Covid A Year On: It's OK To Say founder reflects on her pandemic journey
- Credit: Stacey Turner
The founder of mental health awareness charity It's OK To Say, Stacey Turner is used to being a prominent figure in the local community, and fundraising through major initiatives like her climb up Mount Kilimanjaro and forthcoming Channel swim.
So when the pandemic hit she found herself having to reassess her work with the charity while also striving to offer advice and support to those people struggling with their mental health during successive lockdowns, before succumbing to a debilitating attack by the virus itself.
As part of our special coverage marking the first anniversary of the inaugural lockdown, we asked Stacey to look back on the last 12 months and how coronavirus affected her.
"In a year where I felt like I was coming up against many brick walls, I remembered that sometimes walls are there to lean on and rest, take stock and reshuffle things. It’s helpful to acknowledge that it can feel like time lost, yet I have seen so much change for the good come out of this. The kindness and resilience I have witnessed has been truly inspiring."
She explained that the ethos of It's OK To Say had always been outside the box, taking a sideways approach charged with creativity in order to ensure it reaches as many people of all ages as possible.
"This allows for growth within the community, so we don’t restrict ourselves. Some activities are planned and some grow from what’s happening in the current moment."
For the past year, that current moment has been the impact of coronavirus, losing funding, tentatively rescheduling plans, yet most importantly discovering how the charity can still be there for the local community.
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That has included various radio chats, being part of a mental health panel, bringing comfort and awareness by illuminating the Cathedral for Mental Health Awareness Week, joining Yorkshire Tea for World Tea Day to chat mental health with the #takeapause campaign, highlighting separation anxiety, and joining forces with Westminster Lodge are supporting Stacey's planned tandem swim across the Channel .
"It was a privilege to be part of St Albans council's Keep Connected campaign with reminders that if you’re not speaking it, you’re storing it and then it becomes heavy.
"Just before Christmas, I put my shyness aside and teamed up with The Desert Penguins to record Callum Beattie’s Don’t Walk Alone to remind people they have a voice. This reached people in other countries as far away as Australia with amazing feedback, phew!
"My day job saw me write and publish a children’s book for the Children’s Air Ambulance where I was able to knead together life-saving work, wellbeing, anxiety and reassurance in a beautiful and glossy way. Again, I was able to highlight It’s OK To Say and our wonderful community through this."
Growing It’s OK To Say remains important to Stacey: "I have had strangers in the street behind their mask say 'please keep going'. We have appointed a new trustee, personal trainer, fitness coach and instructor, Joanna Hancock who places an emphasis on mental health and wellbeing throughout her work.
"We are also launching Men’s Corner, focusing on men’s mental health and related topics, driven by men for men. Our supportive website, app and podcast will all sync and launch properly this year widening our reach.
"You will also see the launch of therapeutic services, we look forward to re-planning our much-anticipated art exhibition with Oaklands College and collaborating with so many wonderful people, businesses, and organisations as part of our ongoing mission. I should also mention that we are looking for a funding manager and social media guru to join us as trustees."
She concluded by focusing on her own Covid battle, as reported in the Herts Ad: "I would like to say a very big thank you to those who reached out to me after reading I had coronavirus.
"One minute I was talking on the phone about the future for when we emerge from Covid and the next, I could not lift myself up. The beautiful, heartfelt and warm messages and emails touched my heart, giving me hope during what was a scary time, as I wished it would all go away.
"Friends and strangers who have followed and supported my journey, you helped me, and I want to say thank you. I consider myself a very lucky and blessed lady."