World Mental Health Day 2021
Josh Wood Colour co-founder Jonathan Davies shares with us his thoughts for this World Mental Health Day:
I am in a very different place than I was at the beginning of the year. I’ll get to why, but let me try to describe my state of mind in January. The constant cycle of lockdowns and restrictions coupled with a real fear of catching the virus was beginning to take its toll. I was in a constant state of high alert. Washing then rewashing my hands, at times not wanting to leave the house. It was exhausting. Physically and emotionally. As was putting on a brave Zoom face for online family get togethers and team meetings, convinced that if I took my eye off the news and the increasing numbers of cases and deaths, I would be next. Relentlessly scrolling through other people’s lives looking for reassurance. Looking for hope. But I kept all this to myself, let the anxiety and fear eat away at me until if felt like there would be nothing left.
But then I joined a small writing group and although terrified at first, it soon became my release. My saving grace. It gave me space to be creative, to take my mind off the things that were causing me real distress. And spending time with this group gave me the bravery to express how I was feeling and that I was not ok and I needed some help. It helped me be honest about the difficulties I was having with my mental health. Honesty. The most terrifying thing of all.
Writing was helping me cope and gave me comfort. It became my constant and our weekly meetings an anchor in this uncertain world. And my little group liked my writing, loved my stories and gave me the confidence to share them in the hope they might help others. So I wrote a little book about the experience and included some of the pieces that we wrote together and the exercises that inspired them. Petrified of being judged, I posted a picture of the manuscript on Instagram to let people know that I was printing a hundred copies and if they would like to read it I would be happy to send them one. All I asked for in return was that they make a small donation to the mental health charity, Mind. And to my amazement people from all over the world got in touch and said they would love to and shared their stories about the difficulties they had experienced and times when they had found it hard to cope. I was not alone.
A friend told me to send it to a publisher so that my story could reach a wider audience, perhaps help somebody who had been finding life difficult too. So, I sent an email to an independent publisher to tell him what I had done and ask whether he would be interested in reading it, not really expecting him to respond. But he did and he wanted to so I sent it to him and he loved it. He asked if we could meet to discuss it and when we did, he asked if he could publish it.
So on 6th October this year, my little book “A Very Short Book About Writing” was launched and it has been received with so much love and support. I still can’t quite believe it. I had dreamt of writing a book and it being published ever since I was a child and that dream has come true. And I haven’t been laughed at or judged, ridiculed or shamed. I’ve been congratulated and hugged for being open and honest, putting myself out there and sharing my story which has been received in the way it was intended. And that is with love.
And this World Mental Health Day is an important moment to remember that if you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone. So many of us need help coping sometimes but are too afraid of what people might think to ask for help. So please be aware and check in with people. Ask them if they are ok if they don’t seem their usual self. Give somebody a smile because you never know what they might be dealing with. Listen and care. Be patient and kind and look out for one another. And if you are feeling anxious or need some help, please try and speak to somebody. You are loved and you are important. People care about you and want to help if you give them the opportunity to. If you need a friend to talk to I am always here. I’m a pretty good listener. Please try and be one too.
Now put your phone down. Give yourself a hug. Look up. There is a wonderful world full of wonderful people out there.