Celebrating Time to Talk Day with MILLICENT

4 February, 2021

Mental Health has always been of utmost importance. Although dealing with it can be difficult sometimes, there is nothing as important as looking after numero uno. And patience and practice are an essential part of maintaining your own mental well-being.

Time to Talk Day celebrates small conversations about mental health that have the power to make a big difference. It is essential that we talk about our mental health whilst bringing an end to any surrounding mental discrimination. The more conversations had, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down, bringing an end to feelings of shame, worthlessness and isolation that mental health issues can cause.

You can get involved with this year’s Time to Talk event here. With everything that has happened this last year, open conversations about mental health are more important than ever.

Introducing MILLICENT

MILLICENT, who studies Songwriting at BIMM Institute Manchester, is a dream-pop vocalist whose alternative style has attracted the attention of BBC Introducing: Manchester and The Voice UK. With mental health being a subject close to her heart, MILLICENT has acted to help break the stigma around mental health.

All proceeds from her latest single, “ConversationConservation”, will be divided between four different organisations. These are Mind, a non-profit mental health charity providing help and support nationwide; YoungMinds, supporting the mental health of children and young people; and We Are Hummingbird, founded in Lancashire with a focus on mental health first aid, and suicide prevention and intervention training. MILLICENT will also donate to The Mental Health Foundation: a community-oriented company helping people understand, protect and sustain their mental health.

Her latest track is an intimate outpouring of her struggles with anxiety and uses witty lyricism to portray her difficulty in modern communication. It also tackles the downward spiral of worry that ensues after conversations can lead to overthinking and self-doubt.

Catching up with MILLICENT

We caught up with MILLICENT to discuss mental health and her new track:

How have you been coping with lockdown?

Well, probably like anyone else who’s been furloughed. I’ve been trying to occupy myself with baking and writing and painting. I’ve been watching a load of TV as well, and at times I can feel my brain melting from the time I’ve spent looking at screens.

This time in lockdown has emphasised how much we take each other’s company for granted. Not only friends and family but the sense of community, smiling at people and saying good afternoon to people passing by. These lockdowns have meant we’re relying more on digital and virtual socialising for the time being, which just isn’t the same.

“I try to keep a fair balance between the times I spend online and being present.”

I’ve been speaking to my grandma a bit and worrying about her on her own. She differs from me in the social media sense, though; she LOVES her phone. Even though she struggles with technology sometimes, she’s eager to figure it out just to keep up. I’ve found the intensity of social media draining, so I try to keep a fair balance between the times I spend online and being present.

Physically, I am coping okay, but mentally, I flounder. Some days are better than others; I can have chirpier days and some days I can’t bring myself to get up or get showered or dressed. Whichever type of day (and even on chirpier days) there’s a core numbness within me that just absorbs everything going on. And there’s SO much going on: too much! But I’m coping.

Have you got any useful tips for dealing with mental health?

There’s this conflict that often comes between the phrases: “Life isn’t a race or competition, go at your own pace” and “Use your time wisely, make everyday count”.

Though they’re clichés, and contradicting to each other, both are equally valid. What matters at the end of the day is if you’re happy. Tenacity is a creditable quality in a person – working hard and wanting to get something done is commendable – but it shouldn’t come before your mental well-being. Knowing when to take a break is also a useful quality. And there is no shame in having rest days.

My mum always tells me to “keep my blinders on” (contradictory to the “life’s not a race” mentality). Whenever I see someone else in the same field of work as me, or if I see that someone on social media has passed their driving test, I think thoughts like: “I can’t even drive yet, I’m so far behind everyone else my age, there are people younger than me driving waaaaahhhh” NO. That’s amazing for that person, but you’ve got to think about your own stuff going on, where you’ve come from, and how far you’ve come.

“Remember that there is power in vulnerability.”

One more tip is to remember that there is power in vulnerability. If you’re in a moment where you’re thinking of yourself as daft and silly, be daft and silly. If you think of yourself as soppy, be soppy. If something is on your mind that’s bothering you, say it. Being vulnerable isn’t always a bad thing, it’s a lovely thing, and the kind of openness the world needs more of.

Why do you think there’s a stigma surrounding mental health?

I think the stigma stems from uncertainty and fear. There are many mental health disorders, some of which have shared symptoms, and because every life is different, experiences are varying, so I can only imagine how hard it is to diagnose someone. That’s probably why it sometimes takes years for a diagnosis. There was the misconception years ago between schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder. The film Split didn’t help that.

When someone has diabetes or breaks their arm, their demeanour doesn’t change; their personality isn’t affected. If someone has a mood disorder such as bipolar one or two, there’s uncertainty as to if or when they might experience a mood swing.

“People can sometimes only react to what’s happening on the surface.”

There’s also the stigma that those with a personality disorder are untrustworthy or toxic, or that they’re reckless and spontaneous. Those are merely behaviours; there’s often no thought to what triggers a reaction. People can sometimes only react to what’s happening on the surface, and when uncertain, or in some situations afraid, there’s deterrence. And just to add, when you see someone having a hard time, there’s a vast difference between: “What’s wrong, are you okay?” and “What the f***’’s wrong with you”. I’ve had that before, and strangely enough, I didn’t feel any compassion from it.

Why are those the charities that you’ve chosen to work with?

I wanted to highlight the number of charities out there that care for those who struggle with mental health. I chose the four different charities on the different ways they help people.

Of course, Mind is a well-known charity that focuses on all people suffering from different disorders. The Mental Health Foundation isn’t a charity but is an organisation focusing on researching various mental health disorders and campaigning public mental health support plans to Parliament.

Young Minds focuses on helping young people who suffer with their mental health. We Are Hummingbird are a local charity to Lancashire, using music and musicians to educate people on mental health and suicide prevention. Each cause I think about a lot.

Tell us a bit about the ConversationConservation video?

The video features a figure that appeared in my first music video: “Acid Eyes”. That was a song about lust I’d overcome. Listening to it and watching it three years later makes me think of it more as a song about learning from mistakes and self-reinvention. At first, I thought of the figure representing the person I was seeing using me as a canvas. On the flip side, it was me just taking those feelings of anger and realisation and improving myself (the canvas).

So in literal terms, the video’s shadow figure serves me some “piece” of their mind. I’m aware of how deep I can think sometimes, and how I can overthink. It’s not a bad thing to be thoughtful and reflective, but overthinking and not communicating those thoughts or views can leave you feeling pretty mentally full.

The figure serves me with this “piece” of mind. Metaphorically, it’s like indulging in the cake (and who doesn’t love cake?) to show it’s satisfying, but to be forced to eat it all and overindulge does more harm than good.

“ConversationConservation” is out now on all streaming platforms. Donations can be made here through MILLICENT’s Bandcamp.


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