It’s Time to Talk
It’s Time to Talk about the quiet stuff… like when we’re struggling to do the things we THINK we should be able to (because other people seem to find them so easy). Or how anxious we feel when we’re expected to present, speak up in a group or talk to a stranger. How we believe we’re just not good enough and couldn’t achieve the things we want even if we try. And the lengths we might go to, to avoid attention.
It’s Time to Talk about what helps us in these moments. And all the things college staff could do to better support you. It’s time you knew you’re not alone.
Leave your troubles on the Worry Wall and grow the Tree of Hope…
On Time to Talk Day, Thursday 1st February, Team Quiet took part in a huge collective Comfort Zone Stretch. We teamed up with Cornwall College to run a Time to Talk event at Camborne campus.
Time to Talk Day is a day that brings the nation together to get talking and break the silence around mental health problems as part of Time To Change’s national campaign. More and more people are suffering from mental health problems, especially the feeling of anxiousness in social situations. Everyone in our team understands these feelings and know how tough it can be to access support. I became isolated throughout college and Hayley, who studied at Cornwall College, left feeling too scared to go to university and felt it impossible to start a career.
It’s important to us that students, in Cornwall and across the UK, know that they’re not alone in how they are feeling. We’re here to support them in finding hope in their futures and being more successful than they ever imagined. Our Time to Talk event was to encourage students to be more open about their mental health; giving them a chance to talk, to listen and to change their lives. The event was split into five main sections; each with an important role to play in getting the students to open up about feeling anxious.
Students shared with us some of the many challenges that they face in their lives. It’s heart-breaking to read about their fears and anxieties around having to stand up in class for presentations, answering their tutor in front of the group, and talking to strangers. The more ‘Worries’ the wall gained, the more the students realised they’re not alone. We saw many of them start to understand their peers better and even suggest ways in which they could support their friends.
For us, seeing them open up to each other about feeling anxious and start discussions around how to make other feel comfortable was an amazing moment. All of the students who came forward and openly shared their experiences were amazingly brave. I know that when I was in college, I didn’t feel able to talk to others about how anxious and depressed I felt.
You are Not Alone
We’re so good at comparing how we feel inside to how other people appear on the outside. We create stories about their experiences, and assume they’re far more confident than us. But, our thoughts about others are often incorrect. Even the most successful people can feel anxious (and avoidant) when talking to strangers; speaking in public; or ordering a drink in a cafe.
One thing that we never really think about is the struggles that famous people face. They come across so positive on TV and in interviews, that it is easy to forget that they are just like us. Many feel the same fears and anxieties that we do.
Students were surprised to see how many famous faces felt anxious around other people. Did you know that Johnny Depp is very quiet despite his larger than life characters on set? As a teenager, he was insecure and convinced he had absolutely no talent at all. Youtuber Zoella, can worry about anything and everything. On a bad day, she’ll have panic attacks and feel unable to leave her house.
By showing that successful and famous people feel this way too, we wanted to inspire students, and help them understand that they can not only reach but surpass their dreams and potential, no matter what they feel might stand in their way right now. Team Quiet spoke with many of the students, asking about their dreams for their future, the challenges they face and sharing their own struggles and how they’ve grown in confidence.
No event at a college would be complete without free food. Our volunteers created Worry Cakes; dark on the outside but bright and colourful on the inside. Worry Cakes reflect the way in which so many of us try to keep ourselves hidden behind dull mask and how, when you break through that protective layer, everybody is made up of so much more. That layer of self-doubt and the mask you use to hide from the world can seem like a safety blanket for many, but who you are inside is the most important aspect of what makes you, You.
With bean bags, fluffy rugs and cushions to lounge on, students and staff were happy sitting and chatting amongst themselves in our Comfy Corner, and relaxing in front of the film ‘Inside Out’.
Taking time out to make beautiful, colourful pom poms with Stacie, students learnt the value of creativity for managing emotions. Stacie herself uses crochet to manage anxiety. For those who wanted something that required a little less thought, there were several mindful colouring patterns for them to colour.
Anything arts and crafts based can be an amazing self-care technique; great for relaxing and re-focusing your mind. So many of the students didn’t believe that they could create something as complex looking as a pom pom and completely surpassed their creative expectations. Some students even got competitive about making theirs the fluffiest, most colourful. I definitely saw some proud pom pom owners!
Tree of Hope
Mental health talks should also be about the positive. To encourage the students to talk about the good things in their lives and their hopes for the future, we brought along a bare Tree of Hope. We added the first few leaves, holding ideas of our own; from self-care to individuality, and the importance of self-love. Very quickly students added an amazing list of kind words they like to hear, positive promises they wanted to make to themselves, and words of support to their peers.
Like at the Worry Wall, the students were opening up to their friends and understanding how to support them better. I was talking to the students, encouraging them to dig deep in their emotions to find ways they could support their friends and peers. The tree grew quickly with the love and positivity of Cornwall College students. It was wonderful to see how many would go that extra mile to make others feel happy. What if we were just as compassionate to ourselves as we are to our peers?
We want students to take away a feeling of hopefulness from our event and a greater connection to their peers and the world around them, knowing that there they’re not alone and there is a support network available for them. This was one step in reducing the shame and stigma around mental health to help students who are struggling open up about their experiences and seek the support they need, whether that’s from a friend, a tutor in college, or an external organisation such as Quiet Connections. There are people around each and every one of you who genuinely care about you and who can understand you and help you to reach your dreams.
We’re enthused by all that the student support team at Cornwall College are doing to make life easier for their quieter students, and help them to engage with support at an earlier stage; from creating ‘safe spaces’ to escape when it all feels too much; to bringing Quiet Connections in to provide training for staff so they feel more confident in supporting their students.
Lastly, we would especially like to thank Camborne’s Student Liaison Officer, Ian Woodland (Woody), for his enthusiasm about our idea for a Time to Talk event. Thank you for supporting us and for the kind support you provide your students.
We all wish that we had tutors like Woody to talk to when we were at College. He can truly empathise with what it’s like to feel this way. He knows that it can be terrifying asking for help. If you’re a student at Camborne College and think you could benefit from some support, knock on Woody’s door, drop him an email or leave him a note. He’ll be there for you.
If you’re at a different campus, then get in touch with your local Student Liaison Officer. Having met most of them by now, we know they’re all kind and understanding. A cup of tea and a chat with them can do wonders.
Myself, Michele and Stacie took a few photos at the event. Click here to see them on Facebook.
If you feel socially anxious, shy or like you’re not good enough, Gemma has one clear message for you: You’re not alone. Gemma has personally experienced this too, and she understands how it can hold a person back in certain aspects of life. Now, Gemma shares tips and stories using her own insights and those of other people. Gemma is passionate about encouraging others to celebrate their quiet strengths, grow in confidence and move forwards in life. You’ll find Gemma writing for our blog, running our social media accounts, supporting people at our gatherings or, in true introvert-style, she’ll be out in nature with her camera on another Cornish adventure.