“There is no ‘cookie-cutter’ definition of what mental health looks like,” Danielle and Zaynab – 11th May 2022 Danielle is a Liverpool Edge Hill alumnus who has tutored Primary and Secondary English with us since 2019. Zaynab is a current University of Manchester student who has been with us for a year. She has worked with Primary school pupils, those in Alternative Provisions, and Looked After Children (LAC). Danielle and Zaynab form part of our Brand Ambassador team. In this blog, they discuss how it’s important to open up about your feelings and the different forms in which mental health can present itself. Thank you Danielle and Zaynab for offering your insights for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Danielle’s experience “Loneliness is not the same as being alone. To be alone requires you to be physically on your own, which, for some, can mean solitude, recharging, and rest. Loneliness, however, can be felt when you’re surrounded by people. It is not enough to just be physically present for someone who struggles with mental health, you must be emotionally present as well, actively listening to them. Anyone who does not feel heard will feel alone, no matter how many people are physically present. “It's important to talk about mental health because we must break the stigma surrounding it. No one should feel ashamed for struggling. It’s also important for all of us to share our unique stories of how mental health affects us, as there is no ‘cookie-cutter’ definition of what mental health looks like or what it entails. It’s important to get as many different perspectives as possible so everyone understands that suffering is not “supposed” to look a certain way. “Tutoring reduces loneliness for young people by giving them an opportunity to be heard by an adult role model. At Tutor Trust, we work with pupils either on a 1:1 basis, or small groups of 1:3 maximum, so we have the time and attention to give to them to feel heard in a way that is not possible in a classroom of 30. It’s also an opportunity for tutors to feel less alone, through connecting with their tutees. It can also bring a long-sought after peace to know that you are not alone in your experience of loneliness. Understanding your tutees on an emotional level can help to create a strong connection, enabling them to achieve their potential.” Zaynab’s experience “Loneliness encompasses a physical and mental phenomenon. It is not just physical isolation, and, in my experience, mental loneliness can be more damaging. Feeling lonely within your own mind can mean feeling like no one understands you and there is no one for you, even if you are surrounded by people. This can be physically and mentally draining because you are left spiralling in your own thoughts with nowhere to offload. I see it as a cycle; you feel alone and thus, withdraw from your social circles which unfortunately, only facilitates a further physical loneliness. “Unfortunately, mental ill-health is often seen as a taboo, but encouraging more open, unrestricted conversations will ease the common misconception that ’no one else feels like me’ because more often than not, we’re all experiencing the same trials and tribulations in various forms. I think encouraging conversations about mental health will only aid those struggling in silence and facilitate people seeking help to better their mental health, which doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me! “Reducing loneliness is associated with having a strong support network but this isn’t the reality for a lot of people. As we all know, school years come with a number of scary new experiences and challenges, which isn’t easy to face alone. I think tutoring offers a unique and intimate space, more casual than the standard classroom environment, which enables young people to be themselves, speak their minds more openly, but more importantly, feel listened to. I think this is unique to tutoring because a classroom environment can be daunting to express yourself in and cannot always lend itself for connections between a teacher and pupil, in the same way that tutoring can.” At Tutor Trust, we really value the efforts of our tutors every day. Mental health is important to us all year round, and our tutors can get in touch with us any time to talk about anything regarding their tuition, or wellbeing. If you are a tutor and would like any advice, or for someone supportive to listen to you, please get in touch.