An introduction to Mental Health
and Just Listening to you
Healthy Life Essex is delighted to be working with Just Listening to You to bring you a regular blog about mental health issues. The first blog in the series is provided by Harriet Stack who is a qualified Mind Calm Meditation Coach, writer, editor and lawyer (practising criminal law under the name Harriet Balcombe.) Harriet visited one of the Just Listening to You groups and was impressed with the warm and friendly welcome and the nurturing and supportive environment.
Mental health is as important as physical health but tends to be less well understood. And, although things have improved over the years, we have a long way to go before the sense of unease, even stigma, surrounding mental health issues, disappears entirely.
Mental ill-health can affect any of us and even if we are not personally suffering, we are sure to know several people, right now, who are dealing with mental health problems. Treatment and resources can be difficult to access and it can take time to get the right support. When you are feeling at your most vulnerable, perhaps seriously depressed or struggling with anxiety, to find yourself unable to access treatment or facing a long wait can feel like insult added to injury.
For some in Essex, however, there is a safe and nurturing place to go on a regular basis, where they can be heard in a relaxed and respectful atmosphere. There is no waiting list and nothing to pay. Bernie Bentley runs the charity Just Listening to You and has this to say:
The group vision is a world where anyone living with mental health problems find opportunity, positivity, genuine friendship and a world free of stigma.
We provide help to anyone who has issues with mental health problems, we provide a safe area for conversations, enabling you to discuss any subject and to connect with other survivors.
Some time ago, I attended Just Listening to You’s Wickford group to talk informally about Mind Calm meditation and to find out more about the charity. What a beautiful, relaxed day we had. I was welcomed into the group, included in conversations and plied with refreshments. At lunchtime, we all gathered round the table, just like a family.
There was a palpable sense of acceptance. If you wanted to sit without talking, that was fine. If you wanted to talk, there was a non-judgmental, listening ear. This was an open, compassionate space ready to welcome anyone who needed companionship and support.
I found it particularly interesting that, as a visiting ‘expert’ who had turned up to speak about meditation, I was offered as much support and nurturing as everyone else. This is what lack of stigma really looks like; there was no assumption that I was ‘sorted,’ that just because I wasn’t turning up with a mental health problem I didn’t need a space to talk and to be cared for. Everyone was interested in what I had to say about Mind Calm but they also wanted to know about me as a person and to make sure I was comfy and enjoyed my lunch.
Just Listening to You provides a glimpse, a foretaste of what a world without stigma could be like. Everyone is supported, everyone can find a listening ear and no-one is judged. Many of us will suffer from a mental health problem at some point during our lives and at those times we may need more support and more compassion, but this kind of care should be available to anyone at any time.
Just Listening to You holds groups on Fridays in Wickford and Wednesdays in Southend, and you can find more information on the Meetup page. You can also follow Just Listening to You and read Bernadette’s blogs on the Facebook page and, of course, on the new series here on Healthy Life Essex. If you – or someone you know – are suffering with a mental health issue you owe it to yourself to find out more about this organisation. A friendly and accepting community is waiting to welcome you and lend a listening ear.