Mental Health Awareness Week

This week (16-22 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week. Quashing the stigma attached to mental health patients is so important to me, so it felt only right to write a short post talking about mental health on my blog, something that I’m passionate about and something that has affected me in my own personal life. Today I wanted to talk about the chosen theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week: relationships.

The Mental Health Foundation’s aim is to lobby national governments, public bodies and employers to help tackle the barriers of building strong relationship foundations, as the relationships we have with other people are exceptionally important to our mental wellbeing. Good relationships between individuals and within communities are as important to our health as other factors including the amount of exercise we do and what we eat.
I have seen first hand how beneficial having solid, healthy relationships can be to your self-esteem and general wellbeing. In just over a year, I feel like I have grown and developed as a person. I was diagnosed with anxiety and mild depression last March, and I’m delighted that a year on I can say that I’m feeling a lot better about life. I’m not fully fixed, that’s for certain. I have panic attacks at times, and still have down days, but on the whole I have generally felt a lot more able to cope with all situations, more confident in myself and less worried about tomorrow.
I wouldn’t have felt nearly as okay going through CBT last year and dealing with the negative thoughts and feelings since I finished CBT if I had to go through it all alone. If it wasn’t for the lovely community of people who surround me: family members, colleagues, friends and, of course, my wonderful boyfriend, I highly doubt I’d be nearly as happy as I am now.
For anyone struggling, feeling sad or alone: speak to someone and things do eventually get better. A parent, teacher, colleague or friend, or a doctor if you feel you have no one else – communication has been key to my healing.
To find out more information on Mental Health Awareness Week visit mentalhealth.org.uk and get involved in the conversation by tweeting using #MHAW16.
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What shall I do next?

At the beginning of my time at sixth form, one question was on everybody’s minds: What shall I do next? I was fortunate enough to be given some advice on a variety of different after-school options, from charitable gap years around the world to university and everything in between.

The options were exciting to say the least, but also pretty terrifying. Here’s why: At the age of seventeen, I was expected to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life – a terrifying prospect, especially considering that we are all living a lot longer than ever these days, and the retirement age in the UK seems to rise every other year.

I have no real complaints about my secondary school at all. I spent seven years of my life walking into that building every single day and created so many memories there. I learnt so much, not only in lessons but also outside of the classroom, and not always positive.  The only thing that ever bothered me about my secondary school was the limited information they gave me on apprenticeships when I decided I didn’t want to go to university. I was one of many that chose to not go to university in my year, and I think that the advice we were given wasn’t necessarily always right, not from my experiences since.

Today, I thought I’d put a few points together about apprenticeships which may or may not help those of you who are struggling to decide what you want to do next.

Apprenticeships are not worth less than a university degree

Apprenticeships are frequently considered inferior to degrees. Why? Mainly complete snobbery. To get into my apprenticeship there were requirements. I had to achieve particular grades in particular subjects at A Level, and go through an interview process. Doing an apprenticeship does not mean that you are less intelligent than those who go to university. Some of my friends at uni have even commented that they wish they’d done an apprenticeship, simply because it would’ve saved them a whole lot of money in the long run.

Apprenticeships are paid meaning you do not start your adult life in debt

Many of my friends who are studying at university are racking up massive debts. If you don’t budget properly it’s surprising how quickly you can go from having hundreds of pounds of loans and grants to being in your overdraft.As an apprentice, I am earning money. The current minimum apprentice wage is £3.30, but many companies are willing to pay more for trainee staff if they think you’re worth. Even if you are only being paid the minimum, it might not seem a lot of money but it’s a lot better than having nothing at all.

Apprenticeships help you gain something that many university courses do not offer: real life experience

The lessons that I have learnt since beginning my apprenticeship in PR have been incredible. I’ve gained so many skills, not only in PR but also more generic and transferable skills that I can take with me wherever I end up. Things I once found difficult, I’m increasingly finding a hell of a lot easier, and I’m exceptionally lucky to have such a supportive team of employees around me. In an appraisal last year, my managing director told me that he’s taken on staff straight out of university who have had absolutely no idea about how to behave in an office environment. Degrees give you so much valuable theory-based information, but it’s rare that they’ll give you the valuable hands-on experience that I have had since beginning my apprenticeship.  That’s not to say that doing a university degree is not worthwhile, and people learn lots of completely different lessons from attending university.

Let me know your thoughts on the “What shall I do next?” debate in the comments below.

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The Highlights: April 2016

April has been a rather non-eventful month as months go. Ben and I had to spend two weeks apart and as pathetic as it sounds, it was actually quite tough. Nonetheless, I’ve had some really great days this month and there have been many highlights.  Some of the highlights:

– A meal out with Ben’s friends in Aylesbury

– A lovely Sunday lunch with my parents, grandparents and sister

– Another lovely Sunday lunch with the above mentioned, my sister’s boyfriend and Ben

– Visiting the PRCA for my last ever in-London training session

– Reuniting with Ben after two weeks… best feeling ever

– Planning lots of fun activities for a week in May with Ben

– Celebrating my mum’s 50th birthday

– Seeing The Jungle Book at the cinema

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