Shardai Lynn is a Relaxation Therapist and Kambo Practitioner born and bred in Newcastle. She is currently working with healing medicine from the Amazon, as well as running relaxation classes across the North East. After many years of suffering from depression and anxiety that led to suicidal thoughts, Shardai decided to speak out about her experiences in the hope that she may help others who are suffering right now. Creating a Facebook page to raise awareness and kick-start her campaign, Shardai has uploaded inspirational videos and shared stories about mental health. “The response has been incredible” Shardai tells us. “Over 1,000 likes in the first week, I was blown away”.
We interviewed Shardai to find out more about her new project and see how she plans to help people in the North East who are suffering with mental illness…
What inspired you to start Stay True?
I decided to talk about my struggles with depression and anxiety when I lost a very dear friend to suicide recently. I believe the stigma attached to mental health and peoples lack of understanding added to his anguish, I know it certainly did with me. When I published my blog ‘My Hidden Truth’, which highlighted my own experiences with suicidal thoughts, I received a lot of support from people who were grateful that I shared my story. This inspired me to create the page ‘Stay True – Combating Mental Illness Through Awareness’ on Facebook. I am using it is a platform for people to discuss and share their stories, hoping to bring awareness to the subject and, even better, help people who are feeling suicidal.
There is still a long way to go though. I have been bombarded by messages expressing how refreshing it is to have this sort of campaign, however they still want to remain anonymous. I understand this completely, for over 15 years I hid my depression and anxiety from almost everyone, but this is the change I would like to see. I would hope that one day we can be more open about this subject. I believe that there is still a fear attached to expressing that darkness for the person who is suffering and this is due to the worry of judgments and what others may say.
Keep hope in your heart appears throughout your page and video blogs, can you tell us more about that?
‘Keep hope in your heart’ is something I have been saying to those who are feeling suicidal. I kept hope in my heart and that is why I am here today. Suicide is so final, there is no going back once you have made that decision and there is always, always another way. Even when it does not seem like change is possible, better days could be just around the corner. I hope more than anything else that this message can be truly felt by those who are facing the depths of this illness. I had a lovely message from someone who said that viewing my video made them think twice about suicide and this is what I am doing it for.
Why is dropping the stigma attached to mental health such an important part of your mission?
I really feel like there is a lack of understanding about mental health. Some people still believe that mental illness is something that can be ‘shaken off’ if we ‘think more positive’ or ‘count our blessings’ and this is not the case. It is comments like this that keep those who are facing mental illness in their silence and I believe the silence plays a big part in suicide. With a growing understanding of the complexities of our mind it still shocks me that people dismiss a mental illness because they can’t see it physically. It is not until the pain is manifesting as an eating disorder, attempted suicide or a physical ailment that the mental illness is then looked at.
I also received a lot of comments from friends who said they would never have guessed that I was suffering as I am so confident and outgoing. This again made me think about how people view mental illness. I mean, what does a depressed person look like? I was a great actress and this shows that anyone, at any time, no matter how great their life looks to the outside world can be suffering so deeply inside.
Tell us more about the #staytrue campaign?
I have started a photo campaign to get people who believe there shouldn’t be a stigma attached to mental health to take a picture of themselves holding a #staytrue sign that they have made themselves. I just like the idea of followers visually seeing the support when they go onto the page. Seeing all different types of people who are sharing the photos is quite profound. I have had several messages from people who have seen all of the comments and pictures on the page and said it is comforting just to know that these strangers are speaking up for mental health. It is not just what I am doing, it is a community, it is an ‘everyone is in this together’ sort of vibe, which I love. One of the worst things for me was the feeling of loneliness and feeling like no one understood me, hopefully going on the page can take those thoughts away for those who may relate to that feeling.
What are your future plans for Stay True?
Stay True is still brand new, merely a few weeks old, however I have high hopes. I am aiming to make it a charity in 2015. I really want to be hands on in helping those who need it in the North East. Ideally I would like to help families who may be struggling to pay the bills due to one of the parents facing mental illness and needing time off work. I also had a few messages from single Mothers who cant afford child care to go to the Doctors, let alone seek professional help, so I would love to pay for their treatment with a therapist and also childcare while they are there. And of course, for those families who face the ultimate pain of losing a family member to suicide, I would like to help them overcome this difficult time without the worry of money. I really hate the idea of money being an issue when it already feels like there is a mountain to climb. Like I said though, it is early days and it very much depends on the on going support from everyone else, so lets see how it grows.
Help Shardai with her campaign and send your #staytrue photos to the ‘Stay True – Combating Mental Illness Through Awareness’ Facebook page by clicking the red text or any of the images in this article.