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  • 14 August 2018

    Out of the woods

    Simon Lowe Photography - Out of the woods

    Simon Lowe is a photographer based in Whitley Bay. For World Photo Day, he shares some of the ways in which photography has helped his mental health.

    Before photography became my profession it was my safe place.

    Although I’ve been interested it since I was a boy, I first took it up as a hobby 12 years ago. Having lived with periods of low mood, mild depression and anxiety for a while, I realised I needed something to distract me, so I bought a digital SLR camera. Once I’d worked out what most of the buttons did, I started photographing nearby landscapes. Living near the coast, I had plenty of subject matter to choose from: St Mary’s Lighthouse, Tynemouth, Seaton Sluice were all within easy reach of home.

    These places and the pursuit of photography effectively became a refuge, an opportunity to escape from my troubles. An hour watching the light change at sunrise or sunset and trying to capture the scene helped my state of mind greatly. Worries slipped away and tensions eased. I would stop talking to myself - often a reliable indicator of my anxiety - and I’d focus on what was in front of me.

    Photography is a very mindful process. Especially landscape photography. I learned very quickly that my best photos came from becoming completely aware of my surroundings - absorbing the sounds, colours and shapes of the landscape I stood in helped me see patterns and create compositions. The way a wave washed over a rock, the lines of light and shadows through a stand of trees. Despite our best efforts, the weather and light on any given day are never predictable, so any disappointment at the results wasn’t worth mulling over. Instead of chasing some elusive concept for a photo, I learned to appreciate chance moments. The photo I’ve chosen to accompany these words is one of those chances.

    I took this photo in the depths of Kielder Forest in Northumberland. At the time I had been poorly with low mood and anxiety. And after several false starts on previous days, I had finally forced myself out and into the car, knowing that the fresh air and a change of scene would do me good.

    It was a bright October day and I’d been walking through rows of dark pines for a while. The path turned west and rose and the low autumn sun cut through the trees in front of me. I watched for a moment, took a couple of photos then moved on.

    It was just a brief moment, but I’d been there for it. The remainder of the walk was fairly unremarkable - a muddy plodge over a moor followed by a detour around some grumpy cattle to return to the car - but that moment stayed with me.

    At the time I took this photo, I’d been listening to the band Foals. Their album ‘Holy Fire’ had been on heavy rotation in the car and at home. When I looked back over the photos I’d taken and came to edit them, one track was running on repeat around my head:

    It's times like these when I'm on my way out of the woods,
    Never felt better than when I'm on my way out for good.
    It's times like these when I'm on my way back out of the woods.
    I'll never be afraid again now I'm out of here for good.

    The track, its sense of liberation seemed to chime with the image in front of me and my situation. There were possibilities, opportunities, things to look forward to.

    I’d be ok.

    © Image and Text: Simon Lowe Photography

    www.simonlowephoto.co.uk

  • The MIND Pool to Open Water Swimming Programme aims at helping people who face anxiety and depression as physical activity and open water are said to be beneficial. Jane Hardy, Community Sport Officer at ACTIVE Northumberland, shared her thoughts in an open letter about her last sailing and diving experience with the programme’s participants on the Northumberland coast.

    “What can I say? Yesterday evening couldn't have gone better. The winds dropped, the sea was flat calm - almost warm for the North Sea. There were no jellyfish and the sun came out.

    I told William Shiel, owner and Captain of Billy Shiel Farne Islands Boats, about the group we were working with and he went the extra mile to make sure they had an experience of a lifetime.

    He very kindly took the boat via Staple Island, so that we could look at all the birds (puffins, guillemot, razor bills, shags, cormorants...). He did this at the start of the trip when everyone was still warm and dry!

    The seals were fantastic as always. We swam in a protected area in front of Longstone lighthouse.

    The participants were amazing! They've come so far in their 8-week journey:

    • Week 1: They were nervous to go down the ladder into the pool & put their faces in the water.
    • Week 8: They were jumping off a boat into the North Sea 4 miles off the coast of Britain & swimming with Atlantic grey seals in their natural environment

    They were all radiant as they exited the swim and rightly so. They've all knocked down barriers and raised self-esteem.

    Then, the highlight of the trip! We were just about back in the harbour at Seahouses when William spotted dolphins in the distance.

    So, instead of steering us back into the harbour, William took us along the coast to the bottle nosed dolphins. We have bottle nosed dolphins as visitors in May & June when the salmon are running - it was a HUGE treat.

    Instead of getting us back for shortly after 7pm, we were still at sea at 9pm watching these majestic creatures riding in the bow waves and leaping giving us the most amazing display of wildlife.

    William had been up early and out at sea with divers all day, so we can't thank him enough!”

    Jane Hardy - Community Sport Officer at ACTIVE Northumberland

    Tyneside and Northumberland Mind would also like to thank:

    • Active Northumberland and Alnwick Town Council as funders of this project
    • Active Northumberland, including some dedicated volunteers who facilitated the project
    • A special mention to Jane Hardy and Christine Smith for all their support and energy
    • Costa Alnwick for donating some cups for use on the boat
    • Lewis fish and chip shop where we all ended up after the event for some well-deserved sustenance

    This wouldn’t have been possible without your support. A big thank you to All!

  • North East Blue Light Cycling Challenge in May 2018

    To continue raising awareness during the Men’s Health Week 2018, we’ve discussed with John Smith, Police officer in Tyneside, about mental health in the emergency services and his journey as a fundraiser for Tyneside and Northumberland Mind.

    John, tell us more about the Mind Blue Light Programme and why you fundraise for Tyneside and Northumberland Mind

    No one should ever have to face a mental health problem alone. Yet, hundreds of thousands of people struggle daily. As a society, we have come a long way in the last 30 years. Our understanding of each other has improved, attitudes have changed (for the better) and support is growing.

    Still, one in four people experience a mental health problem each year – and only 25% receive support. Members of the emergency services are even more at risk of experiencing mental health problems but are less likely to seek support.

    Mind Blue Light Programme supports all emergency services across England and Wales – our journey is for those services in the North East, where we live, work and whose support we rely upon.

    In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges with mental health problems?

    It can be very difficult to know what to do to support someone with a mental health problem. Family, friends, carers often mean well but don’t always have the necessary information.

    Would you say that men in the emergency services are facing more difficulties than women when it comes to mental health?

    I can only offer an opinion as a man. The range of incidents and situations faced are no different but perhaps the negative attitudes to talking about mental health, particularly amongst males have historically made it more difficult.

    However, these are at last breaking down and we are at a moment in time where we can make a real difference to many people.

    What would you recommend to men facing mental health distress?

    It’s a really simple recommendation: try to find someone you can talk to, who you’re comfortable with. Share what’s going on!

    What are you doing to raise awareness?

    I ride with 7 colleagues and friends from Whitehaven to Tynemouth 120 miles on 5th May. This has taken us all on a physical and personal journey. None of us are professional cyclists, but we’ve been able to complete the challenge in one day as we hoped.

    Actively challenging mental health stigma, raising awareness and supporting people to make positive changes in their wellbeing is something we all feel strongly about.

    How did you organised this challenge?

    I always wanted to cycle the Coast to Coast.Doing it in a day with some great people was an opportunity to raise the profile of Blue Light and Mind locally - Northumberland and Tyneside Mind were the perfect match.

    I’m just about entered the "modern age", so having support to set up social media platforms to aid sponsorship was a real journey of discovery.

    Do you have any other projects to raise awareness?

    Yes, personally I do but they are early stages. I did think about a marathon or a 24 hour cycle ride but my body is saying "Just hang on a minute!". So I'll see. I will no doubt do something.

    How can people support the Blue Light campaign in the North East?

    It’s very simple. You can support us and the Blue Light campaign withTyneside and Northumberland Mind by donating on our JustGiving page HERE.

    Any last thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?

    Mental health really does matter – the more we talk about it, the less taboo it becomes.

    Generally, please think about the language you use. I still hear well intended people using "1970's language" when it comes to mental health. Mental health is not an adjective.

    If you want to know more about the North East Blue Light, please visit their website HERE.

    Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving - they'll never sell them on or send unwanted emails.

    Once you donate, they'll send your money directly to the charity. It's the most efficient way to donate - saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

  • Paul Meade shave and grow challenge on December 2017
    Caption: Paul Meade - December 2017

    To celebrate the Men's Health Week 2018, Paul Meade, Project Manager for the Newcastle Building Society, shares with you his story and his experience as a fundraiser with Tyneside and Northumberland Mind.

     

     

     

    Paul, tell us more about your fundraising challenge

    In December 2017, I’ve launch my fundraising challenge in aid of Tyneside & Northumberland Mind. I want to help raise funding for them, so that they can continue to support people in our region who suffer from mental health issues as well as providing training. My action also aims at raising awareness about mental health.

    “That’s why on the 30th of December I am shaving my hair off all the way down to the wood as  well as having a wet shave, then I’ll be leaving it to do its thing for a full year.”

    What's the story for you behind this challenge?

    We all know at least one person who has directly or indirectly suffered from mental health issues. It could be stress or depression related, anxiety or they could’ve decided that they wanted to take their own life.

    A friend of mine took his own life a while ago. This was also around the time that I was going through my own issues, I had someone to talk to and got help but there are loads of people out there that don’t get help, but it is out there.

    Why did you choose a shaving challenge instead of a marathon, a walk or other more usual challenges?

    There is an image I find powerful behind this shaving challenge. Throughout the year you’ll all be able to see the change that is happening to me on the outside, but you may not see the changes inside.

    “Mental health is hard to see. And in a year, you may not see the changes to a close friend or loved one.”

    Paul Meade shave and Grow Challenge

    Do you think there is a particular challenge around mental health and being a man?

    The challenge I see being the biggest is getting people to see and recognize that they are having mental health issues and also knowing where to go and who to speak to.

    What would you recommend to men facing mental health issues?

    Talk to people. I know it’s the hardest thing to do, but it’s the best thing and after you speak to someone help is so much easier to find and accept.

    Back to your challenge, was it easy to set up?

    It was so easy. Once I decided what I was going to do, I contacted Tyneside & Northumberland Mind and let them know. Then I linked my JustGiving page to theirs and started to promote it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The actual hardest part was convincing the wife to let me do it!!

    This is a long run challenge? How do you stay motivated?

    I post regular updates on social media and use a few hashtags. It’s amazing seeing some of the messages from people all over the world, people that have been through mental health struggles and overcame them.

    I’m also walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall in July and planning that’ll help me to stay focused. I see this as being a hard thing to do. Like mental health issues, the struggle can be hard and very long. But with support, you’ll get there in the end.

    Do you have any tips to share with people who’d like to launch their own fundraising challenge?

    Contact the local branch of who you decide to fundraise for. You will find them willing and more than able to help you with anything you need. In my case for my Wall walk, Tyneside and Northumberland Mind have sorted me out with a couple of T-shirts, a banner and some flags to fly as we do our walk. They also support me on Twitter.

    Any final words for our readers?

    Mental health should not be something that’s just left to fester, we ALL need support in our lives and by talking. Getting help from people just like Tyneside & Northumberland Mind can make a huge difference.

    If you’d like to follow my #shaveandgrow journey, then please follow me on Twitter @pauldmeade and Instagram @pauldmeade

    Donating through JustGiving is both easy and safe. So, you can also support me by clicking HERE.

                                     

     

  • Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, working with Northumberland National Park, have organised a 10 mile fundraising walk - Mind on the Wall - to take place on Sat 12th May 2018. We have attached information about the walk, together with a poster and we would love it if you were able to come along and join us on this day.

    Hopefully walking for Tyneside and Northumberland Mind will both help raise funds as well as encourage people to experience the benefits of walking for your own wellbeing. The route we have chosen is especially beautiful along Hadrian's Wall from Walltown Quarry to the Sill where we will have refreshments and a warm welcome.

    This is a family event, so don't hesitate to come with your children and your friends.

    Unfortunately the Northumberland National Park, who are partnering this event, have requested that we ask people not to bring their dogs as there will be lots of lambs along the route, we also cannot take dogs on the transport bus or into the Sill building where we will be ending the walk with refreshments.

    Booking information is via our Eventbrite page and you can set up your justgiving campaign page attached to our Mind on the Wall campaign:

    Make a fundraising page - JustGiving

    Every attendee will receive an email with details about the event and access to a fundraising paper form, so everybody will be able to fundraise its way!

    We're looking forward to walking with you on the wall!

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