Nessa Banks you are the creator and founder of the organisation INSIDE OUT who promote mental health and positive well-being. Can I say that I’m also extremely passionate also, about people and how they feel about themselves within themselves, which leads them to project certain behaviours on the outside. It’s like a cycle, and I think it’s so amazing that you wanted to create such a platform where people can be educated, understood and supported through educational tools. What made you want to start INSIDE OUT? And how important is mental as well as physical health, especially for young adults?
Ok, well before I start answering your questions I just have to say a quick thank you Ree, for reaching out to do this with you. Like… honestly, I love this platform you’ve created- it’s VERY necessary and you’re doing big things with it- I see you girl, well done girl!
But yeah, ermm definitely! Understanding the human mind and why people may behave the way they do is really interesting init? And so ermm… what made me want to start INSIDE OUT UK? Hmm…well, there are sooooo many reasons why I started this, like tooo many things have been happening around me and have even happened to me in the past few years which have all come back to the same topic of poor mental health- literally everything always relates back to mental health! And you know what? I really do feel like my whole life so far has been preparing me for what I’m doing now… really and truly this is something that is very close to my heart.
Sooo long story short, I’ve always known from an early age that whatever I ended up doing in life, I will also have to give back somehow and help others- particularly if I’m in a position where I am able to do so. And, I’ve always been interested in understanding people, the mind and behaviour, so I studied Psychology at uni, at the University of Leicester, graduated last summer. Ermm… after I graduated I started working in a rehabilitation recovery home, which is my current day job- even though from time to time you’ll find me doing them night shifts. But yeah… ermm so I work with clients who are struggling with severe mental health disorders- mainly schizophrenia with associated illnesses like depression, bipolar… personality disorder, OCD and the purpose of my role is to basically to support my clients in gaining back their independence, with the hope that they will eventually move on and be able to cope independently in society. But the process is not easy! Like, some of the things I witness at work yeah, hm- let’s just say it’s very deep!
Hmm… it made me understand pro-per-ly how some people are suffering because of mental health problems, and I’m not gonna lie, some of it has been very difficult to witness at times, like being present when a client has a psychotic episode, that for me, particularly at the beginning was very…erm… scary, so imagine if that’s how I feel, Lord knows what the people going through it are feeling. Like, even during my first few weeks working there, one of the clients died- and it was very sudden, and I know that if it weren’t for his condition he wouldn’t have made certain decisions, and he would probably still be alive today. It’s really sad- so yeah you can say it’s been a very character building experience. The emotional Vanessa finds it heart very breaking… but overtime you learn to… distinguish yourself from the role, you have to, so you can avoid any damage to yourself.
So yeah, the main thing for me is that, from what I have seen, what I have experienced, I would hate to see more and more young people going down that road- I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone- and with things like severe mental health problems, it’s all a process, 99% of the time you don’t just wake up one day and go from being able to have the mental capacity to make decision to being severely depressed or paranoid Schizophrenic- it’s all a process that starts from somewhere. So putting something in place to reduce the risk of people getting to that end of the spectrum is what I’m all about. And let me say this now, I’m not an expert… qualified Clinical Psychologist or on that level YET, BUT I still want to do what I can in the meantime to help. So… for a while I felt like I had to be on a certain kinda pedestal or something before I can help, but when you actually think about it, you never know, the little you can do now can be what someone really needs to help them get through. So I just want to do what I can to help, and if I don’t have the answer for something then even at very least, be able to point someone into the right direction.
And as you even mentioned, we really do need to understand- I mean like pro-per-ly understand that mental health is just as important as physical health, and not just tweeting, or putting up a facebook status or whatever saying that its important. And I say that ‘cause recently I’ve seen a lot of people posting stuff like this- and I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with it, because there isn’t, it’s great that everyone knows this, but there’s a big difference between knowing and understanding- I’m just a practical person, so after tweeting, retweeting, posting or whatever that “mental health is just as important as physical health”, what steps did you actually take to ensure that you’re looking after your mental health? So the same way that we go to the gym a few times a week to keep fit, get in shape, get that summer body, is the same way that we need to take time out of our schedules to train and develop our minds- gym days are important, mental health days are important. But the truth of the matter is, some people are not even looking after their physical health, so using that comparison may not be effective- the importance of it may not hit home for everyone.
And even now to think of it, I would even take it a step further by saying to a certain extent mental health is mooore important than physical health- just look at how powerful the human brain is, it controls your physical health and well-being- so you go do that workout, but what was that influenced by?…your level of motivation to get up to go to the gym right? And even when you look at something like stress yeah, that comes under the category mental health and stress can weaken the immune system, and with a weak immune system, you’re more likely to get a cold or flu or infection, which effects your physical health and well-being, so what does that tell you? And as young people the earlier we implement this understanding, the better, because the habits you develop now, you’re very likely to take those habits on into the future.
Ok, ive been talking a lot, hahaha! But I hope that answers your question. As I said this is a topic very close to my heart, so I could probably talk all day about it, but I’ll save it for the rest of your questions haha.
I didn’t want to mention race, but I feel like I have too because its so common on social media to see people committing suicide and not feeling as if their lives are worst living. And there’s also been a high number of black youths and young adults who are going through mental health issues, but because of their culture or upbringing they are not able to ask for help. How would you say INSIDE OUT is going to overcome that challenge and stigmatisation?
Yeah… sigh, the suicide statics are very shocking. Even within this year so far, so we’re only in May but I’ve personally heard soo many cases of suicide amongst young people- and yeah the ones I’ve heard have mostly been young black people…
Yeah, this in particular really hits home for me…So erm I’ve been in a situation where someone I really care about has self-harmed and attempted to take their own life in front of me on more than one occasion- at that time I was quite young and I wasn’t too familiar with mental health issues so I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do- it was a bit of a ying and yang situation for me because I wanted to get help for the person, but I didn’t know how to ask, at the time I felt embarrassed, the person didn’t even want me to get help for them, but when I did eventually say something, it wasn’t received the way I had anticipated.
And that’s where I believe some of the problems lie for many young people- feeling completely lost, feeling embarrassed, guilty… ashamed, not knowing a trustworthy source to go to… lack of education about mental health in general whether it’s to identify the red flags, or even how to support someone and seek help; so that’s something I want to tackle, using INSIDE OUT events and programmes, using our support system to build confidence and help young people get that understanding and even though they may not feel like asking for help, reinforcing and reassuring them that asking can open up SO MANY opportunities to help solve problems and actually help you to thrive and achieve beyond their potential.
University is a place that breeds mental health issues in all its forms, from depression, to anxiety disorders and even eating disorders. It’s a place where the toughest battles are within, it’s scary and it’s lonely, even when you have people around you. I can talk first-hand because I am currently studying and it can be one hell of a rollercoaster. What advice do you have for people in university who are struggling, especially the fresher’s? And how would INSIDE OUT be working with universities to help aid and support mental health in university communities in the country?
Yeah you’re right university can be very mentally challenging, particularly if you’re not mentally prepared for it. I think one of the issues is that people are not prepared beforehand and many don’t even understand what they are getting themselves into so it just hits them all at once because it’s a completely different ball game to what they have been used to. So for many there’s a mental health gap at that stage- particularly if you haven’t had someone break down to you the realities of uni, and INSIDE OUT do have some things planned to address that, but I ll let you know once everything has been confirmed and closer to the time…
But in terms of what advice I would give, there are so many individual differences and it’s not a once-size-fits-all kinda thing. Everyone’s different init, so the steps people would take when they are struggling would obviously differ for each person. But in general, one thing I found very helpful was the support system, working with other people on my course, and being surrounded by like-minded people who have similar goals, quick shout-out to the ‘Psychology Girls’, my uni of Leicester family, class of 2016- the teamwork really did make the dream work with these guys. So in those particular instances where you don’t understand something, someone in your network may explain it in a way you understand, and it also helps to put things into perspective. To go through any struggles as a group is much much more healthier than battling your own thoughts.
I would say though, working smart not just working hard helped- finding out exactly what was required to achieve my goal, and finding out how to get to that point, so if that means sending an email or arrange a meeting with your lecturer to ask what they would want to see in an ideal first-class piece of work, which is what I did; ‘cause these are the same people that were marking my paper so give them what they want to see, not what you want to see. Just don’t struggle in silence, and this comes back to being able to ask for help. Utilise your resources; ask and you shall receive.
Ermm.. another thing I would say is, if you fail to plan you plan to fail- schedule your time for all your work, things you’re doing outside of uni and actually put in the work! And be sure to include breaks, breaks are healthy. You know you better than anyone else, so you know whether you’re better off having a 10 min break every hour or a full hour in between long sessions… I would also recommend having mental health days, this is just time to stop everything you’re doing and put everything on pause, time to reflect, rest and restore. It may seem crazy to do this if you’ve got a lot of work to do, but it can help. So using myself as an example, Saturdays were my day off, and still is my day off now to rest and reset myself for the coming week, even if I had work due on Monday and I wasn’t finished I would still try to take that break on Saturday. Then again, the main reason why I do this is because I’ve grown up in a Seventh – day Adventist household, which means Saturday is the day of rest, but to me it makes sense to also make this my mental health day.
Last thing I would say is, if you have tried your hardest but you are still struggling and it’s really having an effect on your well-being… I mean you have tried but you can’t try no more… Take. It. Easy! … because I can assure you now that uni is not the be all or end all, getting that first class degree does not mean anything in the real world and I can tell you that from my experience, unless you need the first class to get a scholarship or get into academic research or something like that, it’s great, but the truth is there’s more to life than the degree.
What ideas do you have for INSIDE OUT to “educate, entertain and engage” the youth of today? And how challenging can it be to connect to young people?
Ok, so all INSIDE OUT UK events and programmes promote mental health and positive wellbeing, erm with each event we have planned, they have been put together specifically with an educational element to it, to give young people the opportunity to learn about psychology and mental health, because at the moment mental health education is not being provided as much as it should be, unless you’re actively studying psychology or doing your own research. But the fact that we are going to be using creativity, I believe is what will help us engage young people. So creativity is a universal language, whether its music, dance, drama, poetry, art whatever it is, these are things everyone is connected to and can relate to in some way. So merging the two together should be effective, and making it relatable I believe can keep people connected.
But of course, connecting to young people can be difficult especially as nowadays there’s so many things out there all happening at once, you really need to be doing something extraordinary for people to notice what you’re doing, and even when you have captured attention, maintaining it is another thing… people really want to be kept on their toes- but I guess if you’re also getting something out of it, you’re more likely to stay connected…
So yeah what I’ve signed myself up for is a challenge but it’s a challenge I’m willing to take it on
What is next for you and INSIDE OUT & how can we stay connected to you?
Well, I’m glad you asked, so very soon we will be having THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH EVENT for INSIDE OUT UK called #LetsTalk! I’m so excited and with this event. It’s on Sunday 11th June, we’ve got an action-packed evening lined up and it’s something I believe everyone will benefit from, its less than a month away, tickets are only £7 on Eventbrite, so yeah everyone get their tickets!
And I might as well tell you this now, we also have a theatre production coming up soon which I am very very excited about, this is also based on mental health, I’m not gonna give away the story line yet but it is something that I’m convinced will put things into perspective for a lot of young people. I wrote the script myself and I’m directing it as well- yeah so when I’m not doing mental health related stuff or working on my other business with my health and wellbeing products, I’m into theatre productions and all… but more details about the production and the auditions will be coming out soon.
You can keep up to date by following us on
Twitter: @InsideOut UK_
and like the facebook page ‘Inside Out UK’
See you at the launch event!