PASS THE BADGE
‘Pass the badge? What on earth’s that?’ I here you cry.
Wonder no more, dear reader, wonder no more.
Pass the badge is the realisation of a wonderfully simple idea by Richard Monaghan, that involves, it’ll come as no surprise to you, passing a badge on to strangers as they go about their business.
Each badge comes with a small card with 2 simple messages printed on it – that one in four of us will, at some point in our lives, experience a mental health problem and, that 9 out of 10 of those people will experience some manner of stigma because of it.
All we asked was that people would keep the badge for a day, then pass it on – along with the messages – to someone else, to keep the conversation going.
It really is THAT simple.
As you’d expect, a bunch of folks dodged us using dazzling footwork that Johan Cruyff would have envied, but they were in the minority.
I was lucky enough to share some time with a number of lovely folk who just took the time…
It’s time to come clear – the ‘Don’t run a mile – walk a mile’ idea wasn’t mine…it came from a couple who stopped for a chat and to share a badge in the middle of a busy shopping centre in Livingston.
She had developed depression late in life – yes, she was shocked at the pain of a mental malady, but also seemed to be equally taken aback by the, er, inconsistent, responses from folk.
The ‘pull yourself together’ folk; the ‘You can’t be depressed, your hair’s clean and tidy’ folk…
The folk who don’t know much about mental ill health folk….
Her husband, the same guy who came up with the heading of this blog, described their situation beautifully.
‘It’s like she’s in another room, behind a locked door…I know she’s in there but I can’t reach her…’
They took a badge each – they both clearly wanted to keep the conversation going.
In the short time we were there, I was fortunate to meet a variety of interesting folk – people with rich and absorbing stories – stories that I’m wealthier – taller – for hearing.
The man who’s the carer for his wife, whose hours are filled with her physical needs…emotionally and physically tired…
The older woman who’s cared for her daughter with bipolar – who’s worried about what happens to her daughter after she’s gone…
The couple with their only son who’s recently been diagnosed with high functioning autism – after a lifetime in school where he’d been labelled as unruly and badly behaved – a diagnosis/ description that came 2 years after he’d left school – 2 years too late.
The husband had been unceremoniously dumped from the army after 23 years of service. Now diagnosed with PTSD, he feels he’s been left on the scrap heap of life…
And many, many more.
Folk who didn’t want anything from me – who just wanted to share their story.
WALK A MILE
The wonderful thing about social media is that you can meet people for the first time at the same time feeling you’d known them for years.
Such was the case with the lovely Freda.
As we were gathering our bits and pieces for the start of the #letswalkamile #livingston, I looked across the small square – and there she was.
‘I know you, don’t I?’ I smiled.
She might have said, ‘I think so,’ but in no time it felt like we were talking like old friends.
Talking like old friends about such a difficult subject – the fact that only two years ago, her cherished daughter, Evie, had completed suicide – I watched as a single tear traced its way down her face.
She told me how, in her suicide note, Evie had encouraged her to add that splash of colour to her hair that she’d always promised to…and there it was.
The feeling of loss was palpable – I wanted to do something – I wanted to make it all better – but what could I do? I could listen – I think that’s all anyone could do – so that’s what I did.
Freda described her grief as a testament to Evie’s death – something that she never wanted to pass – she showed me the semi-colon she’d had tattooed to her wrist…
All too soon our conversation was over – it was time to walk a mile.
Folk gathered round and I guided them to find a stranger to share their walk with – or not; to talk about mental health – or not…
I might have mentioned this a bazillion times, walk a mile is what you make of it.
THE TARTAN EXPLORER
I walked my mile with Josh Quigley, The Tartan Explorer – a 23 year old entrepreneur who, following a suicide attempt, has decided to cycle around Scotland and then the world to make a noise about mental health, to become a mental health ambassador.
We talked about what a great adventure lies before him and how people are fabulous.
You can read about him here
We arrived at Livingston Football Stadium where he talked confidently about the origins of The Tartan Explorer and what to expect from his adventure.
As Josh gathered himself, hugged folk, posed for photo shoots…I smiled and laughed with Neil, the guy who’d privided the bike for the Tartan explorer at Josh’s lack of contingency plans should, er, something happen.
Absolute hypocrisy on my part – yes, me, the same guy who walked north out of Edinburgh all that time ago, with a solid belief that that the good people of Scotland would look after me on my way….
He’ll be fine.
I was lucky enough to be sitting next to Niamh, a young woman who has a very similar perspective to the world as me. She knew Evie, and is friends with Freda.
I’m sure I hadn’t adopted this philosophy until I was 40.
She got my attention with ease.
She told me how her dad was an ecologist and how she’d lost her mum to post natal depression – leaving me with so many questions that, so far, have remained unasked.
She told me that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania had been on Evie’s bucket list – and that, as a testament to her, Niamh, her dad and some others planned to conquer that summit at some point in 2018.
I can’t do justice to Niamh’s delivery of that story in a simple blog – the very idea, as I told her at the time, raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
Without missing a beat, she asked me, ‘Would you like to come?’ or words very similar to that.
I was obviously flattered and thrilled at being asked and at the thought of being part of this terrific adventure. My inclination in situations like this is always to say yes.
Such is my trust in Ella, I explained to Niamh that I’d have to have that discussion with her before I was able to say YES in capitals – in BIG – for definite.
Ella bowled up to our table – I always love watching her float from folk to folk as she enjoys the peopliness of people in a similar way to me…
I told her about the cunning Kilimanjaro plan, along with the heartbreaking backdrop to it….
Without a pause – she said, really what I knew she’d say – a massive, enthusiastic, YES – DO IT.
So that’s it…in 2 years – or so – time, I’ll be….sorry, we’ll be remembering, respecting, commemorating the life of a lovely daughter showing solidarity and love for all those effected by mental ill health.
There’ll be obstacles and pitfalls, I’m sure – but nothing insurmountable.
It’s another leg in the Walkamile ramble.
WHEN ALL’S SAID AND DONE
And that was it. Josh was on his way.
Jane Hornby, a SeeMe champion had received a ton of thanks for coordinating the letswalkatartanexplorerbadge day.
The local MP, Hannah Bardell had given a very personal speech in support of Josh’s endeavour.
I’d shamelessly flogged the Glasgow Event on the 20th of April (having been corrected by Eleanor from SeeMe) whilst wishing Josh the very best, whilst reminding him he has my phone number, on his journey.
Eleanor, the SeeMe Programme Manager for Communities had, as well as acting as the compere for the event, as ever been a great driving force behind it all – working quietly in the background ensuring the success of the day…
Ella – had, as ever, been the lovely Ella…I could gush…
The fifty-odd folk who’d turned up for it all had begun to drift off…
All of us were richer for the day.
So, there you are…proof, if proof were needed…
Don’t RUN a mile – WALK a mile
Walk a mile