• Claudia Wace

Mental Health Awareness Week: Meet Jess.

"I've always enjoyed talking to people from all walks of life - it enhances you, especially as an actor".

It's Mental Health Awareness week, and we have been sharing different perspectives of the people we work with here at Connectforce to explore the importance of connection and community for people's wellbeing.

It's a real privilege to share these beautifully expressed insights from Jessica Carroll, one of our Connectforce Companions.

I've always wanted to volunteer with older people in some capacity and living alone during the Pandemic really increased some existing feelings of loneliness that I had. With care homes being on the news so much, I started to think now was the time to offer some companionship to someone older than me who might be feeling even more isolated and alone than I am.

An actor I work with shared Connectforce's details on our whatsapp group and it seemed that the Universe had spoken, so I signed up straight away. Given that the arts were looking bleak at the time, it seemed like a wonderful initiative and a great way to utilise actors, musicians, artists etc.

I've always enjoyed talking to people from all walks of life - it enhances you and I think forming new connections is hugely important; it boosts confidence, feelings of self-worth, it educates and plainly and simply, it's fun! You also have to think on your feet, a skill that actors always need to keep up to scratch.

I'm also currently training as a psychotherapist and I've taken a lot of positives from this year, in that people are finally talking about mental health! Hurrah! It's definitely something that hasn't been spoken about much in the acting world. There's a real fear that voicing that you are struggling could result in you being seen as 'difficult to work with' so people push that stuff aside so as to always be appealing.

It's funny because the thing I enjoy the most about acting is the deep, emotional connection I have to a role; I love to delve and work out why people do the things they do and I'm sure I'm not the only creative to think this way and yet we are so worried about voicing our own messy stuff for fear of rejection, being seen as 'too much' that we push it all down until we can release it in a role/song/painting! It might make for a brilliant piece of art but I suspect it's healthier to talk about the messy stuff, reflect and learn from it, then draw on it, healthily, in the next complex role/piece.

It's very refreshing that mental health is finally being addressed properly because every single person, no matter what their industry, has been feeling some tough things throughout this Pandemic and it's important to acknowledge that, so people feel less alone in such an isolating time. It's also important to normalise having a bad day! I am not a fan of toxic positivity. Listen, acknowledge, validate a person's bad day/week/month and they will be able to move out of that pain much more quickly than hitting them over the head with positive vibes...those come later...after the recognition that you have heard what they've said and you agree - it's tough!

I'm so glad I signed up for Connectforce; it feels like I've joined a lovely community of creatives who care. I can see first hand how my wonderful 95 year old companion warms up through our chat and by the end he radiates happiness. It's mutually beneficial! Seeing him laugh fills me with joy and makes me feel validated; I'm important to him and provide something different that he looks forward to.

And my word does he have some cool stories! Riding a Triumph motorbike round Yorkshire, 3 years in India during the war, playing cricket with the troops and he most definitely hasn't lost his sense of humour.

When I discovered he was a Cancer and I'm a Scorpio I said to him, 'Oh! That's why we have a connection!' Quick as a flash, with a little smirk, he replied, 'I'm not sure I see the connection, but I'll take your word for it' and burst out laughing. Cheeky! Very cheeky. And I love it!


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