Zoe Forde – See Change Ambassador

This May we will kick off our 6th Annual Green Ribbon campaign to end mental health stigma.

A large part of our work would be impossible without the insight and expertise of our 60 ambassadors who share their stories of lived experience throughout the year to try create conversation around mental health.

One such ambassador is Zoe Forde, and this is her ambassador journey…

My name is Zoe Forde, and I was diagnosed with depression at 18, and later with anxiety. For a long time I struggled to find a way to make my mental illness meaningful. But then I discovered with See Change, who I’ve been an ambassador with for four years now.

In March 2013 I attended a training day with See Change to become a national volunteer with the Green Ribbon campaign. The simple half-day briefing gave me the confidence and motivation to start using my own mental health experiences to be a change in my community. I volunteered giving out green ribbons at train stations, in university and at conferences.

The following year, See Change asked me to become an Ambassador for the programme and I was invited to begin using my experiences with mental health to help others. With support and public speaking training, See Change prepared me and then found speaking opportunities for me that allowed me to begin sharing my story. Over the years, I have presented to college students and in workplaces. I’ve also shared my story at the National Ploughing Championships, in national newspapers and on TV.

When there’s times that my mental health is in a rough spot or I feel overwhelmed, See Change has also supported me to turn down interviews and speaking events.

See Change believe that everyone’s mental health story is important and powerful. And through their programme and outreach, I learned that my even my experience of mental health difficulties as a young woman can have an impact. Every time I have publicly shared my story I’ve been overwhelmed by support from strangers and old friends I lost touch with who say they understand, they’ve been there too, and they’re here for me.

I’ve also learned never to underestimate the power of a single conversation in changing attitudes and defeating the stigma that exists around mental illness. And sometimes my role as an Ambassador is to challenge the myths that exist around mental illness. For example, I run a mental health blog to highlight the day-to-day reality of living with mental illness, and how thinking happy thoughts will not cure my depression.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity See Change has given me to be the change I want to see in the world. The training programme and support I have received has given me the confidence to speak out and turn my experiences into something positive.

You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health. We all have mental health, and we all have a story to share.

I write about my journey with depression and anxiety on www.ibelieveinromeo.com. You can follow me on Twitter too at @ZoeAlicia101.

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