Those of you who know me or have read any of my posts will already be fully aware that I am a mental health campaigner. After suffering with several mental health illnesses myself (including ongoing agoraphobia) and witnessing close friends and family struggle with disorders; I vowed I would help to end the stigma, raise money for awareness and also for more in-depth research. During my time as a campaigner I started to put together a book of stories, pictures and poems from real people suffering with a mental health disorder. I have been crowd funding the book since the beginning of the year but now I just want to give it all up. I want to put down my sword and say 'I can't win this fight any more'. Here is why me and many other campaigners for charities or causes feel like doing just that.
'Not allowed to give to charity'
One of the first websites I tried to crowd fund the book on is one of the largest in the World; Kickstarter. I paid for someone to put together a video to help promote the project and spent hours trying to put together a project description that would say as much as possible without boring people half to death. The first stumbling block with that? Kickstarter don't allow projects to give to charity or even to raise awareness for a charitable cause. With all of the profits from the book going to mental health charities such as Mind and Time To Change there was no way we were going to be allowed to continue the project. It was closed down with just over £1,300. I had a rethink and did some more research before coming across the next crowd funding website; IndieGoGo. We were allowed to donate the profits to charity and so dropped the target before restarting the project again. Phew!
'My apologies but (insert name of celebrity here) could not give two hoots'
The next thing we tried to do for the project was to get some celebrity backers. Nothing quite gets the interest of real human beings than some celebrity saying they thought the book was a good idea or even providing a quote for the pages. I dug into my (limited) resources and paid for the addresses of agents all around the World. After sending a grand total of 216 e-mails to celebrities I thought could/would/might help I received a total of 4 replies. One was from the agent of Stephen Fry who said he was far too busy and one from Adam Ant's agent who said he wished to concentrate on his music career. Well that was a bit of a downer, but we could make up for that surely? It was time to hit the social networks hard.
'Why don't you just go and kill yourself?'
As someone who gets paid to market companies online I thought I had the knack of social networks down to a fine art. I set up my scheduled Facebook posts and Tweets using some clever software so that I could get on with making some actual money to pay my rent, bills and all that mundane stuff. I tend to get a few private messages from people who have seen my story somewhere on the internet and want to ask for advice or just fancy a chat. After posting an open letter on the BBC News Facebook page asking them to consider my story for the local news I began receiving much more distressing messages. I was called some names I shan't repeat on here and told to just 'go and kill' myself. Trolls. Delightful people who get a kick out of making life difficult for everyone else. What hurt more than the trolls though were the supposed friends that had started deleting me because of my updates. I knew that a few updates a day may have been a bit extreme (one will suffice) but I didn't realise it would annoy people enough to begin deleting me from their friends list. I know it is only Facebook, but it still stings a bit to know someone would go that far to ignore your musings on mental health. One person even said I was being treated like a movie star because I had been on the local radio. A movie star that tries to work as many hours in the day as she can to pay her rent and bills, whilst spending the other few hours in the day promoting mental health awareness. A movie star that because of her tablets can barely keep her eyes open to type but gives it a bloody good go anyway.
'I cannot do it on my own'
Although I started with some voluntary help in the beginning, as the momentum has slowed down so has the help. Those who shared my posts or spoke to their friends about it have disappeared. Those who think the project will fail have hidden in the shadows, perhaps hoping that if it becomes a success they can pop back out and say 'I had a hand in that'. The newspapers who asked for my story have neglected to print it because quite frankly there's not enough drama/suicide/celebrity endorsements in there. The people that have stuck by the project are the true stars. They've done everything they can to help promote it and I know they will continue to do so in the future. I just wish there were more of them out there!
I'm not asking for sympathy, I'm not asking for you to drop everything and get on board. I'm not asking for any of that. I'm asking that you understand that what every single campaigner does, for any cause and any charity, it's tough work. We don't just walk around town with a bucket hoping that we'll make a few pennies. We write, we talk, we protest, we lose friends, we get threatened, we sacrifice hours of our work and live off of baked beans, we deal with rejection every day and sometimes we want to give it all up and go back to our lives before any of this. But if we did then women wouldn't be able to vote, there would still be segregation, gay marriage would be illegal and mental health awareness would be a tiny speck on society.
I don't care http://www.flickr.com/photos/subinev/2486574722/
Sitting alone http://www.flickr.com/photos/15267290@N03/2083329049/sizes/s/in/photostream/
Follow Rebecca Walton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/xebnotlaw