WMHD 2022 – Blog on an independent and personal project by Liv Slania, a peer supporter in Together’s Criminal Justice Service

World Mental Health Day takes place on 10 October and the theme for 2022, as set by the World Health Organisation, is ‘Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority’. We see this theme as focussing on increasing access to knowledge and support relating to mental health wherever possible globally and thought about how we could contribute.

As we value lived experience as an organisation, with our core principle being service user leadership, we thought we could help by inviting our staff, volunteers and people who use our services to share their knowledge and insight through tips that have worked for them in supporting their mental wellbeing. We hope this is a way we can help others by sharing the understanding people have gained from their own experiences and our overall question was:

  • What are some of your tips for aiding your mental health and wellbeing you’d want to share with others experiencing mental distress?

Liv Slania is a Peer Supporter within Together’s Criminal Justice service and in the blog below explains how she uses her own lived experience to support others including a philosophy textbook she has developed herself as an optional support resource:

SOS Global Mental Health Crisis Alert

I’m Liv, a criminal justice peer supporter at a mental health organisation called Together for Mental Wellbeing that helps those with mental health issues who get in trouble with the law on their path to recovery.

Together is the UK’s oldest community mental health charity which was established in 1879 to help people under the most difficult circumstances find temporary homes, as well as placements in service for women released from asylums. The charity worked alongside the people as they tried to re-enter society at a time when the marginalised lacked any agency and could be labelled and forgotten about.

Although it’s nice to e-meet you, I wish it were under better circumstances and not during what to me seems like a global mental health crisis, with psychotic breaks and suicide rates of all ages increasing around the world. Do you feel like you’re losing your mind or know someone who is? This might be for you. Today is World Mental Health Day, and I’d like to share the way I assist the people that use our service.

As a peer supporter with lived-in mental ill health experience, I understand and have direct insight into what it’s like to lose one’s mind and find it again. By having gone through the journey myself and being able to relate to the service user on a personal level, I see my role as helping to navigate the individual successfully through the madness and darkness towards the light at the end of the tunnel. I can relate because I’ve also been in hell, seeing and hearing things others don’t, and feeling like I’m living in a whole different dimension.

I help and assist those in need by providing emotional and practical support with the aim of making their suffering more bearable by understanding and relating, potentially in a way others can’t. Experience is crucial, especially when it comes to the most complex field such as that of the human mind. That’s why I feel any peer supporter can become a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, counsellor etc, but not vice versa. Theoretical knowledge of mental illness sometimes isn’t enough, and only goes so far to imagine what it’s like to live with it on a daily basis.

Although I’m happy and honoured to say Together supports a lot of people, our reach is limited and we can’t get to everyone in time, especially post-lockdown when the overall demand for peer support services has escalated. Faced with the question, “How can we help more people?,” Together’s team has been upgrading and expanding the existing peer support service.

But I wonder, what about all the rest out there left to fend for themselves, how can they get help too? Looking at the state of the world, it seems to me as if we live in a giant psychiatric ward, but with not enough people and resources to take care of the most vulnerable amongst us.

With my supervisor Christine’s encouragement as well as the growing support of other team members and clients, I have decided to share a philosophy textbook with the public, one which I introduced and read to the service users under my care. Rapid, positive results and feedback were observed even in repeat offenders.

The book is based on the personal teachings of Czesław Słania, a WWII hero, a historical figure and a household name within the world of art and philately whom I was lucky to call dad. Titled “Superheroics,” it is worded and designed to disrupt what I see as the individual’s chaotic and negative thinking pattern subconsciously stuck on auto-pilot. I hope the book helps the reader clear out some of their mind’s noise and show them how to be what my dad called a modern-day superhero in a world that seems to be falling apart.

I’m sharing “Superheroics” on World Mental Health Day as a gift from me to you. My immediate goals are to:

Firstly, spread my dad’s message and reach those who need to hear it and secondly to raise money in order to print out as many hard copies as possible, and gift them as an optional resource to hospitals and prisons. By that I mean places where many people have no access to internet, and can often feel lonely, disregarded and in desperate need of help and hope.

I know times are tough and the future might seem bleak, but I feel it doesn’t have to be. Positive change, just like negative, can happen fast if we all do our best to keep the faith in the ‘good’ alive. I remain optimistic, having witnessed many people turning their lives around for the better. I’ve seen those changes in life-long criminals going in and out of prison on a regular basis, to victims of sexual abuse who have turned to drugs and alcohol to try to deal with their trauma. By regaining their belief and respect for self and others, many are now living peaceful lives.

Should this message resonate with you, every like, comment, share and/or donation to the book-gifting cause will be greatly appreciated. Every penny will be donated towards book printing, packaging and posting the books directly to any individuals, patients and prisoners who want them. I’ll also be regularly updating my socials to keep the donors, helpers and supporters in the loop on our progress.

Thank you for your time, and happy World Mental Health Day.

To donate to Liv’s cause, download a FREE PDF and/or receive more info, please go to: superheroicsofficial.com.