#VirtuallyMinded Blog #2

Connor, age 11, attends our Virtually Minded male metal health project and bravely shares his mental health story including his battle with depression and suicide…

“I have been coming to the YMCA Youth Club in Bandywood since it opened nearly two years ago. I love going to club as I get to meet up with my friends and take part in activities that I never thought I would be able to.

When the Virtually Minded project first started, I knew it was something that I wanted to get involved with because my Mom suffered a lot with poor mental health years ago and it is a topic that I have always wanted to learn more about. At the start of the five week training, I was happy to talk about my Mom’s mental health battle but scared to talk about my own. By talking to the Virtually Minded staff each week, I realised that by talking about my own story, I could become a virtual hero and help other boys like me; I began to feel more comfortable and started to open up more.

I told staff that when my Grandad died 2 years ago, I was battling with my own suicidal thoughts. The main role model who used to be in my life, had now gone and I felt like a small 10 year old boy in the big wide world. I was also being bullied at school which added to the pressure and my Grandad, my main protector in life, couldn’t give me advice or help me. I had to fight my own battles. At the time, just being with my Grandad just seemed like the easiest option.

I overheard my Mom having a conversation and telling her friend that ‘her kids were the reason she asked for help with her own mental health problem.’ That’s when I realised that even though suicide seemed like an easy option, I would be hurting my friends and family.

By attending the Virtually Minded sessions, staff have helped me to use coping strategies when I’m feeling low with my own mental health. Virtually Minded is definitely a ‘safe space’ where I feel as though I can talk about any of my problems. I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I’m now able to talk about my ‘suicidal secret’.”


#VirtuallyMinded Blog #3

Josh, age 17, also attends our Virtually Minded male metal health project. He tells us about his life growing up, his struggles following the death of his Dad and the impact of feeling alone without any support…

“I live in Sutton, but not the ‘nice part’ of Sutton. For me, life hasn’t always been easy and growing up on my estate comes with its own set of problems. There is a certain way you have to act and certain things you have to do to live here. And if you don’t conform to the way of life, things get even harder. I started smoking Cannabis at the age of 13, because everyone else did it and it was normal. And then things got worse.

My dad passed away when I was 13 years old. He and my Mom had separated before this, but he was still a big part of my life. After he died, I spent two weeks in my room. I didn’t want to come out. I didn’t talk to anyone and spent most of my time on my own, eating to try and make myself feel better. I gained weight and became unhappy with how I looked, so to fix this I started smoking more Cannabis. Because it meant that I ate less and could lose weight.

Two years later, my Mom became ill. We’ve never had the best relationship, but I did what I needed to do to help her. I would pick my siblings up from school every day, do jobs around the home and it meant I couldn’t spend much time out with my friends. My school work suffered too; I failed all my GCSEs and most of my time in school before then was spent in isolation. The teachers had a bad view of me from my first day; one of my older brothers was the ‘bad kid’ and they expected me to be the same way so they hated me from day one. But all the time I spent in school, no one ever knew about what was going on at home and no one ever asked. So, I got myself kicked out a few times, because I didn’t see the point in me being there anymore.

Then I joined my local YMCA in Sutton Coldfield, I started coming to youth club and after a year, they asked me to be a part of their steering group for the Virtually Minded Project. They took me away for a weekend residential where they taught me about Male Mental Health. I learnt so many things and realised that I had probably suffered from poor Mental Health in the past too. I never thought I would be sat in a room with other boys my age, talking about Mental Health. If you had asked me to do this two years ago I would have told you to go away, and probably not as nicely as that. But this was really interesting, and I could use what I learnt to help my family, and myself. The staff at YMCA Sutton Coldfield have built my confidence, allowed me to find my own voice and given me opportunities that I would have never had access to otherwise.

Now, I think before I speak, and I have even volunteered with the YMCA and helped them out on other projects. I’ve also been able to use the Art Workshops to find my own creativity, and design something for me to pay tribute to my Dad.

I’m hopeful that when I am old enough, I can move out and have my own space. I want to go to college and redo my GCSEs and look at doing a bricklaying course. None of this would have been possible without the YMCA Sutton Coldfield and the Virtually Minded Project and I now understand the importance of looking after my brain as well as my body.

I just wish this project had been around when I was 10 years old, because my life would probably look a lot different now.”