Where’s it all heading?

Bit of a long blog I’m afraid, however, I’d like to think the end justifies the means.

I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions about how one of my coping mechanisms when things in the brain department need a tidy up is to be creative. I pick up a pen and paper and whatever comes out comes out. Having said that the further I get away from my habitual way of learning the more I’m typing directly without the need for notes.

My education journey, as regular readers will know, mainly took place in a prison setting. Along my journey, I came to understand that education is as subjective to the individual as there are subjects in education. Success in education also has a number of perspectives, kaleidoscopic even. From wanting to be able to fill out a canteen sheet and/or a menu. From wanting to write a letter home and/or read your incoming mail. All the way to having the letters PhD after your name and everything in-between. I’ve seen it all happen. I’ve seen guys receive an entry-level three certificate with bigger smiles and senses of pride than some who receive a 2.2, but, who had wanted a minimum of a 2:1. Educational success is definitely subjective.

I was asked the other day “where’s it all heading?” A question relating to my journey. My answer was quick and simple. “Not sure.” I then added, “but I’m so enjoying the ride.” I only have one goal, or two I suppose. To make a difference and leave a legacy. That’s the plan anyway and the point of it all. How I get there is kind of irrelevant really, especially if along the way I continue to make a difference. A quick look at the public speaking section on my home page evidence, I hope, that I’m doing just that.

However, prison reform isn’t my only interest.

When I was released from prison I didn’t have a clue as to how I was going to do what I wanted to do, which was to campaign for prison reform using prison education as my springboard. And! In more ways than one. My educational success in prison did not just provide me with an education, it provided me with a variety of transferable skills but most importantly it gave me the confidence to do what I wanted to do.

Something running parallel to my prison life, the cause and effect if you like, is my mental health. I am now a champion for the Time To Change campaign which is being led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. At the moment we have a campaign running called #storycamp where champions like myself share their lived experience of mental health on social media platforms. Our campaign’s objectives:

Time to Change exists to end the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health problems.

Specifically, we are:

  1. Improving public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems.
  2. Reducing the amount of discrimination that people with mental health problems report in their personal relationships, their social lives and at work.
  3. Making sure even more people with mental health problems can take action to challenge stigma and discrimination in their communities, in workplaces, in schools and online.
  4. Creating a sustainable campaign that will continue long into the future.

Who are we?

Time to Change is a growing social movement working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. We’ve already reached millions of people and begun to improve attitudes and behaviour.

Despite the progress we’ve made, we know that many people still don’t consider mental health relevant to them. They don’t believe mental health problems are likely to affect them or people they know.

But the reality is that mental health can affect anyone. Statistically, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year. That’s why our work is so important. No one should have to fear being treated differently because of a mental health problem.

At the core of our movement are passionate people who want to change the way we all think and act about mental health. That includes thousands of people who have their own experience of mental health problems.

Time to Change is made up of:

  • Hundreds of Time to Change champions across the country campaigning in their communities.
  • Our network of Hubs bringing local organisations together to change attitudes in their area.
  • Hundreds of employers, and their employees, putting mental health on the map in their workplaces.
  • Thousands of schools delivering assemblies and lessons on mental health, and supporting young campaigners to influence their peers.
  • Thousands of people joining in our online community and campaigning through social media

Through sharing our stories, calling out stigma and discrimination and helping others to talk about mental health we are using our own experiences to change the attitudes and behaviour of a nation.

The overwhelming majority of people with mental health problems report being misunderstood by family members, shunned and ignored by friends, work colleagues and health professionals, called names and much worse by neighbours.

Stigma and discrimination prevent people from seeking help: this can delay treatment and impair recovery.  It isolates people, excluding them from day-to-day activities and making it hard to build new relationships or sustain current ones. It can stop people getting or keeping jobs.

Experiencing a mental health problem is hard enough, without having to deal with the shame and isolation that often comes with it.

Another interest/hobby of mine is the history of two subjects. One is, believe it or not, the history of our prisons and prison system. The other is the history of organized crime. In fact, I contribute regular articles to a website who are dedicated to preserving the history of organized crime and also administer our LinkedIn account which you can find by clicking here. Or you can find us at www.nationalcrimesyndicate.com.

It doesn’t stop there though.

A couple of months ago I answered a writer call for submissions from author and anthology editor of multi-genre fiction and non-fiction books Mitzi Szereto for her new anthology due for release Spring 2021 ‘THE BEST NEW TRUE CRIME STORIES: WELL-MANNERED CROOKS, ROGUES & CRIMINALS’. I had the perfect, yet to be written, story. So I began to put pen to paper. I cannot tell you how proud, excited, thrilled or any other positive adjectives that I am feeling to be able to say that my submission was accepted and in Spring 2021 my story will be appearing in Mitzi’s third true crime anthology.  You can view Mitzi’s previous works by going to her website Mitzi Szereto.com. However, it would be terrible of me were I not to drop the links for the 1st and second books in Mitzi’s true-crime series which is exactly what you can access below.

And that’s still not it.

Included in the book above, Small Towns, is a story written by Christian Cipollini, and guess what? Here’s the link to Christian’s website Gangland Legends like Mitzi, Christian has far too much for me to discuss so the best thing to do is check out his, and Mitzi’s, website. Anyway, not long after being released from prison in 2017 Christian and I were introduced to each other by a mutual friend, via social media. I’d like to think that Christian would agree we immediately clicked and have been friends ever since. In fact, he quickly became not only an inspiration but also an aspiration. Christian has also been a wonderful supporter of the prison reform work I do. Imagine then my absolute delight when informing Christian my submission was accepted by Mitzi that he will also have a story being published in ‘THE BEST NEW TRUE CRIME STORIES: WELL-MANNERED CROOKS, ROGUES & CRIMINALS’.

Where’s it all heading? Again, not a clue but WHAT! a ride it is and who knows where it will all go. Maybe that part is out of my hands. Regardless, I’m still going to keep on keeping on.

Oh and by the way ladies and gentlemen may I also add that this is evidence that education can make the impossible, possible.

#whatcanbe? Maybe it’s time I changed it to #whatelsecanbe.

I know one thing though #havingthetimeofmylife.

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