Mental health issues are all too common in women and men. Thankfully we are, as a society, increasingly open to discussing our struggles, and there are more and more resources available. Our lil ol' town has some shining examples of ways to tackle common issues, and some inspirational people working to raise awareness in innovative ways.
It's very true to say that for women in particular mental health and wellbeing is influenced heavily by how we feel about ourselves and our bodies. No matter how dismissive you are of our collective fixation with physical 'perfection', no matter how much you detest the toxicity of 'women's' magazines and the tabloids' 'sidebar of shame', even the most enlightened women find it hard not to let these messages seep into our consciousness. But Colchester, like many other towns and cities, is seeing a rise in the type of body positivity that advocates health, wellbeing and strength over fitting an impossible mould.
An inspirational advocate for this is Colchester's very own Becky Scott. Becky is a plus-size model, blogger and ambassador for This Essex Girl Can - a celebration of girls and women doing their thing, getting sweaty and enjoying physical activity. Blogging under the magnificent moniker The Very Hungry Faterpillar, Becky writes about fashion, make-up, exercise, parenting and confidence with humour and aplomb. She also struts her stuff as a model for local plus-size online clothing store Apples and Pears Clothing:
And from B for Becky to A for Alice, who's helping people with body confidence in a very different, but equally awesome way.
Alice Nicholls is a tattoo artist who has a studio An79 in Eld Lane, and, as one would expect, creates truly spectacular skin art. But she has another string to her bow: Alice offers medical and cosmetic tattoing, which she sees as a chance to normalise certain situations for people who have been through trauma or who want to feel more themselves.
Alice does permanent make-up to help those who have brow hair loss or thinning, or to add eyeliner to help disguise a lack of lashes; scalp micropigmentation, for baldness or areas of thinning hair, which invoves painstakingly tattooing tiny dots into the follicles of the scalp to recreate the natural growth of the hair; areola reconstruction for mastectomy patients and scar camouflage, which requires tattooing flesh tones to closely match the natural skin colouring to make a scar or stretchmark less noticeable.
Alice has also created her own all-natural range of tattoo balms and washes, which are taking the industry by storm. Pop in to the studio or take a look here.
Bald heads aside, men do often find it harder to talk about their worries, and another remarkable Colcestrian, Sandra Muggeridge, is currently on a 194-mile coast to coast walk to raise money for Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), an award-winning charity that is dedicated to preventing male suicide. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK - a fact Sandra knows only too well, as her brother and her nephew both sadly took their own lives. There are five days left till Sandra finishes her challenge and you can support her and CALM by donating here.
Male mental health is also the surprising focus of a play at Headgate Theatre this Wednesday, May 16th. Putting a twist on Henrik Ibsen's classic early strike for feminism A Doll's House, which documents the gradual awakening of innocent, naive Nora, as she struggles with the expectations society places on her, this adaptation from Theatrical Niche asks where the male lead is coming from. Why does Nora need to borrow money in order to cover up his murky past? Why does Torvald feel the need to control her in the way that he does? Approaching the text from a modern standpoint, director Alice Sillet asks how we relate to this behaviour now.
Working alongside charities for mental health and emotional abuse, Theatrical Niche will book-end each Act of Ibsen's play with the real words of mental health sufferers as well as the victims of controlling behaviour. We'll be there on Wednesday to witness what looks to be an extremely thought-provoking performance. See you there?
P.S. Do you know any Colcestrians or local companies, social enterprises, charities or arts organisations doing good work in mental health or body positivity? Do let us know! And look after yourselves!