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Hi Janice, tell us a little about yourself! 

I was born and raised in the UK, but I have lived and worked in numerous places around the world. Before COVID-19 struck, my partner and I were loving living in Gibraltar, but we chose to lock down in a little place in the South of England so we could be near to family in case we were needed. Now things are opening up again we can’t wait to get back!

What sparked your passion for advocating positive mental health? 

Mental health, like physical health, is something we all have, but it is still surrounded by misunderstanding and stigma, and unlike physical health it is often something we feel uncomfortable talking about. It doesn’t need to be this way and I want to get the conversation going.

My passion for advocating positive mental health stems from personal experience. At the age of 26, I thought I was invincible, but discovered I wasn’t. I developed ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Within a matter of months my health deteriorated to the point that I was bed bound, and unable to talk, or feed myself. The next 14 years were a roller coaster. I would recover a little and then relapse. Eventually chronic physical ill health took a toll on my mental health and by the time I was hospitalised for ME, I was also struggling with depression and anxiety. 

I thought I was invincible, but discovered I wasn’t.

When I recovered, I decided to train in everything that had helped me get well and then I started working with individuals to help them to regain their health. I also started lecturing, running courses and doing pro bono work to spread the word. 

When it comes to supporting your own mental health and that of others, there is so much you can do. There needs to be more information out there and greater understanding. There is already some brilliant work being done in Gibraltar by GibSams, Childline, Clubhouse Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society, the Community Mental Health Team and so on, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if every company in Gibraltar had a Mental Health First Aider and every individual felt they could talk openly about their mental health? Why shouldn’t Gibraltar lead the way in promoting positive mental health? 

You’re running a mental health training course in June; who is it open to, and what will it involve? 

I am really looking forward to this! It is open to anyone who wants to understand more about mental health. It is designed to explore the facts, debunk the myths and provide information to help people stay fit and healthy. The session is 90-minutes long and will explore things such as the difference between normal ‘stress’ and mental ill health and examine the signs and symptoms of some common mental illnesses. It will also cover what do if you, or someone you know, needs support. 

You also held two others this year. What was the response like?

In March we ran a Mental Health First Aid Course, and in April we ran a Mental Health Awareness session. I love my job, so I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions, and the feedback was great. This is a serious subject, but I think you can have fun learning about it. 

Why do you think training of this kind is so important?

This kind of training isn’t just important, it’s crucial. As I mentioned earlier, mental health, like physical health, is something we all have and sometimes it will be better than others. Some days our physical health will be amazing, and we will leap out of bed feeling fabulous, and on top of our game. Other days we will ache and creak, feel tired and under the weather. The same with mental health. Some days we will be sharp, clear thinking and able to cope with anything life throws at us. Other days we will feel overwhelmed, everything will feel too much, and we would prefer to hide under the duvet than face the world. 

Despite this there is still so much stigma and misunderstanding around the subject, and the only way that is going to change is through knowledge and education. If we understand ourselves and have the ability to recognise when our mental health (or the mental health of those around us) isn’t as good as we would like it to be, we can take positive steps to get back on track.

Why shouldn’t Gibraltar lead the way in promoting positive mental health?

What is your parting advice from anyone suffering from ill mental health right now?

My message is one of hope. There is so much that can help, and there is support available. It might feel difficult to reach out at first, but please don’t suffer in silence. You are not alone. Talk to someone. Talk with your doctor or consult a qualified therapist. If your workplace has a trained Mental Health First Aider, talk with them, or talk with a trusted friend or colleague. When it comes to recovery there is so much that can help, ranging from talking therapies, to medication and from exercise to mindfulness. It is about finding the right solution for you, but there are lots of solutions out there. Make the first step and ask for help. 

Janice’s next session, named ‘Mental Health Awareness’, will run for around 90 minutes at midday on 16th June. For those of you unable to make it, another will be held on the 30th June. Get in touch today to reserve your space: [email protected] Visit www.neurovitalityclinic.com for more information.

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