It’s mental health awareness week (May 15th – 21st) and we wanted to share an interview we had with Sophie Alway founder of local suicide prevention charity Georgia’s Voice.
Hi Sophie, can you tell us a bit about Georgia’s Voice
“Georgia’s Voice (GV) is the legacy of my daughter Georgia, who took her own life during the first lockdown we had in 2020. After loosing Georgia, I started looking online at the statistics realising that suicide is the leading cause of death in young people and the office of national statistics are now saying that females under the age of 24 are at the highest rate they’ve ever been since they began in 1981 and I just released that Georgia definitely wasn’t the only person who was feeling this way and there would be lots of other young women that are feeling this way and similar to Georgia will have had all their support and help taken away during lockdown. We had just managed to get her the help she needed, and she had built a good structure and routine with work and the gym and healthy eating and then when the lockdown came, her counselling went from being face to face to on the phone which she really struggled with. She couldn’t go to work or the gym and then her sleep went out the window, there was some many things that were different for her and I thought there must be so many young women who are feeling like this and I realised that there was a way if you were supporting vulnerable young women through the pandemic and I thought this is a challenge; lets set up a charity of support groups right in the middle of a pandemic and that’s what we did.
We started our first group in Falmouth in the October which was again the middle of another lockdown so we had to follow a lot of strict restrictions and limit the numbers in our group, take temperatures etc, there was so many things but I was determined that if you are not able to leave your house, there is that one thing in your week. That little bit of routine, something consistent that is there for you every single week and it’s been life changing for these young women, for a lot of them that is the only consistent thing in their lives.
So we started off with just the one group, we’re now covering a third of Cornwall with groups for young women aged 18 – 25, we decided to keep a small demographic so we could offer that specialist care. Because we are specialist for this age group, it means we never have to turn anyone away. We provide talking therapy and wellbeing activities, all things that are good for promoting good mental health. We get the girls involved in that and ask them what they want to do and what things will help them, it could be anything from watersports, horse riding, yoga, we’ve done pole dancing, they loved it and they found it so empowering and it gave them so much confidence. We also have an online support group, we realised that we couldn’t overnight support everyone straight away so we’ve started an online group which started monthly but it’s been really popular so we’re now upping that to fortnightly so if you’re in an area that you can’t physically get to a group then there is the option of the online group.”
That’s amazing, are there any local groups in Redruth?
“We have a weekly support group in Redruth, which is run by our two lovely facilitators Julie and Emma, which is great fun, and everyone goes out of that group with a smile on their face. That group is every Wednesday at 7pm in the Wesleyan building, details can be found on the GV website, and all of our groups can be found there and on our Facebook under the events section or if you just want to find out what’s available, you can send the group a message. In the summer months, there are more activities like going off to the beach or woodland walks and I know often members of the groups will meet outside and form friendships.”
Fab, do you have a top tip to improve mental health on a day to day basis?
“We all know what’s good for us and what’s good for our mental health but when things take a turn, it’s the first thing to fall away; bedtime falls away, you spend more time on your phone and maybe can’t be bothered to eat well. All of the things that could potentially help you, you stop doing, and that is the time you need to do those things. I think a lot of the time it’s telling people that you are struggling and then maybe your friends can encourage you and say come on let’s go for a walk and try really hard to keep those routines. It’s telling people how you feel and getting along to a group if you feel up to it as I think there’s a massive comfort in knowing other people are feeling that way too. I think it’s really isolating when you are suffering with mental health and a lot of people tend to put a smile on their face and pretend it’s ok which can be even more isolating.”
When you do start talking about your mental health, you’ll release it helps other people as well.
Sophie really is inspiring and it’s fantastic to see a negative thing turned into a positive thing that’s helping so many people. To find out more about Georgia’s Voice, visit – georgiasvoice.co.uk/ and for other support services, we have a dedicated page here.