Head Talks is revolutionising the way that we understand and find support for our mental health.
Christmas with all its glitz and glamour, is not always the most wonderful time. While the grey buildings on Oxford Street find light and even Starbucks – the shop that seems to be on every street corner in London, has ginger coffee excitement, for anyone battling problems within the mind, this can be the loneliest season.
A stigma is heightened because society expects you to be merry. More than that, it demands you to delight in festive cheer. Family and friends are by our sides but in reality, mental health is a taboo subject.
This is where Oliver Chittenden offers hope. His digital non-profit platform Head Talks provides an open conversation on real people’s experiences. It is all about informing, inspiring and engaging those who are interested in their mental wellbeing.
Uploaded through video and podcast, users can pick and create their own online toolbox to help fix and maintain their mental health. Some talks are from well-known faces and others are from professional backgrounds. Either way, by watching the content on Head Talks, you will find knowledge and encourage, dealing with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and any mental health challenges including relationships.
Chittenden founded this foundation after his own suffering of depression. A speaker agent for over 15 years, he suffered from internal anxiety within his 20’s and hit rock bottom at 27.
Speaking to us in this exclusive interview, Oliver shares his advice on mental health during the holidays and what he’s learnt from filming various people share their stories.
Has listening to people discuss mental health helped you personally?
“It requires a lot of concentration as the interviewer and it is so important to create a non-judgemental safe space for people to share. The more vulnerable and ‘real’ someone can be, the more impact on the viewer shared on Head Talks. We try to bunch interviews together, so by the end of the day one is emotionally drained. Having said that, every bit of work we do at Head Talks is rewarding and the sense of contribution and helping in some small way, is not only a privileged but also does release one’s own sense of wellbeing”.
As the holidays are associated with joy and happiness, what would you say to people who feel as though they are wrong for feeling low or depressed?
“I have been on beaches in the most stunning parts of the world and felt utterly miserable. In fact holidays, especially Christmas, can be a very hard time for a lot of people who are struggling with loneliness, financial problems, distance from family etc. One can feel extra pressure to feel joyful in holiday time, which actually has the reverse effect. so I say to those people, just be real and honest, whether it is the holiday or not”.
Are there any talks in particular, which you recommend for people struggling during Christmas?
“Jonny Benjamin MBE & Neil Laybourn, Sharon Eden, Kirstin Neff (podcast), Charlotte Reed, George Attias, Alastair Campbell, Norman Lamb MP and son Archie, BURGS and Melissa Hemsley. I hope, by viewing these ‘talks’ which are not only lived experience of mental health but also inspirational and offering holistic and mainstream talks to encourage action and wellbeing.”
Do you think that there is more of a stigma attached to the term ‘mental health’ itself, than the actual feelings associated with it?
“Yes, I think it is a more medical term and does not sit right with me. It almost stigmatises before delving further into what is behind the label ‘mental health’. Rather like the ‘1 in 4 of us will struggle with our mental health at some stage’ that everyone uses. Why point out the 1 person, for me it is more 4 in 4 of us, and anyhow by signalling out the 1 person, is that not stigmatising that 1 person?”
From filming various people open up about their stories, do you notice any patterns of similarities between them?
“There are certain similarities but part of the reason for this platform is because we are all so unique as human beings and get our sense of inspiration and recovery from many different areas. No person’s journey is identical – this is simply not a ‘one size fits all’ space which is why so many health systems, incl the NHS, have got it wrong.
By documenting people’s lived experience of their mental health, we can not only feel a sense of community and hope but also learn from the ‘tools’ that worked for them to pull through. If a ‘Head Talk’ inspires someone it might encourage them to try something new to add to their sense of well being, which can only be good! We all have to find out own journey to wellbeing which by the way is a much better work than mental health!”
Discover Head Talks website for yourself. My own experience has been incredibly uplifting.