YoungMinds Ambassador: Rachel Kelly

YoungMinds Ambassador: Rachel Kelly

Rachel Kelly, writer and journalist, tells us why she chose to become an ambassador for YoungMinds.

Why have you chosen to be an Ambassador for YoungMinds?

I run wellbeing workshops in my local hospital and local prison and know how vulnerable young people can be to mental health problems.

I also know this to be true in a personal capacity: I’m a mother of five. I want those I work with, and my own children, to know that there is support available through YoungMinds website and Parents Helpline.

As someone who has been affected by anxiety and two serious depressive episodes, I know that stigma is alive and well, not just from others but also in the minds of those affected. It is time we end the stigma attached to mental illness. YoungMinds is dedicated to breaking that silence and I'm proud to be part of that campaign.

Your openness, about your own experiences of depression and anxiety, has helped many people. How do you look after your own mental health?

A big part of my drive to write and talk about mental health is to help others, so I’m delighted that you think I do!

I rely on a combination of strategies to stay calm and well. My holistic approach includes regular exercise, meditation using mindful breathing techniques, and the healing power of poetry. I have learnt how to cultivate a more compassionate, positive inner voice and to become less critical.

As a mother of five children, how do you support their emotional wellbeing? Have you found their transition from childhood to young adulthood difficult?

I try to foster a sense of open communication with my children, which I found has helped in the difficult transition into young adulthood. Our youngest child is 13, our oldest is 22, so I've seen how life in many ways has become more challenging for young people, especially the rise of social media. By being open about my own experiences, I’ve found that young people are more likely to be open about theirs.

I also try and model a lifestyle which encourages us to be calm and well. I've found it's more about 'show' not 'tell'. It doesn't always work, as of course I have my moments. But when I do find life difficult, I try and suggest that that’s okay too. We all do, we are all perfectly imperfect and that acceptance of the bad times is as important as celebrating the good.

Do you have any advice for parents who are worried about their children’s emotional wellbeing?

We learn by our mistakes. I love  the idea that I’ve made so many mistakes, and have learnt so much, that I'm thinking of making some more. Even better don’t talk in terms of 'mistakes' at all. I hope my children know they can  speak to me about anything and there aren't really 'mistakes' - but opportunities to learn. I  believe that stumbling blocks can be stepping stones.

You've a new book about food and mental health, congratulations! Does the creative process come naturally to you, and do you find it useful in working through your thoughts and experiences?

The creative process involved in this book came very naturally, through my own lifestyle changes and chats with my co-author Alice Mackintosh. Our recipes are based on around 140 nutritional studies but more importantly they are delicious. We try and eat as a family so they had to be dishes everyone loved.

I love putting my own experience of working with Alice to good use. I aim to share what I've been lucky enough to learn with others. And writing for me is therapeutic; seeing words on the page grounds me and keeps me in the moment. I love not wasting my own experience and living it twice as it were.

You've worked for the Times and written four books, do you have any advice for a young person wanting to be a journalist or author?

Keep going! Consistency is key and making small steps that contribute to your career each day really does help. Try and write every day, even for a short time if you can. Writing is like a muscle: you need to practise it. Write about something you are passionate about. When you love what you do and you care about it, it shows. A huge motivation for me is helping other people so I keep this is mind in everything that I do, which is why I am so honoured to be an ambassador for YoungMinds. It keeps me focused and grounded, and gives me a sense of purpose. Something positive has come out of suffering from depression for such a long time.

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