Susie Weaver is the founder of So Happy In Town, a lifestyle and parenting blog that emphasizes the importance of mental health. Join Tangible Movement Editor-in-Chief Jessica Hutt in discovering the role of mental health in Susie’s career and beyond.
Jessica Hutt: What is your personal experience with mental health? Why do you chose to speak out on this topic?
Susie Weaver: I was first hit by depression in my early 20’s when I was at university and it really came out of nowhere. One minute I was this happy go lucky student and the next I was floored with daily panic attacks and crippling anxiety. Back then, in the mid 90’s, mental health carried a lot more stigma than it does now and I felt embarrassed and ashamed that it was happening to me. It was such a lonely place to be because nobody even talked about it, never mind admit that their mental health had taken a nosedive. I knew I had to speak out and launch my #itsoktofeelshit T-shirt campaign because I don’t want any young person to ever feel like I had.
Hutt: How does the value you place on mental health influence your parenting style? What do you tell your children about mental health?
Weaver: I place a huge amount of value on mental health in my parenting because I feel it’s so important that I educate my children to understand that mental health is just like physical health - sometimes it’s good and you feel strong, but sometimes it’s not so good and you need some support. And the most important thing is that it’s so ok to ask for that support by talking about it. You never have to feel alone. The #itsoktofeelshit T-shirts have opened up so many conversations between children and teens and their parents about mental health - the power of having a naughty word on your top! That’s really made the campaign so worthwhile.
Hutt: Why did you decide to start a blog? How has doing so helped you?
Weaver: I started my blog because I wanted to talk about the highs and lows of parenting and life in general. I wanted to write about the good times but also the tough times, because the most important thing is we’re all in this together and trying our best to get it right. Mental health was one of those subjects that I wanted to be really open about because it affects us all, both as parents and our children.
Hutt: What advice would you give others who are suffering in the ways that you have? How do you cope and maintain your mental health?
Weaver: My main piece of advice would be to keep an open conversation about how you’re doing with a close friend or family member - someone you can trust to give you their time when you need it. Don’t ever think you’re being a pain and nobody wants to be bothered with you - I know this is easier said than done because we’re all guilty of thinking we shouldn’t burden others, but anyone who cares about you would hate you to be dealing with your struggles on your own. If ever I feel the beginning of a panic attack, I remove myself from the situation if possible and concentrate on my breathing (breathe in slowly for 3 and out again for 4). I find exercise hugely helps my mental health, getting plenty of sleep and having regular digital detoxes - too much social media definitely isn’t good for me.
Hutt: How do you believe we can take steps towards erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness?
Weaver: Talking, talking and talking. Basically normalising mental illness as much as possible and sharing our own stories. I know it’s not easy for everyone but many people find once they have shared, not only does it help them, it really helps others know that so many of us have been affected by mental illness at some point in our lives and it’s ok.
Hutt: Is there anything else about yourself, your story, or mental health that you would like to share with us?
Weaver: It is said 1 in 4 children in every classroom are struggling with their mental health in some way, and that’s why 100% profit from every single #itsoktofeelshit T-shirt sold is going to YoungMinds, who are fighting for a new era where mental health support is available to every single young person who reaches out. Let’s keep talking about mental health as much as possible because the more of us that share our stories, the bigger our voice will become.