Bath Mind runs many meet-up groups for individuals with mental health issues. Last week I went to see two for myself -Friends in Need and today’s topic of discussion, Open Opportunities.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a certain type of idea in my mind regarding meet-up groups. I’ve more often than not envisioned them to be a place where you sit amongst others and are pushed to talk about your mental health. Put simply, I had a very negative vision of them in my mind. They freaked me out a little.
Anyway. What I experienced was very different from what I once thought.
Open Opportunities is a community support group that offers opportunities to those with ongoing mental health issues and therefore encourages them to get involved, practise self-care and eliminate social isolation. These are mostly linked with their five ways to wellbeing (connect, be active, take notice, learn and give).
Whilst I was warned that this particular venue wasn’t the best example to be initially introduced to, I wasn’t at all phased by the small, but cosy space. I was introduced to a number of individuals from all walks of life.
Despite a variety of mental health issues, what stood out to me was the strong friendships and bonds between these individuals. What I witnessed were friends catching up and checking in with each other, without taking on their problems. A safe distance, if you will.
Discussing mental health with a volunteer brought up the topic of anxiety. He summed this up to me as two types – good and bad. Good anxiety can be anything from apprehension about meeting new people to work presentations. Bad anxiety is irrational thinking that in turn negatively impacts your way of life and trail of thought.
The known statistic is that 1 in 4 will suffer from mental illness, however, 100% of us will experience symptoms at some point in our lives, accurately put by the same volunteer. “Anxiety is the unknown. Do something once and you know you’ll be safe”.
Open Opportunities really is a laid back, safe place to forget about worries and troubles. It’s a place to bring your own music in if desired, share ideas and reminisce. It’s a place free of pressures, responsibilities and expectations.
The door is open (literally) for anyone who wants to come or go as they please. All that is asked is that you are able to feel comfortable to just be yourself.
Mental illness is not to be associated with adjectives such as crazy or weird. Chances are, the people you see day-to-day probably currently or have suffered from mental illness.
Whether it’s your taxi driver or the person that helped make that £10 note you have tucked in your pocket. Some are able to function better than others with a mental illness, whilst others aren’t, and that is completely okay. We are all human beings just trying to get by at the end of the day.
The meet-up takes place in the Southgate room in Manvers Church, Bath. For more information: https://www.bathmind.org.uk/what-we-do/share/open-opportunities/
Stay tuned for my next post where I will be discussing Friends In Need!
Ciao for now x