ramifications of my eating disorder no longer haunt me. I still have the occasional hang-up about my body, but for me it was always more than that. I never felt truly present or connected when I had sex. Being intimate with yourself and another, is something that I now recognise as a basic human need, but for the best part of my early years I did it because I was searching for a connection with someone in all the wrong ways. I wanted to be close to someone, but not that close. I wanted to be desired, but I didn’t feel worthy of being cherished. Sex and love are two very different things, and can exist in isolation. But when they exist in unity, it is the most magical experience imaginable. I can honestly say I never believed anyone would say ‘I love you’ and mean it, and I never thought I would say ‘I love you’ and mean it the way I do now. Writing this made me cringe at times, but I decided to be brutally honest because it’s a topic that wasn’t really relevant until I entered recovery. Until you find peace within yourself, it is really difficult to be part of a relationship, because you are in constant conflict. Being in a partnership requires you to take risks and be vulnerable; both of which are not easy when you have an eating disorder.

Finding someone who took the time to meet my needs, and helped me to finally let go, liberated me When I began to let go of my eating disorder, I also let go of my shame. I was able to be present with myself and another – it was as if the two journeys were working in parallel. If you can relate to any of this, then I would encourage you to start exploring your own needs, and don’t rush into finding someone until you have begun your own healing. If you learn to be at peace with yourself first, then everything else will feel less of a struggle. And trust me when I say the wait has been worth it.

Laura Hearn is the founder of the online platform, Jiggsy, which uses its unique creative tool ‘The Jiggsaw’ to connect people affected by an eating disorder and mental ill-health. Laura is a recovery coach with the Carolyn Costin Institute, and is also a TV News producer for the BBC. Find out more at

June 2019 • • 35

Photography | Jed Villejo

Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind

36 • • June 2019


Pressing pause

Desperate to prove herself, Rosie threw herself into a demanding work schedule that took its toll on her, both mentally and physically, as she lost the use of her legs. Her burnout was extreme, but understanding the mind-body connection allowed her to heal – by learning the power of rest Writing | Rosie Weldon


n February 2018, I lost the ability to walk. I was 26 years old and I worked out every day. Each time the doctors asked me if I was healthy, I always answered, ‘physically, yes’ because that’s what mattered right? I had lost the use of my legs; my mental health battles were of no importance. To rewind, during my years at university I began to experience severe depression because I was led to believe that, due to being autistic, I would never work. So, on top of being autistic and having generalised anxiety disorder, depression was added to the mix. I graduated from university in the summer of 2017, and by August I had started an incredible job at an investment bank. I have never been short of determination or grit, and

so began this job with a strong mindset of proving everyone wrong; nothing would stop me holding down a job I had only ever dreamed of having. But by November 2017, I lost to depression again. I knew this was because the transition into work had taken a toll, so I got help. I came back stronger, more resilient, and adamant that nothing would take me down again. I felt more in control of my mental health than ever before; it felt like I had beaten depression for good this time. For the next four months I worked up to 13-hour days, and had constant anxiety and panic attacks. I am talking daily anxiety attacks on the bus, I would have autistic meltdowns in the bathroom at work several times a week, and countless times I would walk home with panic attacks so bad I could Continues >>>

Rosie’s Story

Rosie (third from left) celebrating her sister’s birthday, with her brothers and sisters-in-law

I had lost the use of my legs because the psychological connection between my brain and legs had snapped. Essentially, my brain was desperate to slow me down barely breathe. But I was holding down the job. I wasn’t depressed. I was happy. I was winning. So back to February 2018 when I couldn’t walk. I dragged my legs around as they got worse and worse, and the pains I had going up and down them were excruciating. I relied on using crutches and taxis. I was tested for everything from brain tumours to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neuron disease. I had horrible tests, and the scariest doctors’ appointments of my life. I was terrified. In July 2018, doctors told me there were no further tests to carry out. They 38 • • June 2019

believed I had lost the use of my legs because the psychological connection between my brain and legs had snapped. Essentially, my brain was so desperate to slow me down that it found a way to do just that. I left that appointment confused and angry. My first reaction was to argue that I wasn’t faking it. I was in agony, no will in the world would make my legs move as I wanted them to. The more I processed it and talked it through with my GP later, the more it all started making sense. Then I felt shame. How could I have done that to myself? All that pain, all that fear,

was self-inflicted, because I repeatedly told people I did not care what holding down my job did to me. From skipping meals to sleeping 14-hour nights, I never once listened to my body’s desperate attempts to slow me down. I was given the OK by my doctor to drill through intense rehabilitation; to learn to walk again, to balance, to feel normal sensations in my legs. I fell, I tripped, I cried out in pain as I forced my legs to come back – to remember how to walk again. It was not a fun process, and it was pure determination that got me up again after each fall, but it worked.

My legs are not the same as they were before February – I doubt I will ever play football again. I have not tried to run. But I can walk, and for now that means everything to me. I took a long hard look at my life and re-evaluated my priorities. You cannot have a successful career if you give absolutely everything 100% of the time like I was. It was not healthy, and I knew that, but I was proud of how hard I was pushing myself. Listening to the advice of my GP, I looked for a different job. I cried in that doctor’s appointment because midrehabilitation, mid-getting my legs back, I felt gutted


Rosie (left) with her sister-in-law, Elle

My career is more successful having adapted it to a lifestyle that I thrive in that I was going to ruin my career. But I didn’t end up ruining my career. I am employed by an incredible firm that has changed my lifestyle. I don’t have to use public transport anymore, nor work the crazy hours. Instead I come home, and I write, and I listen to music, and I enjoy the

right now. My career is more successful having adapted it to a lifestyle that I thrive in. I will always be driven, and want to tackle a hundred things at the same time; I am doing multiple qualifications, and I am just starting my writing career alongside finance. But none of these are more important to me than my health. Not anymore. I come home from work and no matter how hectic I am, I eat my tea while watching a TV show. It’s my way of switching off from any deadlines and pressure, washing away the day, and being in that moment.

To the parents squeezing in chores while the kids are asleep or at school, when was the last time you enjoyed that nap with the little one? Or caught up on TV while they were at school? I know, I can imagine your arguments, but I can assure you that you will be of very little

use to your children and family if you crash and burn. The same goes to anyone constantly working at their career as I did, or fighting a disability. You should never feel guilty for taking time for yourself, to press pause on deadlines and demands – it is paramount to both your mental and physical health. The thing with mental health is people say, ‘keep fighting’ and ‘stay strong’, and I know they mean well, but if you take one thing from reading this, what I’m saying is ‘keep resting’. Mental illness is a fight; it is a fight you cannot continue unless you fight smart – and rest.

OUR EXPERT SAYS Rosie’s experience was an extreme reaction to the stress she was under. Thankfully, most of us aren’t affected to the same degree, but will recognise the lengths we go to in order to ‘succeed’. In a world where we are bombarded with images of what success is meant to look like, it’s easy to forget that true success is about being happy. Not looking like we’re happy. Rosie has overcome a tremendous challenge, not only in learning to walk again, but also discovering what makes her happy. Rachel Coffey | BA MA NLP Mstr Life coach looking to encourage confidence and motivation

June 2019 • • 39

A lesson in burnout People can often be caught off-guard by life after graduation. Many experience feelings of anxiety and fear related to financial worries, while others feel obliged to impress family with a flashy job title. Graduates entering the world of work can find themselves trying too hard to impress – and are putting their health at risk in the process


Writing | Fiona Thomas Illustrating | Rosan Magar

ew graduates are often vulnerable to ‘burnout’, a phrase first coined by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s to describe the consequences of severe stress in caring professions. Today, research shows that 51% of UK workers experience burnout – and it can apply to any number of scenarios and professions. According to psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member Paula Coles, burnout still lacks an official diagnosis. But it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed by the people who are affected. “It can lead to potential detachment, cynicism, anhedonia [the inability to enjoy things you would usually enjoy], feelings of ineffectiveness, and lack of accomplishment,” says Paula.



The condition is further complicated because it exists on a sliding scale, with symptoms that can overlap with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Perhaps BuzzFeed News reporter Anne Helen Petersen put it best in her article ‘How millennials became the burnout generation’. She wrote: “Why can’t I get this mundane stuff done? Because I’m burned out. Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalised the idea that I should be working all the time. Why have I internalised that idea? Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it.”


Stress is fine in small doses. In fact, your body is designed to physically respond to stress as a much-needed defence mechanism. Once the stressful situation has passed, you should return to normal relatively quickly, but if you’re subjected to constant stressors, then you could end up with burnout.


Some of the most common symptoms are anxiety, anger, tearfulness, irritability, and forgetfulness. You are likely to feel drained, and your sleep patterns will be affected, which can lead to an unhealthy reliance on caffeine and/or alcohol. You may also notice physical changes, such as fluctuations in weight, poor skin, constant fatigue, and increased illness in general. If you’re worried about

heading towards a case of burnout, there are a few ways that you can minimise the risk.


It’s your first foray into the world of work, so you’re probably feeling excited, driven, and ambitious. These are powerful emotions, but try not to set a time limit on finding your perfect role or try to climb up the ladder too quickly. The good news is that in 2016, 87.3% of graduates were employed, so don’t feel disheartened if it takes a while to get a job. Remember, patience is a virtue.


Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean that you need to know every aspect of your industry. This will come with time, and your employers will expect you to ask questions. Don’t let pride get in the way of requesting extra training, clarification, or regular performance reviews. It’s better to be eager to learn than exhaust yourself constantly trying to be the best.


This can make you think that you’re unworthy of your job title, and that you’re at risk of being fired. Be aware of that inner voice, and be ready to argue back with a list of reasons why you deserve to be in your position. Create a folder on your desktop filled with evidence to prove that you are amazing. This could be a breakdown of your

grades, a photograph of you at your graduation ceremony, a copy of your dissertation, or a record of all the positive feedback from your boss. Confirming that you’re good enough will help silence that internal voice that can push you to your limits unnecessarily.

It’s better to be eager to learn than exhaust yourself constantly trying to be the best 4 STOP TRYING TO PLEASE EVERYONE

Easier said than done, right? If you’re focusing on everyone else, then your own happiness automatically drops to the bottom of the pile. This is a sure-fire way to send yourself on a one-way train to burnout town. Accept that you can’t have a perfect career, show-stopping home, award-winning garden, Hollywood romance, and two perfectly shaped eyebrows. It’s OK to spend your weekend at home watching movies instead of cleaning the skirting boards, or fitting in that extra yoga class. There will be plenty of time to take on the world, but for now, try to cut yourself some slack. June 2019 • • 41

Ask the experts Lee Valls, psychotherapist, Counselling Directory member, and clinical director of The London Practice, answers your questions on grief


My friend’s mum died recently after a long battle with cancer. She knows I’m there for her, but I don’t know what else I can do. How can I support her?


There are a number of ways you can help your friend. You can show up, be present, and be there. Sometimes your friend may want to talk about it, and other times she may not. By simply acknowledging your friend’s pain, you are doing enough to support her. On a more practical level, you could offer to do some of her daily tasks to offload her sense of responsibility and reduce her stress. Finally, try to act as you usually would, and continue the social invites. It’s important she feels a sense of normality still, where possible.


When my grandad died last year, I kept busy. I haven’t spoken about it much, but now I’m finding myself getting upset more often. I think I should speak to someone…


It sounds like you may have tried to move on too prematurely, and not allowed yourself to really feel that sadness. Loss and grief are dealt with in many ways, and there is no linear order of dealing with it. People can tend to busy themselves when faced with difficult situations, such as the loss of a loved one. However, you can only run so long before it catches up with you. You are getting upset more often because it’s now time to get in touch with your grief, and allow yourself to connect with how you feel about the loss of your grandad.


Someone close to me completed suicide. I’m sad, but I’m also angry, which is making me feel guilty. I don’t know what to do. Is this normal?


It’s perfectly understandable to feel a range of emotions when someone completes suicide; sad that someone you love was in so much pain that they would want to take their own life and, at the same time, angry that they did it. This can be very confusing, but it’s important to recognise both of those emotions so that they can be processed, and the anger won’t continue to affect you in the long term. Losing someone to suicide will naturally have a big impact on the loved ones around them, so it’s important that you find support to express how you feel, in order to make sense of the situation for yourself.

You can find more information about Lee and his practice on For free and confidential support, call Cruse Bereavement Care on 0808 808 1677

3 TIPS FOR MANAGING GRIEF 1. G  et in touch with how you feel and express yourself. Allow yourself to feel sad – this is a healthy part of the process. Talking is a good way to help you do this. 2. A  void doing things to try to numb the pain, such as drugs and alcohol. You will feel worse when it has worn off.

Counselling Directory is part of the Happiful Family | Helping you find the help you need




3. W  hile grieving, there can be a tendency to neglect oneself. You must continue your self-care by eating and sleeping enough.

Brought to you by Counselling Directory

Master public speaking

For many people, there will be times when we have to give a presentation at work, which can send shivers of dread down the spines of even those who seem the most confident. With a fear of public speaking affecting 56% of the UK population, TEDx speaker Lindsay Maclean shares her insight into how to we can turn the fear into fuel, to deliver an engaging and enjoyable talk



44 • • June 2019

Writing | Lindsay Maclean Illustrating | Rosan Magar


here are so many reasons people develop a fear of public speaking, but one of the most common, I’ve found, is our fear of social judgement – what will others think of us? We put pressure on ourselves to be brilliant, smart, witty and confident human beings as soon as we step into the presenting

space. We forget that we are just human beings, full of complexities and vulnerabilities, trying to do our best to deliver a message in an unnatural environment. Ironically, a perfectly polished person can come across as robotic, making it difficult for an audience to relate. People are far more likely to connect with you when they see natural human vulnerabilities. From a personal perspective, I understand the fear of public speaking. When I was younger, I used to feel physically sick just at the thought of it. But avoiding it didn’t help me progress. Instead, I tackled it head on, and now not only has it helped me to progress professionally, but it’s also helped me to feel liberated, and I’ve turned it into an incredibly rewarding career.


Before any presentation, identify what you want your audience to feel and do both during and after your talk. Why are you speaking? If your intention is clear, you’ll feel more confident, you’ll build a stronger connection with your audience, and you’re more likely to maintain focus.


I love Amy Cuddy’s popular TED talk encouraging you to do some power posing – standing with your shoulders back, chest out, imagining a piece of string attached from the top of your head to the ceiling, and get yourself into a powerful position before any challenging situation. Her research indicates that, by doing this for two minutes, you can increase your testosterone levels and walk into challenging situations feeling more powerful. Many years in this industry tells me it works! One thing I would say is to practise in the mirror first, so that you feel super confident and comfortable doing it.


Many people adopt a robotic persona when they present because they get nervous, or they take themselves too seriously. An audience will always respond better, and listen more, if you’re personable and reveal human emotion. So imagine you’re talking to a friend; creating a closer connection will feed your confidence while you speak.


A turning point for me was learning that I get better results by letting the nerves in rather than fighting them, or pretending they weren’t there. If you feel the nerves at the start, take a deep breath and smile. Do this if you make a mistake too. Your body may feel restricted by nerves, so make a conscious effort to loosen


Psychologists note that between 60% and 90% of the impact of your communication is coming from non-verbals – your body language and the sound of your voice. So alongside preparing your content, pay attention to how you look and sound when under pressure. Practise mindful pausing, and then emphasising your words. Try raising your energy levels more than you think you should, and consider recording yourself. Practising and understanding your impact will give you a confidence boost.


yourself up; imagine you have balloons under your arms, to stop you from holding your upper arms tightly against your body (which people naturally do when they are presenting). Instead, throw the nerves out to the audience through your arms, hands and fingers. People forget to use their hands when they present, which looks unnatural and stiff. So this is a brilliant way to make sure you are always using them, as well as channelling those nerves.

When we see someone yawn, it can prompt us to yawn. It’s the same with any facial expressions; we often mirror what we see. If you smile, others will be more inclined to smile (although don’t look for this). Keep smiling, give it your best, it will be over soon and you’ll feel really satisfied.

‘Speak Up & Be Heard’ is out now (iElevate Educate, £10.99). Find out more at, and follow Lindsay on Twitter @ielevate June 2019 • • 45

Photography | Kilarov Zaneit

‘Boketto’ is a Japanese word that describes gazing quietly into space, not thinking of anything

Love yourself Falling into the comparison trap of seeing people in mainstream media, and then feeling disheartened with our own appearance, is something so many of us can relate to. For Kiss radio presenter Tom Green, his view around body image led to the crushing belief that he couldn’t be successful without looking a certain way. In this personal letter to other men out there, Tom delves into his own negative thought patterns, and shares his advice for owning who you are – in all shapes and forms Writing | Tom Green

Dear ‘Male Class of 2019’, Before I get stuck in, I should introduce myself. Hi! I’m Tom, a 24-year-old radio and TV presenter. Born and bred in Preston, I went to university in Leeds, spent two years in Manchester, and nine months in Bow, East London. I host the KISS FM breakfast show five days a week – nice to meet you!

I’m here to talk about body positivity. How I learned to not care about what other people thought, and to love my cubby northern self… and yes ladies, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Is he single?’ I actually am. Tweet me. I’ve not always felt this way. Like a lot of people, my confidence was knocked in secondary school

with my introduction to the social pecking order. This was my first time creating a mental list of people who I thought were more important than me, based purely on their looks and athleticism. Attributes I thought meant they would get all the girls, and graduate to a lifetime of success. Continues >>>

June 2019 • • 47

Tom Green presents KISS Breakfast weekdays. Follow him on social media @thisistomgreen

That is when I began to develop the idea, which stuck with me for years: ‘To be attractive, I have to be sporty and thin.’ That was my mantra. That is what I believed. ‘Unless you are sporty and thin, you cannot be hot, and therefore you cannot be successful.’ These ideas were absolutely stupid, and completely unproductive, but it’s what I honestly thought at the time.

Seeing people on TV helped to reinforce those negative ideas I had, and how isolated those of us who didn’t conform felt I wasn’t good at sports, and never made the football, rugby, or anything, team. I loved sausage sandwiches and butter pies (it’s a Preston thing, give it a Google), so I wasn’t slim. I didn’t live up to 48 • • June 2019

my idea of a ‘good looking person’, which in my mind equated to a successful person. And, as I got older, I saw this ‘good looking person’ everywhere. My generation grew up watching shows like Geordie Shore, Made in Chelsea, Love Island, and Ex On The Beach, where only one type of body is really represented. For men, that body type was tall, and built like you’ve never left the gym, with a six-pack, and 24/7 tan. Or to put it another way, there were not a lot of chubby Northerners in the mix. Seeing these people on TV helped to reinforce those negative ideas I had, and how isolated those of us who didn’t conform to these categories felt. Then last year something happened, which shows how far I’ve come in accepting my own body. I interviewed singer Liam Payne, and thought it was a brilliant idea to surprise him by hiding under a blanket, and

just before the interview started, having it whipped off so he could: “Paint me like one of your French girls.” No matter how confident you are about your body, it was a pretty ballsy move! The interview was amazing, the reaction online was incredible, and he was actually a natural talent with a painting brush. But how did I go from being incredibly unconfident about my body to being, bar a very small set of speedos, naked in front of a camera? I know this is probably a really overused piece of advice, but it’s completely true. I learnt that, in the vast majority, people only care when you clearly care. When you hold yourself in a way that says, ‘I’m not comfortable’, that energy shows through your body language, and it will then come back to you. But, let’s be honest here, I know full well that confidence isn’t something you can just magic out

Photography | George Baxter, Styling | Liv Hempsted

Tom develooped his confidence over time, with his mantra: ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’

of thin air. You can’t wake up one morning and decide that, going forward, you are going to be a confident individual, comfortable in your skin. However, you can live by my favourite mantra: ‘Fake it ‘til you make it.’ Having confidence is not this intangible quality that is completely unavailable to you. You can chose to silence whatever it is that is holding you back, and start to believe in your own ability. At the start, you might feel uncomfortable in situations, but decide to act in a way that makes it seem like you’re confident. The thing is, people will buy into that energy, and before long they will become accustomed to you being that guy.

Having confidence is not this intangible quality that is completely unavailable to you In time, the genuine confidence will come. And I believe through that confidence you will become happier with the person you are,

learning that it really doesn’t matter your body shape or type, if you own it, people will buy that energy and appreciate you for the person you are – not what you look like. To conclude, I think it is incredibly important to take the positives you can from your situation. Body image is something that you have the ability to craft yourself; you choose how you see you. There is no better time than now to address insecurities and to realise that these things do not need to hold you back! You can view your differences as positives, and use this to not only affect how you perceive yourself physically, but how you hold yourself around

other people. It all starts with acceptance and confidence. Trust me, I know this won’t be easy, but take small steps with addressing how you view you. It will take time, but that confidence will begin to grow, and it won’t be long until you can love the person you are. There is no better time to realise the person you are is good enough. But it starts by you believing it, then everyone else will follow. You got it, pal! June 2019 • • 49

Photography | Eye for Ebony

Studies show wearing bright colours makes us happy, with yellow having the biggest effect 50 • • June 2019

Turning trauma on its head

After her dad’s death when she was a child, feelings of guilt, confusion and helplessness haunted Sherene for years. But a turning point came when she learnt to use the pain as a tool to shape her future, and now it’s looking brighter than ever as she instills hope in everyone she meets


Writing | Sherene Bryan

hen I arrived home from playing with my friends on a sunny afternoon in May 2001, I never imagined that I would look through my letterbox and see something that would change the rest of my life. At just 12 years old, I was faced with a situation that no adult, let alone a child, should ever have to deal with. I remember the day as if it was yesterday. That morning, mum and dad were downstairs arguing while my brother and I were getting ready for school. I got dressed quickly, and left knowing that things were icy at home, but over the years, I had learnt to brush off my parents’ arguments. My dad physically and emotionally hurting my mum was nothing new, but it left me feeling helpless every

single time I witnessed it. You can only imagine the distorted relationship I had with my dad. On one hand, I loved him, and on the other, I hated him for hurting my mum. After school, I went home, got changed and gave my dad a kiss goodbye. I told him I would be back later, but did not give an exact time. Playing with my friends was the only thing on my mind, but after a few hours, I was exhausted and thirsty. Thankfully, the park was across the road from my house. Eager to continue playing, I told my friends I’d be back soon. On the way home, I realised I didn’t have my key. Typical! My dad had said he’d be home, so I ran up to the front door, and knocked. No answer. I knocked again. No answer. I thought he might be in the garage and couldn’t hear me. Continues >>>

Sherene’s Story

Sherene completed a Samaritans charity 10K run in October 2018

The world I once knew had been turned on its head, and I was left with an image and experience that would remain with me for the rest of my life I was about to shout through the letterbox, but decided to look first. Dad was right there by the door. But not how I had ever expected or imagined. He was limp and lifeless. I fell to my knees, overwhelmed and in shock, trying to process the situation and figure out what I should do. I did not shout. I did not cry. 52 • • June 2019

I couldn’t quite believe what I had seen. I couldn’t get into the house to save him. Time had frozen and everything felt very surreal. I ran to a friend’s house around the corner. I was panicking, and my heart felt like it was going to pop out of my chest. His dad called the police, while I sprinted home and waited in desperation for them

to arrive. When they got there, I pleaded with them to bash down the door and save my dad. In my head I was praying that he would have a heartbeat. Nobody asked where my mum was, nobody took me away from the scene. Nobody comforted me, or held my hand and explained what was happening. Yet still, I did not cry. Sadly, my dad didn’t make it. The verdict – suicide. After dad passed away, I was left with a barrage of questions and a huge hole in my heart. The world I once knew had been turned on its head, and I was left with an image and experience that would remain with me for the rest of my life. For the first two weeks, everywhere I turned people were asking me: “Are you OK?” In my head, I was screaming, “No!”

but I just nodded to avoid reliving the horror. Over time, the conversations happened less, and my memories of his voice grew fainter, until one day, they just disappeared. But the vision of discovering his lifeless body is something that will remain with me forever. In my mind and heart there was so much going on – anxiety, fear, grief, heartache, anger, disbelief. I became very introverted and suffered in silence. Not receiving any counselling, or being able to speak about what had happened and how I felt, played havoc with my mental health. It fuelled an internal war, leading me to a place of self-hate, self-blame and guilt, where I would beat myself up for failing to save my dad. In 2005, I attended college with a few GCSEs, and a complete lack of motivation.


Sherene, with her mum Anneth, campaigning in Luton on World Suicide Prevention Day 2018

I realised that my life is worth living, and the power to change my mindset is within me After several months, my teacher gave me a good telling off. Amongst the harsh words, she was relighting my fire more than she ever knew. Her message was: “You have potential, and if you don’t sort it now, you will mess up the rest of your life.” I can honestly say, this was the turning point that caused me to stop, address the pain of my past, and use that as a tool to guide and shape my future. I also attended church with my mum until the age of 18, which did me the world of good. Hearing weekly

messages of hope and encouragement steered me in the direction of faith and focus for my future. The biggest change in my mindset came when I started to accept that my dad had gone forever, and realised that it was his choice to end his life. No longer did I want to live my life feeling guilty over something I could not change. This required me to challenge all the negative thoughts I had about myself, and come to a place of acceptance. To adjust to life without my dad, but maintain an

enduring connection to him through the happy memories we did have. I am now on a mission to break the stigma and get more people talking about their own mental health. On World Suicide Prevention Day – 10 September 2018 – I launched a campaign called #OnItsHead, with the aim to place the stigma of mental health and suicide on its head to prevent more lives from being turned upside down. Sharing my story gives me

a great level of satisfaction, knowing that I could inspire someone else to speak up. But one of my biggest achievements is becoming a suicide first aider, a skill that I feel blessed to have, as I am equipped to bring a person to a place of safety if they are in crisis. My dad lives on through me, and I do this in his memory. I have learnt so much about who I am through this journey of selfdiscovery, and every time I share my story, a piece of my own pain goes away.

OUR EXPERT SAYS Sherene went through something extremely traumatic, and felt alone, leading her to become introverted and critical of herself as she struggled with those difficult feelings. Her turning point came when she found support in her teacher and church. By processing what happened, and addressing the pain, she was able to move on from the past, and look forward to her future. We often find adjusting to a loss is the most painful part of any change, and we need compassion and time to achieve it. Graeme Orr | MBACP (Accred) UKRCP Reg Ind counsellor

June 2019 • • 53

Read all about it

We all know that reading can offer a wonderful escape into our imaginations, inviting us into new worlds, scenarios and experiences – and it’s proven to be good for our wellbeing. But, what about the people whose mental health might make reading difficult? Audiobooks sound like an intriguing idea... Writing | Louise Barling Illustrating | Rosan Magar


ust six minutes of reading can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two thirds, according to research from the University of Sussex. But when your mind is keeping you from concentrating, what else can you do? Audiobooks can be a great way to still get the enjoyment and benefits of reading – try it with your local library, on Audible, Spotify, or Project Gutenberg. Members of the charity Listening Books use audiobooks to help their mental health and day-to-day life. While everyone’s journey is different, here are just five reasons why popping in those headphones could improve your wellbeing, too. Read on...

This all changed when Aimee began listening to audiobooks on her commute, which distracted her from the anxiety. “I close my eyes and listen, and I’m transported to wherever the book is,” she explains. “I think this kind of therapy-through-literature should be available to all. Audiobooks have made my commute something to look forward to.”



When a panic attack starts, it can be difficult to regain control. But knowing your triggers, and preparing with a calm mind, can help keep the attacks at bay. Listening Books member Aimee’s panic attacks were often triggered on her commute. Having to get off crowded trains and buses meant that she was often late for her job, and unprepared for her day.

54 • • June 2019

I close my eyes and listen, and I’m transported to wherever the book is When your mind is whirring and won’t shut off, it can be hard to sleep. But audiobooks can give your brain the relaxation it needs to rest properly. One member details how her daughter uses audiobooks to get the sleep she so desperately needs. “We were recommended audiobooks by someone in a dyslexic support group,” she says. “At the time, Sophie was refusing

to go to school and was very anxious. From that moment she has listened to books every day! It has become her oasis of calm. She can switch off her tired brain and relax and listen.”


For people who find that their condition makes concentrating on books difficult, reading can feel impossible. For lovers of the written word, this can mean that they miss out on literature altogether. A Listening Books member said that before she found audiobooks she felt stupid, as her mental illness made it difficult – and often impossible – to read printed books. But with audiobooks, her confidence has been transformed. “I like that I am not excluded from this world of literature. It excites me to find a book that really interests me.”

Any time your internal monologue becomes too much, immersing yourself in someone else’s story can give your exhausted mind a break 4 DISTRACTING FROM NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Any time your internal monologue becomes too much, immersing yourself in someone else’s story can give your exhausted mind the break it needs to feel able to face daily challenges again. Heather says: “By listening to a book, I can concentrate on the story instead of the pain. If I’m having a bad time with my bipolar, a book takes my mind off it.”


Our brain produces a chemical called serotonin, which is linked to happiness and wellbeing. People with mental illnesses such as depression tend to have lower levels of serotonin, and so are often prescribed medication to increase this. But doctors can also prescribe pleasurable activities, such as exercise, as a way of increasing this.


The pleasure we get from laughing at a funny story, ENLIGHTENING or becoming IDEAS engrossed in a romance, can make us feel happier, which can help us overcome negative feelings linked to anxiety and depression. Listening Books member Andre says: “I’d been on antidepressants for almost 10 years, and listening to books has helped me improve my health, memory and concentration. It’s a traditional version of mindfulness.” Visit to find out more and to sign up for membership. Louise Barling is from Listening Books – a charity audiobook library service for people who find that their illness, disability, or mental health impacts

Let’s get veggie

World Meat Free Week is 17–23 June 2019

Our favourite pasta dish is proven to please! Writing | Ellen Hoggard

Whether for health reasons, animal rights, sustainability, or simply personal preference, people across the world have been making changes to what they’re eating. Vegetarianism and veganism are growing in popularity each year, and as we hear more about the impact of our eating habits on the environment, the more the conversation grows. Whatever your reasons for going meat-free, vegetarian, vegan or whatever label you choose, it’s making a difference – and you don’t have to make your changes full-time either. One meat-free day a week could be a great step to start experimenting in the kitchen. Plus, opting for more veggies in your diet is no bad thing. Not only can it be more cost-effective, it calls for education and experimentation. With World Meat Free Week this month, we challenge you to try something new. Maybe choose a veggie dish in a restaurant, buy a new cookbook, or dive in and see what you can make. This recipe is simple and delicious, and a great intro to vegetarian cooking. 56 • • June 2019


Ingredients 4 garlic cloves 6 shallots, halved 2 sweet peppers, chopped 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed 1 chilli pepper, chopped ¾ cup almond milk 240g rigatoni pasta Olive oil Salt and pepper Optional: a side salad or tenderstem broccoli, a grating of parmesan, or a crumbling of feta. Method •P  reheat oven to 200 degrees, gas mark 6. •P  repare the vegetables and add the shallots, garlic, sweet peppers and butternut squash to a baking tray. Drizzle over olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 35 minutes. •R  emove the veg from the oven and leave to cool. In a pan, bring water to boil. Add your pasta (rigatoni is my favourite) and cook for 10–12 minutes.

• To make the sauce, add the vegetables to your blender or food processor. Add the almond milk, a glug of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Combine until smooth. • Drain the pasta and add the sauce. Mix well. Serve with a side salad or some greens, garnish with parmesan or a crumbling of feta cheese. Enjoy.

OUR EXPERT SAYS… This is a really quick and easy vegetarian dish. The colourful veggies make it rich in antioxidants, which will help keep you healthy, and the fibre will help keep blood sugar levels more stable. If possible, try to use red, yellow or orange peppers; they have a sweeter taste and a better nutrient profile. Butternut squash is also a good source of fibre and vitamin A – vital for good eye health and an effective immune system. To have a bit of texture, I would only blend half or two thirds of the vegetable mix, and leave the rest chunky. Wholemeal pasta provides more fibre, releases energy slowly, and controls blood sugar levels more effectively than white pasta, so swap as you see fit. To make this dish Find a nutritionally complete, nutritionist I would add some near you at additional low-fat, nutritionisthigh fibre protein in the form of beans, such as cannellini or butter beans. They could also be blended with some lemon juice and garlic (resembling hummus) and folded into the sauce to make it extra creamy. To make this completely vegetarian, substitute the parmesan for a vegetarian-friendly alternative, or to make it vegan, opt for a vegan cheese or omit the cheese completely. Susan Hart is a nutrition coach and speaker. As well as delivering healthy eating advice to individuals, Susan hosts regular workshops ad runs vegan cooking classes. Find out more at June 2019 • • 57



R E C H A R G E Do you wake up feeling exhausted, no matter what time you go to bed? Or do you depend on sugar and caffeine to get you through the day? We all feel tired from time to time, and it’s usually obvious what the cause is, but for many people this continues without any apparent reason, becoming an ongoing sluggishness they can’t shrug off no matter what they do. Could nutrition put our tiredness woes to bed? Writing | Deborah Lacey


eeling persistently tired is pretty draining – unsurprisingly. While for some people they might notice the occasional mid-afternoon slump, for others, the regular feeling that no matter how much sleep you’re getting, it’s just not enough, will be all too familiar. And the question we’re dreaming of an answer to, is what can we do about it? In 2015, the Royal College of Psychiatrists reported that at any given time in the UK, one in five people experience an unusual level of tiredness, and one in 10 had prolonged fatigue. With the National Safety Council recently reporting that 13% of workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue, it’s something incredibly

important to tackle, for both our physical and mental wellbeing. As a nutritional therapist, I often see clients who are troubled by always feeling tired, which greatly affects their lives – not only in trying to function in daily life, but also in finding that they don’t even have the energy to do the things in life they truly enjoy either. TIRED AND TESTED What can be tricky about tackling constant tiredness is that there’s no simple answer to help everyone. From a dietary perspective, the first question to ask would be whether you are eating enough to sustain the level of activity in your day. For example, without any knowledge of nutrition required, generations

At any given time in the UK, one in five people experience an unusual level of tiredness of builders have found that variations of a Full English Breakfast will give them energy to last through the morning, and that a chia seed and berry smoothie with a croissant won’t! The type of work you do, such as manual or sedentary, or kind of exercise, such as walking to a bus stop or a full-on gym session, needs to be considered. What are you expecting your body to do? Continues >>> June 2019 • • 59

While nutrition can help counter your tiredness, it’s important to understand the root cause, therefore it may be worth speaking to your GP. There can be physical issues behind it, or sometimes psychological, such as depression, insomnia, stress, and emotional shock. 60 • • June 2019

BRAIN FUEL Remember we also need energy for brain power. B Vitamins are important for mental health as well as energy production, and warding off tiredness, but can be depleted by excessive alcohol consumption. Sources of this include wild rice, eggs, poultry, oily fish (salmon, mackerel), nuts and seeds, and beans and lentils. Underactivity of the thyroid gland is often associated with fatigue as it helps the body to use energy efficiently, as well

as helping us to stay warm, and keeping the brain and other organs working properly. With this in mind, it’s wise to ensure you eat foods that provide nutrients to support thyroid function, such as: Iron found in meat, prawns, fish, prunes, legumes and pulses (kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas). Iodine found in fish, eggs, seafood, and sea vegetables (kelp, wakame, nori). (Please note that I don’t recommend taking iodine supplements, as it is easy to take an excess, which can be harmful) Vitamin A, which helps the body to use iodine, and can be found in cheese, eggs, oily fish, carrots, apricots, squashes, and green leafy vegetables. The thyroid works very closely with the adrenal glands which are also involved with energy production, but another major role is to help us deal with stress. We are very good at coping, tending to add on one more task after another and, because these gradually accumulate, we feel our individual level of pressure is normal. This can be looked upon as your ‘stress burden’ and it’s worthwhile considering ways that you can look to reduce your stress. EASY, SUGAR It isn’t only external stressors, such as work pressures or negative relationships, that may create extra work for our adrenals, but we have dietary

iron iodine vitamin a thyroid support

The first question to ask would be whether you are eating enough to sustain the level of activity in your day

Nevertheless, it’s not only about quantity or calories. It’s important to think about protein, which is needed to grow, repair and defend against disease. Protein is also essential for energy and stamina, and usually keeps us feeling fuller for longer, compared to other foods, such as refined carbs like biscuits, bread and pastries. If you tend to skip breakfast, it’s worth considering a research trial carried out in 2018 on a group of young adults. They found that those eating a highprotein breakfast, compared to those skipping breakfast, experienced benefits throughout the day by feeling fuller for longer, and making healthier food choices – even reducing the desire for high-carb and sugary foods during the evening. So, what we can gather is when you eat, as well as what you eat, is important. My advice is to aim for regular meal times, and always include some form of protein: meat, fish, seafood, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, tofu, quinoa.

stressors as well, particularly sugar. It can be surprising how much sugar is in what we think of as healthy food, as well as in savoury dishes. We’re probably not surprised about 18.7g sugar in a 41g Snickers, but take a look at these: Activia mango yoghurt (120g) 14g sugar Innocent smoothie, strawberry and banana (250ml) 28g sugar Alpen muesli original (100g) 21g sugar Kellogg’s bran flakes (30g) 4.2g sugar Dolmio bolognese pasta sauce original 6.8g sugar per serving + Sainsbury’s spaghetti 3g sugar per serving Goodfella’s stonebaked thin pepperoni pizza (340g) 7.8g sugar Some of these are naturally occurring sugars, but they still add to the burden on the adrenals

that our bodies need to deal with, and may contribute to enduring tiredness. It’s easy to estimate from these examples how quickly your sugar consumption can mount up over a day. The good news is that you can easily make changes. Just one simple example would be to buy plain live natural yoghurt (containing about 5g of naturally occurring sugar) and adding your own chopped fruit. Berries are particularly good because they are low in sugars, and high in nutrients. RECIPE FOR RECOVERY If you try these suggestions and still find no improvement, it’s possible that you may have an underlying condition that is making you feel so tired, so it would be wise to consult your GP. Our bodies need all of these nutrients, because deficiencies of any one thing will make it harder

to produce energy, and leave you feeling tired. If you planned to make a fabulous birthday cake with all the best ingredients, but kept substituting ingredients for those of lesser quality, it would be no surprise if the cake was a bit disappointing! Try reducing your sugar intake, and adding these suggestions to your diet every week, thereby giving your body the ingredients necessary to shrug off the tiredness and produce the energy you need for your work, your relaxation time, and to improve your sense of wellbeing. Deborah Lacey is a registered nutritional therapist, and founder of Fresh Horizons Nutrition. She is trained to analyse each client’s diet and lifestyle habits and to provide safe, well-balanced programmes to suit each person’s unique health requirements and routines. Visit for more. June 2019 • • 61


WELL BEING Technology is changing the way we live. From digital assistants controlling our homes, to video games that help reduce symptoms of depression, there’s never been a better time to explore and embrace how tech can help support our mental health

Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford


e’re living in an exciting time of technological advancements. It feels like we’re constantly hearing about new ways tech can help change our habits, enabling us to live happier, healthier lives.

62 • • June 2019

While there’s a lot of mixed messages about the impact of areas such as social media, for better or worse we’re (almost) always going to be connected in some way. Why not embrace these technological advances and their potential power for good?

Did you know?

The NHS Apps Library recommends a wide range of trusted apps and digital tools to help improve your wellbeing? With more than 70 apps in total, it currently features 19 apps specifically to help with mental health, including stress, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and mood tracking.

There’s an app for that Whether you’re looking to track your menstrual cycle, or find quick and easy gluten-free recipes, the chances are if you can think of it, someone’s made an app for it. Convenient and cheap (or sometimes even free), apps can help with a number of mental health concerns – though they shouldn’t be a replacement for professional advice and care.

Mindfulness and meditation apps are amongst some of the most popular apps out there. In 2018, Apple named ‘self-care’ its app trend of the year, while Calm was named iPhone app of the year 2017. Helping users learn how to practise regular mindfulness as a form of self-care, Calm offers guided meditation for all skill levels, with a range of soothing background noises, and more. Feeling overwhelmed? You’re in good company, with 74% of us so stressed we were “overwhelmed or unable to cope” at some point over the past year, according to the Mental Health Foundation. Organisational apps can be a simple way of helping us plan, create goals, and use scheduling to decrease the stress and strain that can come from having too much to do. Acting as a personal task manager, the award-winning Things app is easy to use, letting users keep all of their ‘to-dos’ in one place. For more visual thinkers, Trello acts like a mixture between a bulletin board and a collection of sticky notes, letting users drag and drop notes, lists, photos, and colourcoded tabs with set time limits, to organise their workload by app or on desktop. Continues >>> June 2019 • • 63

Wearable wellness We’d all like to understand our health and track our wellbeing a little bit better. And now with these everyday accessories, we’re starting to understand more about our sleep patterns, fitness and activity levels. Thanks to the likes of the Apple Watch and Fitbit, wearable technologies have crept into the mainstream. With the help of apps and their latest software updates, users can do everything from checking messages and making calls, to practising mindfulness, tracking their heart rate, steps and physical activity. When it comes to relaxing and unwinding, you’ll be pleased to know just 10 minutes of meditation each day can help increase feelings of wellbeing and reduce stress. Knowing how effective your

meditation is just got easier with the help of The Muse headband. Acting as a personal meditation guide, The Muse headband prompts users to clear their minds if it picks up on a lot of activity, while providing soothing sounds of rainforests or beaches.

Muse: RRP £199

No place like home Our homes can be havens from day-to-day worries, but can also be the cause of stress. With the help of app-controlled fixtures and fittings, we can adapt our environment to better suit our needs. If you struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), smart light bulbs can be used as sunrise alarm clocks. Coming on at set times, they can gradually brighten to replicate a warm sunrise. The Philips Hue can be controlled from your smartphone via an app, or through voice commands when paired with Google Home. Unnerved by the silence when at home? Smart home assistants like Amazon Echo can not only be 64 • • June 2019

Smart light bulbs can help those who struggle with SAD used to voice control other smart tech, but can provide a surprising amount of comfort and entertainment in itself. According to a recent study by Rotary Great Britain and Ireland, as many as 7% of us have asked our electronic

assistants a question to help combat the silence and feelings of loneliness. With 41% of us feeling most alone when we return home from work, digital assistants can make simple tasks feel more like interactions.

Playing well Experts are using virtual reality (VR) as a therapeutic tool to help with conditions including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD). University College London, together with the ICREA University of Barcelona, revealed that VR therapy may help people with clinical depression become less critical towards themselves, helping increase their selfcompassion and reducing symptoms of depression. But what about outside of a clinical setting? Still in development, Deep VR is a meditative game you control with your breathing. Played using a custom controller and a virtual

reality headset, gamers explore a mysterious underwater world by controlling their breathing to move. Teaching relaxing, yogic breathing techniques that can help alleviate stress, anxiety and mild depression, the movement of the water matches the rise and fall of your breath. If you’re looking for a way to de-stress and practise simple breathing exercises but can’t wait for Deep, Zen Zone can help. Players visualise their bodies while

Digital therapy If you’re looking to speak with a professional, contacting a counsellor has never been easier. Thanks to video chat, email, and instant messaging, online counselling has become increasingly accessible. Often offering shorter wait times, convenience, and a lower cost, those with mobility issues or living in remote areas can gain greater access to professional support outside of their immediate area. Expert opinion is divided on whether online counselling is quite as beneficial as traditional face-to-face sessions. However, its combination of affordability, accessibility and convenience

Check that the site or service you use only recommends qualified individuals who belong to a professional body make it a popular option – just remember to check that the site or service you are using only recommends qualified individuals who belong to a professional body.

practising breathing exercises, as well as tending their own digital zen garden by raking sand and arranging rocks in soothing patterns.



While recent tech advantages are impressive, it’s important to remember the underlying principles that improve our overall sense of wellbeing. According to the Harvard Business Review, unless we focus on creating a culture in which self-care is encouraged and prioritised, wellness programmes are less likely to work. Finding new, innovative ways to put self-care and mindfulness at the centre of how we live and work has never been more important. It’s time to embrace small technological advances and re-focus on how they can improve our day-to-day lives. June 2019 • • 65

Can you dig it? There aren’t very many feelings akin to breathing in a lungful of fresh air, sinking our fingers into freshly turned soil, or just sitting back and relaxing in the last bit of evening sun, listening to the sounds of nature around us. A lot of us will be able to attest to the effect being outdoors has on our mental health and overall wellbeing. It’s a link that’s being explored more and more, with BBC horticultural hero Monty Don opening up


Win a kit, gardening ding lu c in , 0 5 £ worth ou need to y g in th ry eve r, email d. To ente get starte ons t competiti at you want to plan h w s ts u n g de tellin to UK resi first. Open ng date for si only, clo . 16th June entries is ck! lu d o Go

about how gardening has helped him manage depression, and the Duchess of Cambridge co-designing a garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show that celebrated the mental health benefits of being outside.

Watching as the flower you grew from a seed begins to blossom, or seeing a family of birds build a home in your garden, can be gentle reminders of the role that we play in the world around us. From the

tiniest beetle all the way up to ourselves, even the smallest actions can help wildlife flourish. This month we’re bringing you a guide to the plants that you can nurture in your garden, balcony, windowsill, or community project to help support British wildlife, as well as some tips of the small things that we can do to make our natural spaces more accessible to all creatures, great and small. As the days get longer and the temperature slowly but surely begins to rise, now is the perfect time to get outside and reconnect with the world around us. So grab your wellies, clean off your trowel, and get outdoors – you may find the benefits linger long after the sun sets.

Baby on board The arrival of a baby sends ripples through people’s lives, changing relationships, routines, and finances, not to mention identity. With this in mind, perhaps it isn’t so surprising that perinatal mental health problems are incredibly common. With insight from a consultant psychologist, a charity at the heart of the community offering support, and someone who has been there herself, we find out about perinatal mental health, and the help that’s out there Writing | Kathryn Wheeler


ou can imagine it, the excitement when the baby has arrived, the grandparents have visited – weighed down with presents – and everyone has marvelled over the unbelievably tiny fingers and toes. The birth of a baby is a momentous moment for any parent, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

Perinatal mental health problems refer to challenges and mental illnesses that occur during pregnancy, or in the first year of the child’s life, and covers a wide range of problems – from perinatal depression and anxiety, to OCD, psychosis and PTSD. And they’re incredibly common, affecting 10% to 20% of women and 5% to 15% of men.

There are theories as to why certain people may experience problems while others won’t – although experts note there’s often no one single cause. There are, however, several factors that may contribute to the likelihood of someone struggling. This may include hormonal changes, a history of mental illness, and a traumatic pregnancy or birth, Continues >>> June 2019 • • 67

I had no idea I had an illness because my knowledge was so limited. It’s not just feeling sad or not bonding with your baby. It can be a mixture of other things too

Sally diagnosed with postnatal depression induced by exhaustion

among many other components, such as lifestyle changes and personal pressures. It can be hard to predict what will happen during or after pregnancy – and each time round can be completely different, something that Sally Bunkham discovered after the birth of her youngest daughter. Sally’s first pregnancy was straightforward. But when her second daughter was born, her household was thrown into chaos, made worse by her new baby’s colic. Wiped out by exhaustion, Sally was overtaken by anger to the point where she began to self-harm. Eventually, Sally went to see her GP and was diagnosed with postnatal depression induced by exhaustion. But things got to breaking point before she sought help; something she believes she would have done sooner had she known she was experiencing symptoms of perinatal mental illness. “I had no idea I had an illness, because my knowledge was so limited,” Sally explains “It’s not just 68 • • June 2019


of new parents experience perinatal mental illness feeling sad or not bonding with your baby. It can be a mixture of other things, too.” Today, Sally reaches others with her new mum self-care hamper, Mum’s Back. But as with Sally, and so many others, the mystery and stigma that shrouds perinatal mental health means that getting help often isn’t even on the agenda until things get to a critical point. But it shouldn’t be that way. “If you imagine you are one of 10 on the ward, at least two women would have experienced similar symptoms, so you are not alone in what you are going through,” says Dr Sarah Jane Khalid, consultant psychologist and coach. “You,

SIGNS OF PERINATAL MENTAL ILLNESS • A persistent feeling of sadness and low mood • Believing you’re unable to look after your baby • Feelings of guilt and hopelessness • Difficulty bonding with your baby • Frightening thoughts about hurting your baby – though these are very rarely acted upon and the body that brought life into the world, are worth taking care of. Imagine that you are part of a great movement in breaking down the barriers of stigma and discrimination.” Luckily, there are a number of support pathways out there to turn to. Firstly, if you have a history of mental health problems, it’s likely that you will already be in contact with a perinatal mental health team. But if you begin experiencing symptoms for the first time, your initial step should be to visit your GP. “It may be that the GP refers you to talking therapies,” Sarah Jane explains. “Often, there is not too long a wait for mothers-to-be or

Baby on board


of women develop a problem during pregnancy and

19.8% after

new mums, as they are viewed as a high-priority group.” Support groups are an option that many people turn to, to share their experiences with others who understand exactly what you’re going through. The PANDAS (Pre and Post Natal Depression Advice and If you imagine you are one Support) Foundation is an organisation at the heart of 10 on the ward, at least of community and online two women would have assistance. “We aim to remove the experienced similar symptoms, guilt,” PANDAS tells us. “By so you are not alone in what joining in with the perinatal you are going through community, you have physical proof that you are not alone on your journey.” Offering a helpline, in-community someone in your life there are support groups, as well as an online many ways that you can offer community and a space specifically support. Sarah Jane notes how for dads, the PANDAS Foundation important it is to listen nonexists to break down the stigma that judgmentally, and to give the prevents people from reaching out, person your time. and to be there when people do. “One important question could “Sharing lived experience and be what you, as a friend or family coping tips, focusing on self-care, member, could do to help or and encouraging parents that it’s best support them,” Sarah Jane OK to have a bad day, a bad week – suggests. “Don’t judge what they or even a bad year – and still be a say, they may be experiencing competent and loving parent, is so distressing and intrusive thoughts. important.” Just gently acknowledge them But while professional support with: ‘that’s tough’, or ‘I can should be your first port of call, if imagine having those thoughts perinatal mental health is affecting must be difficult.’”

For more information on perinatal mental health, and to find support groups and online communities, visit If you’re struggling with perinatal mental health, Sarah Jane stresses the importance of having hope. “Imagine a future where you are feeling good, like your old self, enjoying life with your baby,” she says. “Then take a step back and come up with the steps you need to make this happen.” Perinatal mental illness is scary, and can be an unwelcome shadow over this life-changing time. But it’s not the end of the story. “Although it might not feel like it now,” Sally says. “You can, and you will, get better.” And she’s right. The journey won’t be easy – many mental health journeys aren’t. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and a community of others out there ready to lend a hand through the hardest of times. June 2019 • • 69

Happiful Hero

Photography | Finn Hackshaw

70 • happiful • December 2018

The challenge is not to be perfect… it’s to be whole – JANE FONDA


TOP 10

PAGE-TURNERS The Algebra of Happiness by Scott Galloway

Images | Rebekah Taussig: Instagram @sitting_pretty, Toy Story 4: (C) Disney•Pixar


From professor of business and New York Times bestselling author Scott Galloway, this book sets a route for maximising happiness and minimising stress. Answering the questions: ‘Is work-life balance really possible?’; and ‘Can you live with no regrets?’, this read offers the equations for a more contented life. (Out 13 June, £14.99, Bantam Press)



Staying active is great for our physical and mental health, but sometimes it can be hard to stay motivated. With GoodGym’s sessions combining running with community projects, the feel-good factor is in full force. Spend time with elderly people, do some lifting at a community garden, or help out at a food bank, and then run back again.


This month, put your wellbeing first. Stay hydrated with the app that reminds you to drink up, make time for a mini meditation session, and discover the secret to easy living with an insightful read

OUT AND ABOUT London Pride



If you find yourself often neglecting to drink enough water, this is the app for you. With an array of customisation options, including your own personal water goals, cup size, and reminders, this handy app will help keep you healthy and hydrated. (Available on Google Play for free, or £4.99 on the App Store)


Natural Wellness Box



LEND US YOUR EARS ‘Meditation Minis’

(To find a local group, visit

A subscription that’s sure to make you feel pampered, this bi-monthly box includes hand-picked high-end natural beauty and health products. With each month having a theme – past boxes include ‘sleep’, ‘recovery’, and ‘balance’ – this box makes for an extra indulgent Happiful treat. readers can get (Bi-monthly boxes 10% off and a free copy are £35, subscribe at of The Little Pocket Book of Happiness by Lois Blyth (RRP: £9.99) when you order a Natural Wellness box using the code: happiful 19


Marking 50 years since the Stonewall uprising, take to the streets to celebrate LGBT+ life, and continue the fight for equality and visibility. Attend LGBT+ events and shows throughout June, before the festival culminates in a parade on 6 July. (8 June to 6 July,



The gang are back again, this time with a new toy in tow, and an unexpected reunion with an old friend. In this family-friendly film that’s sure to bring out the child in us all, sit back and relax as you’re taken on a journey to infinity, and beyond. (In cinemas 21 June)


Want to give meditation a go but find yourself pushed for time? Hosted by hypnotherapist Chel Hamilton, these short 10-minute episodes seek to guide you through meditations, soothing anxiety, and building confidence as you go. (Available from iTunes and Spotify, head to for more)



Proms in the Castle

Head out for a captivating night of classical music in the historic grounds of Pontefract Castle, Wakefield. Pack a picnic and relax as the West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra takes you on a journey through the ages before the night closes with a stunning fireworks finale. (22 June, tickets start at £10 for adults and £8 for under 16s and students, visit


PLUGGED-IN Rebekah Taussig

Writer and teacher Rebekah Taussig began her Instagram account to document life from her ‘ordinary, resilient disabled body’. With each of her posts being both a snapshot of life with her two cats and husband, and an eye-opening insight into disability, Rebekah is one to watch. (Follow Rebekah on Instagram @sitting_pretty)

THE CONVERSATION Volunteers’ Week A week dedicated to celebrating and saying thank you to the millions of volunteers who give up their time to make the world a better place. Read others’ volunteering stories, and lend a hand at events and organisations near you. (1–7 June,


gender dysphoria

Elli Francis was 13 when she first went bra shopping. It was an outing she had been putting off because her developing chest and assigned gender were an uncomfortable reality she wasn’t ready to face. Elli is one of a growing number of people who experience gender dysphoria – a condition where discomfort or distress is experienced because of a mismatch between biological sex and gender identity. Now, 14 years on, Elli is seeking the help that will reconcile her body and mind Writing | Laura Graham

While biological sex and gender identity are the same for a lot of people, this isn’t the case for everyone.


entally and physically, Elli always felt different from the girls in the playground. As she entered puberty and her chest developed, it became her biggest body phobia. Bra shopping was a traumatic experience, and she did all she could to hide her chest, slouching, wearing baggy clothes, even binding her breasts. They were a physical reminder of how uncomfortable she felt as a woman, a label that felt wrong in so many ways. How she felt about her body and identity started affecting her relationships, and she avoided physical intimacy. “Some days I feel more masculine, some days more feminine,” Elli says. “It’s like you’re a boy and a girl. It was confusing because society told me I had to be one or the other. For a while I thought I must be trans, but I don’t want to be a man, or a woman, I just want to be me.” Elli went to her GP initially because she had been suffering from mental ill-health. At that point, she hadn’t made the link

1% of 10,000 people surveyed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2012 were gender variant to some extent.

between gender dysphoria and depression. That conversation with her GP became the catalyst for a journey which had been waiting in the wings since childhood.


According to a 2012 survey of 10,000 people by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 1% of the population surveyed was gender variant, to some extent. Yet many people are unfamiliar with the differences between gender and sex, and how people might relate to these.

For a while I thought I must be trans, but I don’t want to be a man, or a woman, I just want to be me At birth, we are assigned a sex based on the anatomy of our reproductive system – male, female and intersex. Based on

2,519 people were referred to one of the seven NHS Gender Identity Clinics in England in 2017 to 2018

this, we are assigned a gender identity, usually male or female. Our gender identity denotes a number of societal norms and expected behaviours, such as our appearance, language, hobbies, careers – in fact, every facet of our lives. While biological sex and gender identity are the same for a lot of people, this isn’t the case for everyone. People with gender dysphoria don’t feel they fit these constructs. This was certainly true for Elli, who identifies as non-binary and mainly uses the pronouns she/her, but also he/him and they/them. People who identify as non-binary may think of themselves as both man and woman, neither, moving between genders, or embodying a third gender.


Elli was one of 2,519 people referred to one of the seven NHS Gender Identity Clinics in England in 2017/18. Referrals can be made by any clinician (GP, psychiatrist, social worker, psychologist, community psychiatric nurse), but the GP has to be aware and in Continues >>> agreement.

June 2019 • • 73

People who work in the Gender Identity Service choose to do so because they are interested in, and caring of, people with gender dysphoria and have the patient's best interests at heart. We work very hard to make everyone feel comfortable but if you do feel anxious, tell your clinician. We're not the gender police, and we're not here to tell people how they may or may not live. We're governed by NHS policy, guidelines, and professional ethics, and want to ensure that our patients experience the best care possible. – Dr H Eli Joubert, consultant clinical psychologist, Gender Identity Clinic, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Elli found accessing online videos by transgender people really helpful

After an anxious wait of eight months, Elli attended her first appointment where she had a psychological analysis, and blood tests to assess hormone levels and health. Her next appointment, months later, focused on what treatment Elli wanted. Elli was asked if she was happy with her physicality, to assess if hormone treatment would be appropriate. “I was nervous that because I’m non-binary rather than transgender, and I didn’t want hormone treatment, that I would be treated differently, and I wouldn’t get the outcome I 74 • • June 2019

wanted. After speaking at length, the consultant understood that my chest is my issue, and that I want top surgery, which means having a double mastectomy.” Some people might see removing both breasts as extreme as it’s normally undertaken if there is a risk of breast cancer, but Elli sees it as necessary to feel happy in her body. When Elli spoke of her desire to have a double mastectomy, some friends thought she had body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, and perhaps needed counselling instead.

Elli did a lot of research online about how she was feeling. She found that the NHS defines BDD as “a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others.” This didn’t relate to how she was feeling because her body phobias related to her gender identity. That is the distinction between the very separate medical conditions of body dysmorphia and gender dysphoria. Elli found accessing YouTube videos by transgender people

SUPPORT SERVICES For anyone experiencing gender dysphoria, or who would like more information and support, there are a lot of resources:

Visit:, a charity working to support the trans and gender nonconforming communities, and who support young people, and their families.

Read: TRANS: Exploring Gender Identity and Gender Dysphoria by Dr Az Hakeem (Trigger, £14.99)

If you feel alone, there are plenty of people online, like me, who you can connect with really helpful. Transgender people want to live and be accepted as a gender that doesn’t match the one assigned at birth, usually accompanied by the wish for treatment to make their physical appearance more consistent with their gender identity. After learning about transexualism, and talking to one of her friends who had transitioned, Elli realised that actually, she didn’t have to be one or the other, and that top surgery is exactly what she wanted. “I realised there’s a way that I can be confident with my body. I don’t have to transition to a man to have the body that always made sense to me.”


Call: The NHS’ gender identity clinic has a website with lots of resources and information at, and you can call them at 0208 938 7590

Elli is still a long way from having a body that fits with her gender identity as the process, due to demand and waiting lists, can take years. But the wait is not putting her off. “I was thinking about saving to pay privately for surgery, and tried to make a plan, but it seemed impossible. My mental health took a bad turn and I was signed off work. I’m grateful the NHS is able to help people improve their lives. I’m back at

Elli’s journey hasn’t been easy but, overall, she feels really positive

work now and because I know surgery will happen, I can see hope for the future.” Elli’s experience, and those of people like her, are still underrepresented in the media and social consciousness, which can lead to confusion and misconceptions. Elli found a lot of information online, and talking to her GP helped her understand the support available. So far, her journey has been testing but, overall, extremely positive. “You need tremendous amounts of patience,” says Elli. “If you feel alone, there are plenty of people online, like me, who you can connect with. Talking to people who know what dysphoria feels like makes it that little bit easier.” June 2019 • • 75






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Time to ref lect

Since being thrust into the spotlight on The X Factor seven years ago, Lucy Spraggan has truly been on an emotional journey. From anxiety, depression, and contemplating suicide, Lucy is now in the most confident place in her life Writing | Gemma Calvert


t a white-clothed table in the Mirror Room at London’s Rosewood Hotel, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling mirrors, it’s somewhat fitting that singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan is discussing reflection. Her latest album, Today Was a Good Day, features a collection of

from-the-heart tracks, pinpointing how she feels about life right now: grounded, content and, more than ever before, emotionally together. “I always thought that I was a confident person until now, and I know that this is what confidence feels like,” smiles Lucy, who spent the past year committed to eating more nutritious food, exercising,

and tackling an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Finding overnight fame on The X Factor in 2012 heightened Lucy’s existing issues with anxiety and depression. Then, within two years of appearing on the talent show, she contemplated suicide. Lucy later sought cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and is rebuilding her life alongside her wife Georgina Gordon, who she married in June 2016. She has weekly talking therapy, and for the past year has fostered 12 children with Georgina, with the couple recently moving into their dream home in rural Cheshire. In this open and honest interview, Lucy reveals her daily practises for positive mental health, explains why TV bosses have a responsibility to protect the reality stars they create, and shares her pride at being an LGBTQ+ role model. Continues >>>

Lucy, what inspired you to make positive changes in your life? I’ve been working so hard for seven years. Since the show, I haven’t stopped touring and releasing records. I never allowed time for myself. But now I’m living more healthily. My life was one big party, surrounded by people that didn’t like me that much, so I didn’t really like myself. I was getting wasted, eating hangover food, [and] drinking so I didn’t have anxiety.

Were you concerned about your mental health, going on such a huge show? Music is my life so I

didn’t even think about it. But the next day I was mobbed and it went straight to my head. I went to sleep with one reality, and woke up with a completely different one.

On Instagram you recently referred to seeking ‘proper help’? I have talking therapy once a week and if I’m out the country, I FaceTime her. [My therapist] said to me once: “You’re telling me sad things, but you’re smiling.” It’s a Western thing, we love to plaster over our emotions, and I’ve realised that I do that. I’ve always been susceptible to mental illness – depression, anxiety and I contemplated suicide in 2014 – and a lot of that happened after The X Factor. Two people from Love Island have completed suicide, and all I can say is I’m surprised there haven’t been more because the fame is overnight. Those TV companies are responsible, in part, because there’s no after-care and that’s unacceptable.

Alcohol to get rid of anxiety induces anxiety, then you get into a perpetual cycle

How can reality stars be better protected? They should have at

least a year of compulsory therapy. [People say]: “You wanted to be famous.” OK, I wanted to be successful, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t awful. This country has a bit of a tear-down culture. We like to see people at the top, but love it more when they fall.

Your track ‘Breathe’ is about anxiety over a lack of sobriety. Have you had a problem with alcohol in the past? I’ve always

had an issue with alcohol; I think that might mean I was probably an alcoholic. One glass of wine would turn into being at GAY until 4am. I was using it as an emotional outlet, so I never had to feel reality because I was doing a show, having a beer, doing a show, having a beer. I wasn’t a very nice person for a long time.

Do you still drink? I [do], but it’s

not just one big party. This is my career. Back then, I was letting people control everything. Now I look at the accounting every day, how many records and tickets we’re selling. Alcohol to get rid of anxiety induces anxiety, then you get into a perpetual cycle. Instead I try to walk, breathe and get away.

Do you like yourself more now?

Lucy Spraggan’s new album ‘Today Was a Good Day’ is out now on Cooking Vinyl 78 • • June 2019

My self-esteem is in a better place, and that reflects in this album. I’m just trying to be a better person. Me and my wife have been foster carers for a year. We’re trying to develop ourselves, but also what’s going on around us. There’s loads of really awful stuff in the world at the moment, but then if you look a little closer, you can find good things, too.

How do you emotionally help vulnerable children in your care?

You just have to give them kindness, and listen. We’ve been told these kids are going to kick off, and smash things. Not once have we even had a raised voice in our house. I was arrested a few times and excluded [as a child]. I was a troublemaker, so I feel like I understand those like that.

How do you feel thinking back to when you considered suicide? I

can see myself sitting in that car with my dog in the passenger seat, crying hysterically. I’d bought a wanky fancy car because I’d just been on The X Factor and didn’t know who I was. I had my foot to the floor and thought: ‘I’m going to drive into the central reservation.’ Then my dog sneezed. I slammed on the brake, parked on the hard shoulder, and thought: ‘I’ve got to sort my life out.’

What changed after that? I went

straight to a therapist and told her I needed to speak to someone. That’s the moment I realised I needed to kick [into touch] all the things I was doing [wrong]. I met my wife quite soon after that.

They say you shouldn’t build happiness around someone else... This is something I’m

tackling in therapy. I use people as crutches and I shouldn’t, because you’ve got to be happy in yourself.

For me, it’s about reflection, more so than meditation. It’s about feeling grounded

How do you stay mentally healthy? I work out a lot, and

go walking. I take the dog, and try to get those 10,000 steps. I’m the worst person in the world at meditation. The album is called Today Was a Good Day because I’m trying to reflect more. Often you think ‘today was sh*t’, but rarely ‘today was alright’. For me it’s about reflection, more so than meditation – feeling grounded.

How does it feel to be an LGBTQ+ role model? It’s nice that people perceive me that way, and for young gay people because I live

my life as an openly gay woman but… I’m just a woman. I was a little boy when I was younger, I called myself Max. I came out when I was 14, because everybody knew I was a lesbian anyway.

What do you hope to pass on to the kids in your care? Music.

Our house is full of instruments – they’ll go on the piano, I’ll go on the guitar. We sing ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’ and they can be whatever they want – gay, straight, rainbow. They can be a unicorn, as long as they’re not hurting anybody else. June 2019 • • 79

Changing the narrative

Book Review

Featuring an impressive roster of contributors – including award-winning author Alex Wheatle, poet Suli Breaks, and journalist Jesse Bernard – SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space explores the question: what does it mean to be a black man in Britain today? Writing | Salma Haidrani


n recent years, a cursory glance at headlines would see this group demonised as criminals, and blamed for fuelling violence in cities. For decades, mainstream depictions of black men, too, have oscillated from either the hyper-sexual, idolised, or reviled. But their real and lived experience has been rendered invisible – until now. Londonbased author, writer and poet Derek Owusu’s debut anthology of essays penned by black, British men, SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space, sheds light on the realities of being a black man in the UK. This book goes beyond onedimensional stereotypes and sensationalist rhetoric, providing

a platform for black, British men to answer this on their own terms. As Derek laments in his opening essay: “Thousands of people pass us on public transport every day, and I always feel that not one of them knows a true thing about me.”


Featuring 20 established and emerging poets, writers, musicians and journalists, Derek’s book explores themes spanning the black British influence on contemporary British culture, LGBTQ+ identity, and the stark realities of occupying space in traditionally white institutions – from the home counties to academia. “How could I fade into the background in a town

where I so distinctly stood out?” muses one contributor.

Racism isn’t the overarching theme, but instead, the rich and multi-faceted lives of Britain’s black men The accessible format allows us to invest in each of the contributors’ varying experiences, and to reflect. Though the topics can be emotionally taxing and make for uncomfortable reading, each chapter offers a unique and unrivalled insight into the diversity and breadth of this community. We see how the contributors can contend with the

double burden of the pressures they face within their immediate communities, but also a wider, post-Brexit referendum Britain.


Readers are not only introduced to the multiplicity of the black, British male experience, but also, crucially, the unique challenges this group faces. Award-winning Channel 4 reporter and writer Symeon Brown sheds light on how the crackdown on London nightlife has disproportionately affected young black men. We see how hostile door policies have isolated them from the capital’s nightclubs, and what the implications of the last safe space shutting down means

Book covers |

for this group. “Where do I go to dance now?” Symeon poignantly muses at the end of his essay. Writer Aniefiok ‘Neef’ Ekpoudom touches on how quiet streets in Britain’s home counties became a source of hate crime in his childhood – it wasn’t uncommon for passing cars to slow down and the occupants to shout racist abuse. “My heart still quickens whenever a white van slowly cruises past on a quiet street,” he reveals. Even so, racism isn’t the overarching theme, but instead, the rich and multi-faceted lives of Britain’s black men. Many of the contributors’ chapters refreshingly evoke a sense of vulnerability – a characteristic rarely afforded to this group in wider society. We see the intersection of black and LGBTQ+ identity tackled – a much-overdue insight, given that this has remained largely absent from the mainstream.

Must Reads

Poet and journalist Musa Okwonga reflects on the intersection of racism and homophobia to micro-aggressions in the workplace. Meanwhile, Northern Writers’ Awardwinner Okechukwu Nzelu touches on how rampant homophobia in the Church played an integral part in his decision to leave. We also see how the contributors find solace beyond familiar spaces like the barbershop – for writer Jesse Bernard, it’s channelling his emotions via boxing and the healing power of competitive violence. For competition winner Kenechukwu Obienu and writer and author JJ Bola, it’s thriving in academia and writing, surpassing the expectations of teachers who predicted they would only excel in the sporting field.

SHOULD I READ IT? SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space raises a number of

important questions – what role do we play in limiting black men from reaching their full potential? What are the implications for black men who don’t perform the ‘de facto’ hyper-masculine identity that we’ve come to associate with them? Despite their invaluable contributions to British culture, why are black men still not seen as an integral part of Britain – and British identity, by extension? These essays might be penned by black, British men, but the themes are universal, particularly for Britain’s diverse diasporic communities across the UK – from the limitations teachers place on them at a young age, to the vulnerabilities of moving to unfamiliar territory and becoming hyper-visible. One of the biggest messages is how British black men thoroughly deserve a new narrative, and these 20 contributors make a strong case.

Ultimately, this is a powerful and deeply affecting anthology, humanising black men in Britain at a time when their identities have become entirely conflated with the negative. If you want to learn more about what it means to belong to this group on their own terms, this is an engaging, accessible collection.

SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space By Derek Owusu


Readers who enjoy multi-perspective narratives

Readers looking for non-fiction focused on race

Individuals looking to become better allies

If you liked this, you’ll love...

Black, Listed By Jeffrey Boakye

Explores how 21st century black identity has been represented, celebrated, and othered.

Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible By Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

Essays on work and dating, and interviews with successful black women in Britain.

The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

An anthology of essays including actor Riz Ahmed and author Reni Eddo-Lodge.

(Trapeze, hardcover £16.99)

Photography | Drop The Label Movement

It’s not your job to like me – it’s mine – BYRON KATIE

Becoming the man I am today Born in the wrong body, Bruce faced years of confusion and torment before realising that transition offered the key to unlock a happier future Writing | Bruce Hills


t’s hard to describe what it’s like to grow up in the wrong body. Gender dysphoria becomes your normality when your mind and body are completely out of sync, but you accept it, because that seems easier than facing reality. In early childhood it seemed manageable. I was a typical tomboy, always on my bike or kicking a ball around. But as puberty hit me, so did a world of other problems – and that’s when dysphoria became something that caused deep issues, which would take years to fix. I became increasingly isolated as a teenager. This was the early 1980s, and nobody discussed being transgender at school, in the newspapers, or on television. I just thought I was weird, or different. Unfortunately so did the other kids, which led to me being bullied. I was being called names because I looked like a boy – but

that was what I wanted. The bullying caused more confusion, so I started to misbehave – a cry for help. I played truant, drank alcohol, smoked, and took drugs – anything I could do to numb the pain or divert attention from my real issues. As I got older, other life events took over. A friend completed suicide and I found their body, leaving me with severe posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. I had intensive therapy, which helped for a while, but something else was plaguing me. I knew I was in the wrong body, I just didn’t know what to do about it. I was, to all intents and purposes, looking and acting male. I didn’t develop curves at puberty, so my shape has always been fairly masculine. I dated women and enjoyed watching football, mountain biking, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits. My dysphoria Continues >>>

Bruce’s Story

Bruce shares his journey, along with fitness advice, on Instagram to inspire and support others

Inside I was deeply unhappy, but I hid it well – not just from others, but from myself, too was being masked by these things, which came naturally to me. Growing up, I was often mistaken for a boy, and that suited me. But the difficult times were when I was alone at home. Getting out of the shower and catching a glimpse of myself naked repulsed me. Trips to the beach were a nightmare, and I avoided them, or covered up as much as I could. This battle went on for many years, but I buried my feelings because I was scared. I feared what friends, family, and colleagues would say if I told them. Surgery and medical transition seemed like a huge step, particularly as I was often passing as a male. But my issues were bubbling away, interfering with my 84 • • June 2019

relationships and life. So I threw myself into work to avoid thinking about it. My career was – and still is – very important to me, and it seemed too big a burden to ‘come out’ as a different person at work. Maybe, looking back, I was using this as an excuse not to transition – an avoidance tactic. Inside I was deeply unhappy, but I hid it well – not just from others, but from myself, too. Denial is more powerful than any of us imagine. I dressed exclusively in men’s clothing, avoided holidays that involved sitting by a pool, did voluntary work overseas, and put transition to the back of my mind. I thought I could manage, but the anxiety and depression didn’t go away,

and in my late 30s I had to seek psychiatric help again for depression. These sessions made me realise that the root of my mental health problems lay in the gender dysphoria, and something had to be done. So I began saving, researching, and preparing to go through with transition. The process took a few years. I had to get official referrals from a gender identity clinic, change my name by deed poll and on all my official documents. Then in 2017, I had my mastectomy, and could not have been happier. Having always been into fitness, after surgery I decided to start masculinising my shape, and worked hard on my pectoral muscle in particular.

Today I give a lot of fitness and motivational advice on my Instagram. It’s not just for trans guys, but for anyone who wants to achieve their goals. Now, through hard work, determination, and with the courage to go for what I really wanted, I have the physique that years ago I only dreamed of. I am almost two years post-op, and I’ve been taking testosterone which has given me some really positive changes – more body hair, a deeper voice, broader shoulders, and even my face has changed shape a little. But the main changes with transition are the ones people don’t see – the ones in your mind. Finally, everything feels complete; my mind and body match and I am free to be myself. My anxiety


Bruce meeting Phillip Schofield during an appearance on ‘This Morning’

The main changes with transition are the ones people don’t see – the ones in your mind. Finally, everything feels complete; my mind and body match and I am free to be myself

Connect with Bruce on Instagram @bh3fitness and depression have lifted, and I no longer take antidepressants. It’s also the little things that give me the biggest boost. Like seeing the letter M on my passport for the first time. Referring to myself as ‘mister’. Receiving birthday cards with son, brother, uncle on them. Hearing people call me Bruce – which incidentally was a no brainer, as I loved Batman and Bruce Lee when I was growing up! These things make me beam with pride. This journey isn’t quite over, as I am preparing to head to the US for the final part of my surgery,

which will construct male genitalia through a procedure called Metoidioplasty. Being so detached from that part of my body for most of my life, I wasn’t sure if surgery would be necessary. In fact, I’ve been reliant on a prosthetic penis for years, which isn’t far off the real thing! But now I feel it’s time I had the full set, so to speak, so am taking the plunge. I’m not nervous, just excited. Transition comes with so many highs and lows. However, these days I am confident, happy, and ready for any challenges life throws at me. Nothing would be worse than going

back to how unhappy I was in the past. Those days are gone and my future has never looked brighter. I am not just a happy man, but a very lucky one. Determination and a positive mindset got me through my transition,

so I intend to keep that momentum going. If anyone wishes to reach out to me to talk, or for advice, please do. My DMs are open. For anyone struggling with gender dysphoria, I’d say to tell someone, instead of bottling it up like I did. You are not alone.

OUR EXPERT SAYS Bruce’s story makes clear the high cost of living in a way that is not authentic. Over a sustained period, he suffered the discomfort of not knowing what the issue was. It is heartwarming to hear that, with good support in place, he was able to find his right path and to transition. It is great to hear how his transition has set him free. I hope his story, and his openness, will be useful to others searching for their own answers. Fe Robinson | MUKCP (reg) Psychotherapist and couples counsellor

June 2019 • • 85

Photography | Ambar Simpang

The brain needs 20% of all the energy your body uses. Remember to take time out


Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35. It’s a heartbreaking fact, and it’s often difficult to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, or see a way out. The Lions Barber Collective is a movement of barbers banding together to go beyond the small talk, to ask male clients about the big things; spotting the signs that someone may be struggling, and stepping in with potentially life-saving support Writing | Kathryn Wheeler


ot many people get to touch a guy’s hair; run their fingers through it, touch their ears and neck. There’s an instant connection there, a human connection.” Tom Chapman, founder of the Lions Barber Collective, is reflecting

on the intimacy and trust at the heart of a session in the barber’s chair. When you think about it, it’s obvious. How many people do you let handle sharp objects near your head? That said, it’s something that often goes unnoticed. We consent to being touched without words

as we walk through the door, and many of us go on to happily chat through our life stories while we’re in the chair. It’s automatic and ritualistic – and for Tom, it was a previously unexplored avenue to broaching the mental health conversation. Tom wanted to harness the unique, unspoken trust of the barber’s chair to reach men who were struggling. In September 2015, he did just that. After losing a close friend to suicide, he founded the Lions Barber Collective – an international collection of barbers who have come together to raise awareness of suicide prevention, and offer bespoke training to help other barbers around the world identify and support clients who may be struggling.


In the beginning, Tom just wanted to raise awareness. He set out to create a lookbook with other barbers, with the money raised going to mental health Continues >>>

Tom Chapman founded the Lions Barber Collective in 2015

A survey found that men are more comfortable discussing mental health issues with their barbers than with their doctors charities. But things quickly took off, and just six weeks later the Lions Barber Collective appeared at The Great British Barber Bash in Liverpool, where members of the collective showed off their skills and talked about the unique role that barbers have to play in suicide prevention. Clearly, Tom was on to something. And to prove it, in 2016 – on World Suicide Prevention Day – the Lions Barber Collective released a survey that found that men are more comfortable discussing mental health issues such as depression with their barbers than they are with their doctors. “We’re in a unique position where we may have known someone for many, many years, but we’re not in their friendship group,” explains Tom. “So they can tell us something without the fear of it getting back to their friends, or lovers, or partners. It’s like a nondisclosure kind of thing; they’ll come and chat to us, and they know it’s going to stay within those four walls.” 88 • • June 2019

It’s Tom’s belief that the nonclinical, non-judgemental setting of the barber shop is part of what encourages people to open up. Barbers can’t diagnose you, nor do they need to in order to make a difference. “For so many people, that idea of confidentially convinces them to open up, without the worry of consequences,” Tom says. “It’s just a normal everyday occurrence to go to the barbershop. There isn’t any stigma attached; you’re just chatting to a friend.”

prevention charities, and with the help of former Psychiatrist of the Year, Peter Aitken. The online course – inspired by similar NHS module training strategies – will be supported by four pillars: recognise, talk, listen, signpost.


But having the conversation isn’t always easy. For that reason, the next step for the Lions Barber Collective was to create a training program for barbers, so that they felt equipped with the skills to spot the signs that someone may be struggling, and to step in with the best response possible. BarberTalk is the bespoke training program in the process of being developed alongside Papyrus and Pieta House suicide

Tom’s book ‘Barber Talk: Taking Pride in Men’s Mental Health’ is out now. Head to to discover more.

Prince William met with the Lions Barber Collective in February, to talk about their incredible work

The best thing I’ve ever done is telling people: ‘You can talk to me and I’m not going to judge you. I’m not going to tell you I know how you feel, and I’ll listen’ “I think we worry about asking the direct questions for the fear of the answer. So, we don’t ask someone if they’re depressed, or if they feel suicidal, or if they’ve got a plan, because we fear that they will say yes and then we won’t know what to do,” says Tom. “It’s about giving barbers the ability to feel confident in that situation, and not to skim over

those opportunities when people do want to share. We’ve all had it where people say, ‘Oh, I’m feeling really bad today,’ or, ‘I’m feeling awful, I wish I wasn’t here,’ and we sort of palm it off with an, ‘Oh, you’ll be OK, you’ll be fine.’ “I think it’s being able to not avoid it. We’re not trying to turn barbers into counsellors as such, but we’re trying to bridge the gap between the communities we serve and all the amazing organisations that already exist.”


“The best thing I’ve ever done is telling people publicly: ‘You can talk to me and I’m not going to judge you. I’m not going to tell you that I know how you feel, and I’ll listen.’ “I think the biggest thing we can do – not just as barbers, but everybody – is provide as many opportunities as possible for

people to open up and offload,” Tom explains. It’s a message that rings true beyond the barbering world, and something that we can all try to incorporate into our lives. For the men who walk into the barber shop with unruly locks and a head full of thunder, but leave with a fresh trim and a part of the burden shared, Tom Chapman and the rest of the collective are transforming the way we think about mental health support, and filling support gaps that we may not have even noticed were there. June 2019 • • 89

Mental health matters Former member of the UK Special Forces, and an instructor on Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins, Ollie Ollerton is no stranger to being pushed to a breaking point, both physically and mentally. Here, he shares his view on growing our ‘mental wealth’ Ollie’s book ‘Break Point’ is out now (Blink Publishing, £20). Follow Ollie on Instagram @ollie.ollerton, and on Twitter @ollieollerton

Mental health matters to me because… I see many people suffering and doing nothing with regards to ‘mental wealth’. We all need to understand that like our bodies, our minds need positive stimulation and recuperation. As we age, our memory starts to slip as the number of neurons decrease, but the amount of information does not. It’s important we learn to focus on the things that are important to us. When I need support I… reach out and speak about it. We often live in fear of being judged, and are willing to sacrifice our own wellbeing to keep up appearances. Talking helps by off-loading negativity. Also be mindful that when a good friend asks if you’re OK, don’t give them the standard answer of ‘great’ when it’s not. Utilise your assets, and open up.

When I need some self-care, I… meditate. Around 70,000 thoughts go round our heads each day, so if we don’t focus on the small percentage that we want, we end up with the greater percentage we don’t. Exercise is also great therapy and releases endorphins. We’re made up to 60% of water, and when water stands still it stagnates. Don’t stagnate. The books I turn to time and again are… A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. In everything I do, I have to understand the purpose to get to the raw nerve of the problem. This book was like an epiphany to me, and everything resonated. It helps us understand our own human dysfunction and, in turn, the solution to many questions we constantly ask ourselves in the quest for happiness and peace – it’s not ‘out there’, it’s within.

People I find inspiring online are… self-development gurus such as Bob Proctor. By adopting his principles I have changed my short and medium circumstances and goals. He gives you clearly defined exercises to drive you to the things you want. Three things I would say to someone experiencing mental illhealth are… 1. Talk to those who care about you, and seek professional guidance. I recommend a spiritual psychologist. 2. Remove alcohol as that can mask the true nerve of the issue. Alcohol serves as your biggest enemy, but is the greatest illusionist. 3. Acknowledge and accept the root of the problem, and start an active plan for ‘mental wealth’ activities, such as meditation and mindfulness. The moment I felt most proud of myself was… when I finally gave up alcohol. I taught myself a very clear lesson that nothing was in control of me, apart from me. This was a milestone, and the moment I understood that everything was achievable. I now drink from time to time, and it’s changed the relationship to a positive one as I am in control.

Photography |Mathilda Khoo

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Happiful June 2019  

This month, be inspired by a range of invigorating features including: – Social media phenomenon Louise Pentland on bereavement, life afte...

Happiful June 2019  

This month, be inspired by a range of invigorating features including: – Social media phenomenon Louise Pentland on bereavement, life afte...

Profile for happiful