MENTAL HEALTH: “We’re here to make a change.”

A young entrepreneur works to spread awareness and support young people going through mental health issues after the suicide of his girlfriend’s sister.

As a Londoner, delays on the Underground are part of day-to-day life. Whether it be rail maintenance, signal failures or, as an announcer would say: “person on the track”. The Underground has several of these phrases to refer to suicides, from “passenger taken unwell” to “jumper”.

You read correctly, it is not entirely uncommon for your delays to be caused by someone attempting to end it all. It is a problem the London Underground has faced since it opened back in the 19th century. Yet, your typical Londoner, with their “carry-on” attitude and all, would probably curse under their breath because now they are late, before remarking: “Couldn’t the poor sod pick a different day to kill himself.”

The growing awareness around mental health have made it far less of a “taboo” topic then it used to be. The challenges surrounding it have, in recent years, been highlighted as increasingly important issues of discussion. From politics to celebrities, Prince Harry to American chart-topper Logic, a light has been shone on mental health as we come to understand it and become more aware of the impact is has on the human psyche.

Mental health is being taken more seriously, as evidenced by the widespread backlash Youtuber Logan Paul received after making fun of a suicide victim in January. However, the stigma is ever present as mental illness is an undoubtedly complex issue. Whether due to cultural beliefs, limited knowledge on the subject or fear of judgement, the stigma still remains.

Metteo Bergamini, 25, driven by the loss of his sister’s girlfriend, is now working to challenge the stigma around mental health issues. The young entrepreneur and founder of Shout-Out UK recently hosted a conference to promote awareness for mental health – especially among young people – in which he rallied distinguished speakers who shared personal stories and offered advice to support those dealing with mental health issues.

In 2016, the Mental Health Foundation recorded that 5668 suicides had taken place in the UK. Of these, three-quarters were men who took their own life. It is further believed that one person in fifteen has made a suicide attempt at some point in their life. Unfortunately, suicide remains the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 in the UK.

“There were very few signs leading up to what she [his girlfriend’s sister] did,” Metteo said as he introduced the conference. “We’re here to make a change.”

“Greater awareness is undoubtedly positive, as awareness leads to action and ultimately, change for the better,” he continued.

Lade Hephzibah Olugbemi, founder of the NOUS mental health awareness organisation, said: “In the UK, it’s believed that one in four people are challenged with mental health issues. I want to challenge that statistic. I believe it’s one in two.”

Sylvia Milton, NHS psychiatric nurse and mental health counsellor, talked about her battles with depression and her years in and out of hospital. She said: “Samaritans saved my life in more ways than one. So, when supporting those going through difficult times, I encourage you to use the skill of empathy.”

The keynote speaker of the conference, Mark Keightley, established entrepreneur and life coach offered advice to those dealing with depression and anxiety. “The key to mental resilience is your mind-set. Don’t dwell in the ‘victim’ or ‘survival’ mind-set but be in a problem-solving mode,” she said. “We need flexible thinking. We must be self-aware to be able to take chances in life as well as calculated risks,” she added. Mrs Keightley emphasised the importance on playing on your individual difference and not compromising who you are.

The conference concluded with closing remarks given by Matteo. “The success of this event has only inspired me to continue to work with young adults,” he said, “To help those who are deprived from the support they need and to give a voice to those who can’t speak out.”

For those who need help or know someone who does, please visit – www.samaritans.org or call 116 123.

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