Interview: The Invictus Trust

by Kordelia and Lily (BBC School Reporters)

Breaking the taboo of Mental Health; how the Invictus Trust is supporting young people in Cornwall

1 in 4 people suffer from at least one of the 374 different mental disorders known to man.

This is a large amount of people, which means that students need to be educated on the subject. Speaking to a 4th Year student, Thomas, from Sheffield University, we wanted to explore the growing awareness of mental health. Thomas said: ‘’I think mental health in the past 10 years has grown in the public and professional eye.’’ He also explained that ‘’there is a negative attitude and taboo that needs to be dispelled. Something that people need to be aware of is how common mental health problems are, and that it can happen to anyone.’’

This gives us a good insight to what the younger generations of students need to learn about to be able to empathise with others who may suffer from mental illnesses. ‘’More than ever, there is a focus.’’

Closer to home, we got the amazing opportunity to interview and speak to Sophia from the Invictus Trust, who informed us about the charity and their work concerning teenagers mental health in Cornwall. Invictus is a Cornish charity that aims to spread awareness of mental illness and to offer services to local teenagers who may be suffering from an illness associated with the issue. You can read our interview with Sophoa below.

It’s such a commitment for a school to be supporting its pupils and also changing people’s mindset – it’s a great thing, thank you.”

Do you feel like people with mental illnesses are paid less attention than people with physical illness?

‘’Yes if you see someone with a more physical illness, like a broken leg or something like that, it’s very visible and very obvious. I think people with mental illness need more support than they’re given.’

Why is mental health such a taboo in 2017?

‘’I think it is in a way we’ve really tried to get it out there and I think it’s one of those things that is hard to talk about, it’s hard to explain how you feel and it’s quite a brave thing to do because it isn’t seen.

We’ve come a long way in that sense and we are improving on that. I think that the youngest generation – the generation in school – have improved, like Year 9,10 and 11 are more aware than anyone has ever been at that age. It just has to be continued to be talked about and taught.’’

Why do you think that it’s important to educate children from a young age about mental illness?

I think it’s important to break down that stigma and to educate people on how to get help when they need it and to know that sometimes it’s okay to feel all of these different emotions and to not have extreme actions that follow them. The younger that we can educate people about that, the better…I think it’s really important.

What image is the media giving mental illness?

‘’I think it’s really variable, there’s so much media coverage that’s so helpful and is quite truthful about what mental illness may look like and how young people might experience it and actually being quite helpful in suggesting websites and services – and that’s really positive.

Obviously there has been cases where the media has gone two ways about mental health and glamourized it and made people talk about it or, negatively, but press coverage with celebrities… there are celebrities that have been quite brave and trying to share their experiences with mental illness to make people understand, and I feel like that media is really good’’

How do you feel about the glamorization of mental illnesses?

‘’I feel it’s really not a glamourous thing. Having experienced it first hand with my brother [Ben] and it wasn’t a nice experience at all. It’s quite difficult and uncomfortable to talk about for me. But I feel like if it’s getting people talking. Does that make sense? It’s actually really good, but it’s not glamorous or a romantic experience.’’

The Invictus Trust is one of the Academy’s choices of charity to support; how do you believe this fundraising going to help you?

‘’Well, we’re very very grateful for two reasons. One, because of the fundraising and the money. But equally, we’re really really grateful that it’s a school and it’s young people and it’s part of that education… it shows that it’s such a commitment for a school to be supporting it’s pupils and also changing people’s mindset. We try and be a charity that’s quite cool for younger people. So that’s amazing.

In terms of the fundraising, as you’re probably aware, we have an Anchor Fund for families, supporting them and people from 13-14 – that’s partly what the money will go towards. But also patient units- like, there’s one in Plymouth, Bridgewater, those sorts of places, where they need some equipment so that they can get up and get going – to improve the opportunities that people in there have got.’’

Do you think that the awareness of your charity is growing?

‘’Yes, absolutely. Our charity started off with just my parents and my sisters and myself and we tried as hard as we could to be listened to. Now we’re going into schools all over Cornwall and we’ve got a website and a Facebook page and we’re getting onto national news. We are still campaigning to get awareness in Cornwall for mental health support for our teenagers and young adults and for a minute, while that isn’t possible, we are just a family saying that we will do the most we can.

I think we started out as a small charity and we’re just growing bigger, and that’s what we wanted, to educate and to make the horrible situation of poor mental health better for people and the families.’’

Visit the Invictus Trust website for more information.