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TV presenter Fearne Cotton struggles with anxiety. She’s written a book about it – Happy – and hosts a podcast, Happy Place, inviting other celebrities to open up about their own mental health challenges.
Nadiya Hussain – British TV chef, author, television presenter and 2015 winner of The Great British Bake Off – is similarly candid about the acute anxiety and panic attacks she suffers with.
“It feels like you’re going to die. Your airways close up. Your head spins. You collapse. Imagine not being able to take a breath freely. It’s so scary,” she told Stylist Magazine.
When people in the public eye cut through the glossy facade the separates them from us, revealing that not only are their lives not perfect; but that they struggle on a daily basis with debilitating anxiety or depression, the conversation changes.
Society adjusts its view of mental illness as something scary and unknown – and the stigma starts to lift. And quite rightly, as approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, according to Mind charity.
And yet while we’re becoming increasingly aware of the prevalence of mental illness amongst adults, it’s predicted that only two in every five people seek help in the year following the onset of the disorder.
This is where the gap lies: we know people are suffering but we also know that they aren’t going to see their GP or a therapist. Welcome a new wave of female entrepreneurs who are using their own experiences of ill mental health to help others.
These female founders are creating magazines, apps and websites that invite women who are struggling with day-to-day life – or bigger mental health challenges – to become part of a supportive community.
Within these forums and publications there are safe, open discussions on all things mental health. It allows women to take the first step towards tackling their personal mental challenges; perhaps prompting them to acknowledge this issue for the first time.
Kim Palmer, founder of Clementine App
Kim Palmer experienced acute anxiety while pregnant with her first child and pushing for a promotion at work. She wasn’t looking after herself properly and eventually had a major panic attack in an important client meeting. She felt ashamed, and kept it to herself.
On maternity leave, the anxiety got worse. Palmer stopped socialising and felt her old, confident self slipping away. Eventually, she sought help. Speaking therapies didn’t go well but hypnotherapy helped her to sleep better, and to feel calmer and more confident.
She took redundancy from her old job and used the money to launch Clementine, a hypnotherapy app with sessions under three topics: confidence, sleep, de-stress. The first sessions were recorded by internationally renowned hypnotherapist Georgia Foster.
“It’s like pocket therapy,” she says. “whenever you need a helping hand, you can pull out your phone and listen to a recoding that will bring you back to a place of calm.”
The app has been downloaded over 40,000 times, has a community of 60,000+ women and has helped subscribers through divorce, terminal illness, fear of public speaking and insomnia, as well as workplace stress. Next week, they launch a new ‘Body’ section, helping women to feel better in their bodies.
Clementine App is free to download and use.
Anna Ceesay, founder of Motherdom Mag
Former BBC journalist Anna Ceesay was struggling with low mood and anxiety after the birth of her second child. Following an emotionally difficult trip to the GP, she was offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which, she says, “literally saved me.”
Having felt so alone when in the depths of her own depression and knowing how hard it can be to reach out, she started to wonder about “all the other women who might not be so lucky” [to have a support network].
“The information out there about maternal mental health was still quite fragmented, and there was no mainstream media platform pulling it all together,” she says. “So I decided to create Motherdom - the only magazine in the UK which is completely dedicated to maternal mental health.”
Ceesay feels that rather than being stigmatised, mental health is now somewhat “in vogue”, which she feels is brilliant for women like her who want to reach a wider audience.
Though she notes the weight of responsibility that comes from working in this field. “It’s an incredibly sensitive subject,” she says, “which is why I have an (all-female) editorial board who check over all of my articles before they’re published.”
You can buy Motherdom Mag direct from the website, for £5.72 a copy, or £17 for a 12-month subscription
Hannah Hardy-Jones, founder of The Kite Program
Postnatal depression is widely discussed but what’s lesser know is that this depression can manifest in many different ways. For New Zealander Hannah Hardy-Jones, it was bipolar disorder.
She’d given birth and within weeks, became very ill. But rather than the ‘baby blues’ she’d heard about, she was manic and high.
While Hardy-Jones felt on top of the world, her family could see that something wasn’t right and she was soon diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder. Her high was followed by a depressive low and this made it difficult to bond with her baby.
Following such a traumatic start to motherhood, she found it difficult to return to her corporate HR job so instead decided to use her experience to help other mothers – new and seasoned – “as if I was their own supportive HR manager,” she says.
Hardy-Jones developed The Kite Program app, which takes you through a 35-week course covering topics like sleep, stress management, relationships, mum guilt and coping with the ‘juggle’. Each day you’re sent a note containing a simple and practical activity to work through your own pace.
“Female founders are still hugely underrepresented in the business world,” notes Hardy-Jones, “let alone women who have come through mental illness to start a business. Hopefully as the stigma around mental health reduces this may change.”
To access The Kite Program app, you pay a one-off fee of £7.99
May 9, 2019 at 08:45AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs