NCS grad, Bryony Danks was given the incredible opportunity to discuss mental health with BBC Radio 1. After filling us in on her mental health issues (live!) with thousands of listeners, we asked Bryony to tell us how she did it with so much confidence.
Read on to find out about how Bryony copes with anxiety, panic attacks and her experience speaking on Radio 1.
1.Tell us a bit about the sort of mental illness you live with.
I am currently working on overcoming anxiety and panic attacks. I’m also training myself to cope, as I didn’t want to keep passing opportunities by. I had a change in outlook by saying, “What’s the best thing that you are going to achieve” rather than telling myself, “Nothing other than negatives will occur if I do this.” However, I did suffer from very bad panic attacks after the divorce of my parents when I was 14.
2. How has your mental health affected your everyday life, school, friendships etc.?
When I was suffering really badly, it had a massive impact on everything! At school, there were occasions where I couldn’t go into classrooms because I just couldn’t breathe. I lost a few friendships to of people who said, “Oh, she is only seeking attention”. However, I realised that those were not my real friends and I gained many more that supported me and still do today! My twin sister was a great help, as she knew how to keep me calm and get me back to normal. She’s a good egg! When I started year 11, I was fearful that everything would come flooding back so I took it upon myself to be extra organised by revising pretty much from September. I only had a couple of panic attacks before my exams, which I thought was very impressive.
3. At what point did you realise you needed help?
I’m a very independent person. My friends, teachers and parents told me that I should get help, but I refused. I didn’t think that I was important enough to receive help, as people suffered through things that I felt were much more important than mine. It is only now that I realise that pain is pain. Nobody has it worse or better, you can’t compare your struggle to anyone else’s as that’s not fair on anyone.
4. How do you manage or cope with your mental health?
I taught myself how to cope. I took it upon myself to learn how to deal with it all by researching and watching YouTube videos. I knew that the only thing defeating me was my body when I hyperventilating. I taught myself how to cope when my breathing was getting a bit heavier. Eventually I developed a natural response to my panic attacks by slowing my breathing down when I started hyperventilating. After that, I knew that the only thing that could stop me was my mind, so I made a pact with myself that I would never let my mind get in the way of my dreams again. So far, it has worked!
5. Is there a person, place or thing that keeps you going during the day?
I have my NCS friends that are dotted all over the country. I know I can talk to them if I need a bit of help or advice; I talk to some of them every day! They’re my inspiration as everyone one of the NCS Leaders has a powerful back story and an incredible motivation for change, so my NCS friends keep me fighting on.
6. How would you describe your time on Radio 1 talking about mental health?
My heart was racing when the phone rang for me to talk. The idea that so many people would be listening to my voice completely terrified me, but I remembered that at the start of the summer of 2016 I wouldn’t even answer the phone to my friends, now I was talking to thousands of people! But when I was speaking, I didn’t know what I was saying as I was in a bubble of excitement, so much so that I didn’t understand the first question! When I received lots of tweets and texts from people telling me about how well I did, I just felt proud. I was proud that I could achieve these things that I never dreamed I could achieve and it was all thanks to NCS
7. You’re working with NCS and Radio 1 on the My Mind and Me Campaign – What drew you to it?
Everyone has experienced mental health issues, or knows someone who has so that’s what drew me to it as there is room for a massive change and a massive change is needed. I believe that I could offer help to drive it forward.
8. Why do you think there is a stigma around mental health and what do you think is the best way to solve this?
Mental Health is a taboo word; maybe because people just don’t know enough about it or people are too cautious to speak out but I believe that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Education is the way forward. Educate everyone on all the mental health issues and how to deal with them, I think then the world will be a more respectable and happier place to live!
9. The purpose of ‘My Mind & Me’ is to discuss an issue young people are battling today. What do you think the biggest issues young people are facing?
Pressure! Don’t get me wrong, a bit of pressure brings out a motivation for success which is vital, however there is so much pressure everywhere that too much can cause someone to breakdown. There is pressure from school, to get the grades as well as do sport and get involved in the arts, alongside the pressure of parents to get a job and do some house work. Furthermore, with friends there is pressure to socialise and always talk to them with the help of 24-hour social media. Finally you have social media, body image, makeup, personality, relationships, muscles etc. The pressure is just ongoing, is there actually any time to have fun anymore?
10. What are you hoping to achieve by working alongside NCS and Radio 1 on the ‘My Mind & Me’ campaign?
I want to encourage as many people as possible to take part in NCS for one, as it is a time when all those pressures go away whilst you’re away and you have the opportunity to be yourself and have fun! But also, encourage anyone that’s suffering from mental health issues to speak. Speak to someone about what they’re feeling and how they’re coping! Finally, I want to educate. Teach people how to talk to someone with depression or anxiety and I to educate people about uncommon but equally important mental health issues like Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
11. What advice would you give a young person who lives with mental illness?
It’s okay not to be okay. And always have something to look forward to that will keep you going! If you don’t have something to look forward to, make something to look forward to e.g. sign up to NCS!