Time to Talk mental health

Posted: 01-02-2019 - 299 view(s)

Bringing people together to chat over a cuppa and a biscuit might not sound like life changing stuff.

But Stockton mum Claire knows the real value of a helping hand and a listening ear.

Having previously hit rock bottom herself, the mum-of-two now tries to help others through her Stockton-based community organisation, Red Balloons.

This Time to Talk Day (Thursday February 7), they are reaching out to the community with a dedicated event.

“Most of the people who come along to our drop-ins don’t have mental illness,” said Claire. “Everybody struggles from time to time and it can help to have a chat or just to get out of your routine.”

Still facing her own battle with anxiety and depression, Claire, 34, knows what she is talking about.

“I have suffered quite badly through mental health in my life,” she said. It culminated in a failed suicide attempt in March 2017.

“At the time I remember thinking I couldn’t even get that right,” she said, having, up until that point, always masked her struggles with a smile.

Luckily for her, a friend realised she was in need of help and after finally opening up she got the professional help she needed.

Going on to volunteer with the mental health charity Mind, it was there that Claire decided to use her experiences to help others.

Already a big advocate of physical health, she decided to learn more about mental wellbeing and bring them together.

Claire signed up to an Access to Higher Education Humanities and Social Sciences course at Stockton Riverside College before moving on to a psychology degree at Teesside University.

Launching Red Balloons as a social media platform, where she was able to share her personal experiences, as people started to reach out she gradually introduced talking sessions, as well as small running groups, aptly titled Run and Rant, along with mental health friendly personal training sessions from their base at Ragworth Community Centre.

Today she said: “I don’t claim to be a counsellor or any kind of expert. I am just someone who has been there. That lived experience is where the support comes in.”

As for the fitness side of things, she explained: “Exercise for me has been crucial to my mental wellbeing. Nothing helps like running does.

“For those who think they can’t do it I use myself as an example. At first I couldn’t run a mile, now I have done two half marathons and this April I am doing the London Marathon.”

Still facing her own good and bad days, Claire doesn’t claim to have a miracle solution. She said: “I know that we won’t be able to help everyone, but hopefully we can make people feel less excluded.”

Red Balloons is holding a Time to Talk coffee morning at Ragworth Community Centre, Stockton, on Thursday February 7, from 10am until 12 noon. For more details, or to get involved, visit Facebook @redballoons2017 or email: red.3.balloons@gmail.com