1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness at any one point in their lives, it is a statistic we’ve all heard before, yet with experiences of stigma and discrimination around mental ill health are still rife. It got me thinking, what can I do to change this?
Real Talk was born from my own experience of mental illness and the power that comes from being honest about that journey. I shared my story of mental illness with TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh in 2015. It was cathartic, emotional and empowering personally, but what struck me most was that as soon as I shared my story authentically, other people responded with their own perspectives and experiences, almost as if they had been waiting for the space to talk.
Real Talk is a mental health storytelling social enterprise. It creates safe space to speak and to listen about mental ill health. People with lived experiences of mental illness come onboard as voluntary participants and they are empowered with two storytelling workshops, which gives them the tools and the space to effectively articulate their narrative. They then go on to share these stories to an audience during an intimate evening performance. During the event, the audience and speakers have dynamic conversations after hearing the stories, which encourages conversation, connection and community around mental ill health. “Keep this event going, it saves lives,” is what one audience member had to say after coming along.
To date, Real Talk has run 6 events, which has seen 21 participants share stories and 286 audience members listen. Real Talk also runs workshops and trainings around storytelling and wellbeing.