In May we launched our new spokesperson programme for grassroots leaders with lived experience of social injustice and social inequality. The programme sets out to build their skills, confidence, networks and platforms to enable them to become more media confident and public spokespeople offering their expertise and insight to the big issues facing us today. For the first time and with a lot of thought and planning we were able to hold an in-person residential, bringing our new cohort of 14 together for three days of masterclasses, reflection time, peer learning and fun at Cumberland Lodge. In this guest blog Debs from our network shared her reflections on the residential.
The sounddelivery Spokesperson Network residential trip started long before the actual day. I was stressed and not sleeping for over a week before it was due to begin. The excitement of meeting the other participants and the support from Jude kept me going (with no pressure to attend if it got too much). I wanted to do it as a personal challenge. I am so glad I managed it and here is why.
The agenda in hand, the nerves on edge I set off in the taxi for the train to London. I had a taxi, a train, a tube, another train and another taxi before I got there. My anxiety was always an issue long before covid arrived, this was just another challenge to add to my list of accomplishments, I was determined to do it. The trip to London went really smoothly and it was great to get there and meet real people for the first time in 18 months. I was excited and had a plan to make sure I spoke to everyone at some point in the trip, to help understand their cause and why they were there. I did feel a fraud as they all had a cause to promote and showcase, I was here to promote positive mental health and social prescribing. It wasn’t a cause or a project, it was hope and aspiration, but I went just thinking I would listen to the others and that would be the main benefit of going.
Although that was true, I did listen to everyone’s (fascinating) stories and journey getting to this point in life, I also realised I WAS meant to be there. I realised that me being there helped many of my peers, some who openly declared their mental health problems and some who didn’t. One peer said to me “You need to talk about mental health more, it helps people see they are normal!” another “Thank you, I don’t know why I needed to say so much to you but I feel so much better for doing so”.
It was strange when one of the sessions was about imposter syndrome and for the first half of the residential that was me. I thought I would be found out and removed, I thought they would see who I was in real life and think “nah she’s not that great, get her out of here”. But they didn’t and I stayed and changed my own thought process as I progressed.
“Suddenly I was amongst people with a similar agenda, people with a passion to change the systems they use, the world we live in, I was amongst friends.”
I wanted to do the residential to build up my confidence, which sounds crazy with all the things I have already done (conferences, articles and TV), but I have done everything alone and it has been scary and daunting. Suddenly I was amongst people with a similar agenda, people with a passion to change the systems they use, the world we live in, I was amongst friends. It felt so powerful to be in such an environment with so many wonderful, inspiring and influential people with such differing backgrounds but with a common thread of humanity holding and binding us all together. The friendships and connections I have made will give me the confidence to know I am no longer alone, that I have allies I can connect, support and shape ideas with, not just for now but for the future.
I started the residential a nervous wreck, I ended it with a huge confidence boost. This residential was more than just training, this was about me being able to have confidence in what I am saying and how I say it. It was about the next chapter of knowing that I am worthy, I am capable and I am eager to learn and begin the next part of my story. This is just the beginning of something great.
About the Author
Debs Teale is an advocate of creativity in health following her own remarkable journey. Having been in the mental health system for most of her life and heavily dependent on medication it took an art class to totally transform her life. She advocates creativity as an additional service to improve wellbeing and offering hope and aspiration. She has a passion to promote everyone having a voice and a choice in their own care, something she felt lacked in her own journey. Debs believes everyone has something to bring to the table, even if it is just themselves. Debs is part of our Spokesperson Network Programme.