Mental Health Awareness Week and the Pageant Girl Story

May 14th is the start of Mental Health Awareness week, which is a staple part in my pageant girl diary as it is my platform as a queen. A lot of people neglect their mental health as it's not seen as important as physical health, which is why this week is so important! Here at Sparkles and Rhinestones, we spoke to a few pageant girls about their mental health experience. 

Sheri Ivin- Young European International Miss Wiltshire 2018

What is your experience with mental health? My experience with mental started back in 2011 when I was diagnosed with Depression. I was 13 years old and back then mental health was still a bit of a taboo especially around my age, back then  I was a case they couldn't ignore and I was sent straight through to CAMHS (child counselling) since then I've struggled, I can have my really good day, other times I hide in my room for a few days. 

How have you used your title to help raise awareness? I try to use my title to raise awareness by being involved in many of the campaigns that go. As well as supporting events for Mind and CAMHS.
What advice you would give to the person reading who may be facing a mental health crisis? The only advice I could is talk. The hardest thing to do. Once you've gotten past that first barrier, it all comes flooding out which gives a small piece of relief. It may not be a permanent thing but it's a start. It doesn't have to be a professional, may just be a friend but just get it out there.

Sarah Hulyer- Miss Coventry 2018

What is your experience with mental health? I’ve struggled with my own mental health from my young teens, having problems with severe anxiety and an eating disorder. I was always so secretive about it, until I became a campaigner and it became a way to connect with people and show them that people with mental illnesses don’t look any different, it can happen to anyone and mental illness doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender or any other factors.

How have you used your title to help raise awareness? In my time competing, I have been incredibly vocal about the issues faced by young people struggling with mental illness. My eco wear last year was made from recycled curtains, one white and three red - to represent the one in four people who suffer with a diagnosable mental illness. The biggest thing I have done while I’ve been competing for Miss England is be honest about my own story, and not let the competition distract or take away from my campaign work. Last year, just weeks before I competed in the Miss England Semi Finals, I sat with Theresa May to discuss what should be changed in regards to young mental health. This year, I’m excited to use the title of Miss Coventry and Warwickshire to help the incredible charity Coventry and Warwickshire Mind. They have so many incredible initiatives to support the community, but my focus is their community hubs where people can access group therapy, and have a safe space to meet with friends, chill out and be themselves, no matter what they’re struggling with. I’m in the process of organising a charity coffee morning in the Coventry hub, with the theme of ‘bringing up mental health’. I want to get lots of the community in to see the hub, find out what it’s all about, drink some tea and talk about how we can all support the people in our lives.

What advice you would give to the person reading who may be facing a mental health crisis?The way I always explain it to people, is to say that mental health is a gradient. Everyone has mental health - and some people develop a mental illness - and it’s not black or white; you’re not either completely fine or totally broken - we all have down days when we’re perhaps a bit stressed or sad, and sometimes all you need is a willing ear and someone to listen and be there for you. So my advice to everyone is to take some time for yourself every so often. Turn your phone off for a weekend, go for a walk, find some activities that bring you peace and surround yourself with people who will listen to you moan when you have a bad few days. Just because you don’t have a mental illness doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking out for your mental health. And if it becomes too hard, seek professional help, there’s no shame in it.

Charlie Stevenson- Young European International Ms Staffordshire 

 What is your experience with mental health? My personal experience with mental health began years ago when I was younger with strange behaviours and routines. I then plucked up the courage to go to seek help as it became worse with stress. My personality changed completely, I had mood swings and low days more than good days. My routines and behaviours became increasingly worse, so finally putting aside the fear I felt, I eventually asked for the help and advice I had needed

How have you used your title to help raise awareness? Being a Young European International Finalist (Ms Staffordshire), I continue to raise awareness and work extremely hard to raise money for charities. In the upcoming months before the finals I will be attending as many events as possible, including other pageants. Once I have received my fund raising items from my chosen charity Mind and also my finalist sash I will be out in the community raising awareness also. Also in September I have a set challenge which is to run Born Survivor and to climb Snowdon, I will continue to improve my fitness in preparation for this

What advice you would give to the person reading who may be facing a mental health crisis?  The advice to anyone suffering with a mental health crisis is, please get help !! I never thought I needed the help and that I would be judged as weak because I spoke up .... You are not weak You are not a failure People can help you and asking for help was the best decision I have ever made. Yes I have bad days still but with medication, counselling and support I am so much better today.Please Please tell someone and start the ball rolling with your GP. If you are reading this now, I am always here for advice if you need to talk knowing it is in confidence.

Romy Simpkins- Miss Great Britain Universe Finalist 2018 

What is your experience with mental health?I have personally experienced mental health as a teenager when I developed an eating disorder. I was diagnosed with Bulimia and was borderline anorexic.

How have you used your title to help raise awareness? Since being a part of pageantry I have really been able to step out my comfort zone and I am heavily involved with volunteering as a youth ambassador for my local mental health charity Dorset Mind, however since competing I have ran two charitable pageants and in total raised over £5000 for mind. I aim to continue to inspire women of all ages to never give up the fight and ultimately learn to believe in themselves. Having self-worth is the most important thing any person deserves to have and I will forever more encourage, support and guide others to be the best versions of themselves.

What advice you would give to the person reading who may be facing a mental health crisis? 
I know right now you are probably unsure how life is going to unfold with such a difficult illness or situation you may be experience. But I really mean it that you can overcome it, it’s your body, your mind and it’s your choice to not let thing illness beat you or simply define who you are. Life is challenging and one day you will see that good and bad things happen for a reason and they make us learn and shape us into the people we are. Please remember you have one life, embrace and it’s your path to choose.

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