CBBC presenter Lauren Layfield shares why she’s decided to become a YoungMinds Ambassador, and her experience with opening up about her mental health.
Why have you chosen to become a YoungMinds Ambassador?
The work of YoungMinds is especially important today; we’re seeing a rise in children reporting mental health problems and they need somewhere to turn to. YoungMinds is a charity catering especially for them, and that’s special. I work with lots of young people and I want them to know that it’s OK to ask for a bit of help!
You have grown a loyal following on social media, especially on Instagram with most of these followers being young girls. What do you think of social media and how it affects the wellbeing of young people today (both positively and negatively)?
Social media is amazing; I love being able to see what my mates are up to even though we live all over the country and memes are one of man’s greatest inventions. But it’s also tricky and it stresses me out when I see young girls who are SO preoccupied with their appearance. The fact that everyone has a camera phone and a social media account, means that at any given moment, with or without your permission, your photo might end up online.
In 2016 you braved the black chair when you appeared on Celebrity Mastermind and raised money for us (thank you!). What made you decide to do this in support of YoungMinds?
I wanted to be brave and show my support for a mental health charity! I was still at that point where I was feeling a little bit nervous about talking about mental health, I still found it very uncomfortable and I thought - what better way to become cool with my mental health, than to bring it up on BBC One in front of millions of viewers...
You’ve very quickly become one of CBBC’s favourite presenters. How do you think pressures of being a presenter have changed over the years, and how have you managed those pressures for yourself?
I think once upon a time, a TV presenter went to work on a Saturday night, presented a TV show, then went home. Now, because of social media, I want to know where Holly Willoughby got her dress and what Ruth and Eamonn are having for tea! There’s now an expectancy that TV presenters will share more than just their professional lives with the public. For sure, it’s an added pressure, but I also think there’s something quite nice about it. I tend to pick and choose what I share - if I can’t be bothered, I won’t feel pressured to do it.
Have you ever had to help a friend going through a difficult time? What have you done to support them with their emotional wellbeing?
When I was younger, I thought I was the only one struggling, so I didn’t breathe a word to anyone. It was only years down the line that I plucked up the courage to speak up for myself, and SO MANY people around me turned around and said “I suffer with anxiety you know.” or “I’m feeling really down at the moment” or “I’m on medication for depression.”
It can be really hard to know how to support other people - but my tactic is openness. Check in with your friends; ask them how their feeling. Talk about your own mental health problems to open up conversation. Have a chat with your colleague about the mental health storyline you saw on TV when you’re making a cuppa at work the next morning.
What role do you think television can have in breaking down the stigma on mental illness, advancing understanding and helping those suffering?
One of the best things I’ve ever watched on the subject of mental health is ‘My Mad Fat Diary’ which is based on a book by the brilliant Rae Earl. It was a real coming-of-age show for Channel 4 about a girl who checks out of a psychiatric hospital, is finding her place in the world, constantly battling with debilitating body image problems….and it’s a comedy.
If you’re feeling drained and down after a bad day, what do you do to feel better?
I keep a list on my mobile phone of things that make me happy, some of which include: seeing my best friends from home, setting my mind to learn about something….and eating something really, REALLY good for tea.
What advice would you give to a young person seeking a career path as a TV presenter?
Go for it. Just give it a go. You’ll never know unless you try. Don’t let than little voice of doubt stop you.