Even disregarding the pressures of this extraordinary year, life is difficult enough to navigate – especially without the right help or understanding.
Yet one mental health crusader is determined to change that, making sure everyone has access to resources that can support them regardless of their background.
Thanks to the incredible efforts of Verity Hart, she has now created After The Storm to ensure that people know where to turn through times of difficulty or change.
The platform encourages wellbeing service providers to connect with individuals who are looking for a non-judgemental ear so they can get credible help and trusty information.
Having dealt with cancer, bereavement, family alcohol addiction, and bulimia, Verity is all too familiar with the rollercoaster of life and has experienced first-hand how hard it is to manage the complex trauma and emotions that come with managing mental health.
Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Verity opened up about her personal journey and just what she hopes About The Storm can accomplish for those who are struggling.
Verity said: “I come from a loving, hardworking family with parents who sacrificed a lot to provide me and my sister with a great education. It was, however, coloured at times by my parents challenging relationship with alcohol, a difficult relationship with my sibling and her struggles with addictive behaviours, and my own relationship with food and body image.
“Lately, I’ve had a pretty turbulent few years that have also changed me as a person – losing both my parents in the space of three years, dealing with not only my grief but the grief of my family, working full-time and also supporting a close family member through an addiction.”
Then during lockdown, when Verity’s daughter fell ill, it triggered her to create something that could help other people.
She explained: “My daughter’s illness turned out to be a simple stomach bug, but because she had a temperature we had to self-isolate. Once we were ‘let out’, I went to the supermarket myself to do a weekly shop and had an overwhelming sense of anxiety and fear over being there.
“I came home and sat at my desk, so frustrated… As I reflected on my feelings, it hit me, if someone who was used to being out and about, travelling all over the country, could be rocked by this, how would more anxious, less confident people be feeling?”
“In that moment, my thinking turned to my family member who had been suffering from alcohol addiction and had just come out of detox; how many other aspects of people’s lives were going to be impacted by the pandemic and how would they seek out the support needed from credible resources? And that’s when the idea of After The Storm was born.”
Having received some inheritance money following her mother’s death, Verity used those funds to invest in building the website and recruiting a PR team to get their name out there.
Her mother’s legacy now lives on as the platform is going from strength to strength, breaking down stigma and taboos. In particular, Verity strives to show that mental health is driven by many facets.
She told us: “I dislike labels, they create negative weight and feed the prejudice. We should educate about conditions, such as depression, like we do cancer or flu, yet we also need to remember to educate people that it’s okay to feel sad when things aren’t right and that it’s okay to be anxious when we go into a new situation, these are normal human emotions.
“I also have a very strong opinion over the education of grief. Even as adults, we find it difficult to talk to a person who is grieving a loss – that could be a loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job – but its awkward to know what to say, and for children experiencing that, the death of a grandparent or parent, or the breakdown of their parents’ marriage, it can be incredibly isolating and damaging.
“We have to start talking more and rather than the focus being on the mental illness or wellbeing which creates the stigma, more education should be given on communication, conversation and active listening. If we teach humans how to connect better rather than constantly teaching them about differences, then I believe there could parity.”
Verity is also keen to stress that wellness is not something we simply have or don’t have; it is something to be worked on continually throughout life and some days we may sail through and others we may dangle upside down clinging onto the tightrope by one toe.
Yet with positive coping mechanisms, human connection, and learning to be kind to herself, Verity says she is making great strides.
She added: “We don’t always make the right decisions, or say the right things, and our choices can be questionable. However, I look at it this way, if I set out to do the right thing then as long as I grow from the experience it wasn’t wasted, that helps me stay on track.
“I regularly question myself and seek to improve, not because I am unhappy with who I am but because I believe we can always grow and challenge ourselves to be good humans.
“Exercise is a massive coping mechanism for me too, boxing and dancing are my passions… I find when I am fit and healthy in body I am fit and healthy in mind. There’s nothing wrong either with a bloody good cry, hysterical laughter, lots of cuddles, or singing loudly and out of tune (in my case).”
Having grown up a painfully shy child, often missing out on events because walking into a room of people petrified her, Verity says she has found strength by refocusing her attention.
She concluded: “When I stopped worrying about making other people proud and started to do the things that I was proud of, my life turned around.
“So, to anyone out there struggling, I would say just remember even some of the most outwardly confident people have been where you are but if you can find that one thing you love about yourself, whether it’s physical or a personality trait, and when that negative self-talk kicks in, focus on those positives, then you can conquer your world.”
For more info or to download a free e-book specifically designed for those suffering from mental ill health for the first time as a result of the pandemic, click here: After The Storm.