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Could accumulated emotional resilience be an unexpected silver lining to the COVID-19 cloud for those suffering with anxiety? – Louisa “Wizzi” Magnussen, Founder of Minds Anonymous

Louisa “Wizzi” Magnussen is a communications professional, Radio DJ and founder of mindsanonymous.com, a safe space to anonymously share mental health stories. Minds Anonymous collaborates with mental health professionals, charities, writers, broadcasters and those who have suffered mental illness to help share its message of support and acceptance. Wizzi studied journalism and arts at the University for the Creative Arts.

Louisa Magnussen
Louisa Magnussen

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on mental health but, funnily enough, I’ve had a number of people who struggle with anxiety say that wearing masks is a great help.”

Cutting my teeth in writing

I have an NCTJ Accredited degree in journalism and fresh out of university was hired by a company with whom I did work experience.

I was a staff writer/journalist there and it gave me the chance to really cut my teeth in journalism, hone my interview and writing skills and edit the magazine and website. Since then, I’ve written for a number of local publications and also worked in marketing and communications.

I have been a volunteer radio DJ on local community station KaneFM since 2012, initially as a co-host and then I’ve had my own show, Wake Up Happy, since 2015.

Since 2011 I’ve run my business, Wizmedia, which originally offered a number of services including video production and editing, photography, website design and copywriting.

The start of Minds Anonymous

Minds Anonymous provides a safe space to share mental health stories anonymously.

I came up with the idea when, in my previous job at a diversity and inclusion company, I was interviewed for an article on bipolar disorder. I found that telling the story of some of my own mental health battles a cathartic exercise but was extremely nervous about publishing it and putting my name to it – who would ever hire me again after discovering my illness?

That’s really what sparked the idea to build a space where people can go through the process of telling their difficult stories without the pressure to ‘come out’ in public and risk being stigmatised or judged. The whole point of Minds Anonymous is to end stigma through increased understanding of mental health conditions, common and uncommon.

I have a number of mental health professionals on board, advising and offering support to our Minds Anonymous members, such as the Early Intervention in Psychosis Team and Epic Minds.

I feel that we all have mental health and we all have a story to tell. By reading about others’ struggles perhaps we can feel less alone with our own. I think stigma and prejudice stem from a fear of the unknown. If we can find out more about what people really go through, then perhaps we can dispel the fear and end the stigma.

When I found out that I was being put on furlough due to the pandemic, I stopped thinking about work and the idea for Minds Anonymous came flooding out. I registered the domain and 24 hours later launched the website.

The importance of nurturing mental health in girls

Young women are under a lot of pressure these days, with unrealistic beauty and academic expectations. Today’s pressure on young girls to look like the stars is extremely damaging and giving them apps that make them look airbrushed is frankly dangerous. They encourage an unrealistic representation of themselves and I’ve read stories of young girls going under the knife to look like they do in these apps.

Mental illness is on the rise and it is a national crisis, only worsened by COVID-19. We must support the younger generation and make significant changes to look after their mental health, catch illness early and teach them how to manage their emotions.

I think increasing understanding through honest conversations has to be a focus in this area. Girls, and boys, need to be encouraged to be truthful about how they feel and not made to feel embarrassed or alone. I believe we need mental health awareness classes in schools where pupils can learn about conditions such as generalised anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorders plus more extreme conditions such as schizophrenia and psychosis.

Only through increased understanding will we be better equipped to recognise these conditions and be able to treat them early and effectively. We need to empower young girls, encourage them to be their natural selves and get rid of this horrific external beauty-focused society.

I remember when I was at school, I was told that unless I was going for the ‘perfect score’ there was no point in me being in school. They meant 10 A*s and I didn’t get them so I felt thick, like a failure and thought I would never achieve anything. I found that kind of academic pressure too much.

We should be teaching girls how to look after themselves, their mental and physical health and how to play to their strengths, whatever area they excel in, not just to be high academic achievers. We need to educate the whole person and particularly in modern society, we need to teach self-care and compassion.

Louisa at KaneFM
Louisa at KaneFM

My advice to a young teenage girl struggling – stop bottling it up, learn to love yourself and get help. Also, write, write, write. It can be such a good way to get those tricky feelings out and it can be much easier to tell people in writing how we are feeling than through the spoken word.

The impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on mental health but, funnily enough, I’ve had a number of people who struggle with anxiety say that wearing masks is a great help. There is a story about this on Minds Anonymous and I find it fascinating that the people I know who are usually anxious are not finding COVID-19 as worrying as some others that have never felt anxiety before. I think it’s incredibly difficult for people right now who may not have experienced mental illness before because they don’t know what’s happening to them.

COVID-19 has seen us go through lockdown, where we were separated from our friends and family, it’s delayed operations, dental and NHS services, continues to cause massive redundancies, and then there’s the fear of the virus itself. All these things can impact mental health and we must try to look after ourselves and others right now. At least we’re all in this together, we’re really not alone. I think holding that thought can help a little.

Be kind

There is a lot of talk on social media about ‘being kind’ but it can be hard to make sure we actually live by this in our actions. It all starts with letting go of judgement. It’s human nature to judge on sight and it goes back to instinctual responses around keeping safe. But right now, in particular, we need to show compassion to one another and also show compassion towards ourselves if we are struggling.

Each individual has their own struggles and challenges to overcome. Try to remember that you actually know very little about another person’s experience. Don’t measure your suffering against another’s suffering. Share your struggles and successes with others.

The future of Minds Anonymous

MyCognitionWe have just announced a very exciting partnership between Minds Anonymous and MyCognition. We are now offering all published authors access to the MyCognitionPRO mental health assessment and training app.

I am amazed and delighted at the response the site has had so far. The stories coming in are incredibly powerful and we have a number of other sponsorship and partnership opportunities in the pipeline.

I am over the moon with the broad range of responses to the initiative, including the support we’ve had from mental health professionals.

I’m looking forward to hearing more stories and publishing more contributions from individuals and professionals whose stories and expertise makes Minds Anonymous an authoritative resource for understanding mental health.

Head to www.mindsanonoymous.com to contribute yours.

 

www.mindsanonoymous.com

http://twitter.com/MindsAnonymous1