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Recently, Hope Street welcomed The Silent Man, also known as Stephen Matthews, a 48 year old man from Liverpool who has endured a multitude of traumatic events over the years that have significantly affected his mental health, until eventually life taught him to suppress his feelings to the point of silence.
A silence that stood between him and a normal life, and a silence he is finally learning to break with the help of all those at Hope Street.
From an early age Stephen suffered from the slings and arrows of being seen but never heard. As the youngest of three children in a family where Dad went to work and ended his days in the pub, while Mum looked after the kids and managed the house, he simply never thought to question the status quo. His was a childhood where emotion was never discussed and feelings barely acknowledged.
Moreover, he was not encouraged to be vocal about everyday life events. so never established the necessary resilience that may have ultimately prootected him. So through trauma, bereavement, redundancies, financial issues and, the process of going through the judicial system to disprove his paternity of his daughter, his mental health began to suffer as he continued to suppress his emotions and failed to ask for help.
When asked this question, Stephen responded with typical candidness ‘I didn’t know it was here!’ Hope Street has been a relief to him as he has connected with a number of people who have/are suffering with their mental health. ‘I felt so at ease when I first arrived at Hope Street.
It was my partner, Alison, who discovered the group on Facebook and suggested that I come, and to be honest, it has helped tremendously’.
Hope Street is a social enterprise that is facilitated by Sheila and Dom, which runs as a support group to help people with their mental health issues. Currently, Hope Street runs across two sites and is open to anyone who has problems relating to their mental health.
A place of sanctuary, people who attend are welcomed into the group and there is no judgement from anyone, as they are all sufferers of some kind. They are here to help as much as they can, and they do.
For people who attend, there are many offerings that can be accessed and include much needed support in areas such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) – for some, this is the ability to understand your own mind and make changes.
This has helped Stephen to change his thought process for the better, and although he is not through it all by any means, he is able to cope.
There is the support element too – people underestimate how much people require support. ‘For me, this is a massively important group in terms of help and support’, says Stephen.
‘The encouraging sign is that Sheila and Dom recognise the importance of the group and are in the process of securing much needed awareness for the organisation, something that Stephen is keen to see implemented.
‘Hope Street massively important to a lot of people already using the support group. It is also massively important to people who don’t even know it exists. This is why the group is promoted and is so important – so the organisation grows and awareness is raised that help is available’ says Stephen.
Stephen has recently delivered a talk to the Liverpool group of Hope Street, and will be doing the same in Ormskirk in the near future. But currently, his focus is on raising awareness about how prevalent men’s silence is in our society and how necessary it is for them to have a ‘safe-haven’ to be allowed to express their concerns and worries.
His own blog, The Silent Man focuses on his journey through his life so far, and examines the problems that are there for all to see. As a new venture, the site is steadily growing, and Stephen credits the therapeutic benefits of writing it, with yet more progress on the journey out of depression.
Working closely with Sheila and Dom, he is hoping to gain further experience to help others who have and are going through their own struggles. This will include him re-training himself to become a counsellor and playing a more active role within Hope Street.
You can visit Stephen’s blog below:
Hello my loves!
I thought I’d start my first proper blog, bar the introductory one, with something I try to promote as much as possible; positivity.. I try to be this smiley, bubbly person as much as i can be, really, all i want to do is make other people (as well as myself) happy! Positivity is something all of us claim to practice yet I don’t think some of us (me included) realize how being positive and taking time to reflect upon each day, pulling out the positives of every day, is super important.
I know that it’s easier to be positive for some more than others as for the latter half of last year and the majority of this year, i was part of the ‘others’ section of that group! Finding it really hard to see what i had achieved each day and constantly telling myself i could have done better. I then realized, after feeling sorry for myself and falling into a depression, i needed to stop thinking i could do better – i was doing my bloody best! Yes i do still believe that somethings could go better but i now realize that once things have happened; they have happened; there’s literally sod all i can do about it! I try my best with every single thing i do, i take every opportunity i can and try as hard as i can to look at all aspects of life with an open mind.
Now, i know for a fact that there will be people i know and love who will also be as harsh on themselves as i used to be/sometimes still can be – if this is you, i want you to know that whatever you’re doing is enough. Stop trying to please other people – again something i am guilty of! If you are not happy, you will never be able to make other people happy, not to be cringe but ‘you can’t pour from an empty glass!’ – if you look hard enough, there are positives in every single day, whether that be you’ve made your bed that day, listened to the birds chirping or watched the sunset – even if you didn’t make it out of bed that day, you could look at it as a positive as at least you where cosy and warm all day!
I do however realize that positivity is not in any circumstances the be all and end all, and is often extremely difficult for people – to anyone reading, don’t think i’m being that person who’s saying ‘oh it’ll be alright, just think positive’ – I’m not in any way saying that at all as i know myself this is a lot easier said than done. Sometimes negatives in people’s lives will massively out ride the positives, and you know what, sometimes it is okay to be negative, because sometimes, not often, but sometimes, things are just plain rubbish!
I didn’t quite have a plan for this post, but just wanted to see where it went – for someone who hates uncertainty, all this blogging stuff is good – getting me outside my comfort zone! That’s another thing, sometimes you just have to see where life takes you, take yourself outside your comfort zone, find a new comfort zone! I’ve become a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, after all that has occurred this year, which i will go into a little more in another post, I’ve come to realize that no matter how hard things get (trust me they got really bloody hard!) things will always work out okay in the end and to anyone struggling, hang in there – your going to smash life, I promise.
Remember to always be ur own light, chao for now, E x
A young girl with big dreams and a mad idea to start a blog in aim to guide me in the right direction to changing the world! Light-hearted posts with the moral being that you have the capacity to be whatever you want to be, you just need to remember to be UR own light!
Documenting my experiences as a young girl living with anxiety and depression – my coping mechanisms and strategies could lead you in the right direction to the light at the end of the tunnel
Very quickly after we are born we are given our very first label. It normally takes only a few minutes before a nurse slips a small band round an ankle and we officially become “Baby ……..”. And thus it begins. We have started on our course through life, picking up labels all the way.
I was too young to read my first label, as we all are, but it wasn’t long before ‘Baby Crosswell’ started becoming aware of the labels he was collecting. With this recognition came a tendency to behave in the way the labels appeared to prescribe, but more of that later.
Labels, without a doubt, have their uses. Imagine the larder with no labels; is this cornflour, plain flour, custard powder etc? Without labels, confusion reigns. Thankfully plain flour is unlikely to develop an inferiority complex alongside it’s far more adventurous neighbour self-raising flour.
Similarly without labels many tins of food look exactly the same; until they are opened that is. Change round the labels, or omit them altogether, and the contents remain the same but chaos is the result. Peas and custard; Peaches and Baked Beans; not the result we were looking for at all.
Labels for people are a much more complicated, and nuanced, matter. We tend to explain everything and everybody in terms of the labels we give them. What’s worse is once we are labelled it is a short step to using those labels as a justification for the way we react, feel, and behave. The labels start to create when they were intended to describe.
I would like to ask you to think back to your school days. These were your formative years when you were learning huge amounts about yourself and the world around you. Some people will refer to their schooldays as the best years of their lives, but others have a more jaded view.
Our educational system is predicated on labels, and these labels can be difficult to shake off. Pupils are frequently put into sets based on their attainment in specific subjects. Of course the labels used are usually not intended to create stigma, but that is exactly what they can do. Pupils in the higher sets quickly start to describe those in lower sets as “thick” or “stupid”. It is then but a short step before these pupils start to believe they are “thick” and consequently stop trying. Far from assisting less able pupils this labelling appears to indicate a reduction in expectation and this easily becomes self fulfilling.
Pupils who do not conform to the expected behavioural standards are labelled “disruptive” and this label follows them through the educational system. How long before this becomes a badge of honour and the wearer finds it impossible to break the mould?
Mental Health is an area abundant in ‘conditions’ and ‘labels’. A recent advertisement for a major UK Bank featured a selection of people displaying labels on their foreheads describing their mental health diagnosis. These varied from anxiety and depression to eating disorders and phobias. It really didn’t matter that much what the label said, its very presence encouraged a certain view of the wearer, and even worse a certain self image by the wearer.
Tell someone there is something wrong with them, label them with a condition, and they now have a rational for their feelings. “This thing is happening to me, I have got it, so there is nothing I can do.”
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the American Psychiatric Associations standard reference book and it includes over 450 different definitions of mental disorders. That’s an awful lot of labels!
Human beings generally like putting things in pigeon holes. It helps us to find things, manages our expectations, and helps us understand. That’s absolutely fine when it comes to things, but we carry on the practice with people. If we know somebody with anxiety, and let’s face it we all know people, we ‘read the label’ and know what to expect. We think we know how they will be feeling, how they react, and how they will behave. At the same time the ‘owner’ of the label has an idea how they are expected to behave so they tend to conform.
I suffered, for many years, with anxiety and depression. I’m not stupid, I knew what those labels meant and I was quite prepared to hide behind them. I took ownership of ‘my’ anxiety and ‘my’ depression, using expressions like “I can’t do that because of my anxiety”. My family and friends were all aware of my labels and loathe to challenge me, or them. My Wife habitually said “I don’t suppose you want to come to…….”, giving me the perfect opportunity to say no. She would then attend the event without me, explaining that “his anxiety is playing up”.
My labels started to restrict my life more than the anxiety and depression themselves. I found it far easier to conform to everyone’s expectations and, I suppose, I was hiding from life. There is a certain comfort in hiding behind the labels; people tend to leave you alone or, at least, expect less from you.
Of course labels are necessary but I have serious concerns about the ease with which they are handed out, and accepted. Labelling is external; it is something that happens to us. Rarely do we label ourselves; there are plenty of people out there who are only too happy to do it for us! But this is very disempowering, leaving the wearer with the belief that this ‘thing’ is happening to them, there is nothing they can do about it.
I was lucky. I was taught that I was creating anxiety and depression myself, in my own mind. Contrary to my belief there was nothing wrong with me; I hadn’t caught something; I wasn’t ‘wired up’ incorrectly; I was normal. This was a revelation to me as it meant I had the power to beat anxiety and depression and tear up my labels.
I lived my life with labels from minutes after I was born and, I would suggest, most people do. Of course labels have their uses; after all Baby Crosswell was handed over to the correct parents due to the band round his ankle. However many labels can almost develop a life of their own, acting as a ball and chain stopping us developing the life we are truly capable of.
If you are aware of your labels just remember that they do not need to dictate who you are. There is no valid reason why labels should control or restrict you. Dyslexics go to University and get qualifications; anxious people beat their feelings and achieve great success; phobics learn to overcome their phobias and go on to achieve things they never believe they could.
I beat my labels and you can do too.