An interview with Tamanna Miah on overcoming mental health issuesBy Lisa Williams
Mental health issues affect over a quarter of young people in Britain during their time at University. (YouGov 2016) Students especially find themselves dealing with a multitude of different mental health problems, from anxiety to depression and many other problems which can continue to affect them in their adult lives.
PowWowNow spoke to a number of celebrities and business people who have all managed to overcome an array of personal issues. We caught up with Tamanna Miah who is part of the campaign, to delve deeper into the world of mental health. During her time growing up as a young girl, Tamanna faced a number of mental health problems as a result of bullying, racism, islamophobia and discrimination. She now relentlessly campaigns to raise awareness for bullying and mental health issues, to try and improve the availability of services and support for young people.
You grew up experiencing bullying, islamophobia and racism, how did that affect you growing up and as a young adult?
As a result of the abuse that I had experienced when I was younger, I suffered from severe depression and anxiety. I was lonely, quiet and reserved, English wasn't my first language when I wasa child so I found it hard to express. During my time in education, I had good attendance but I dreaded going to school, as well as sixth form and university. At times I had wished that I'd never went because of the pain and suffering that I experienced, and at points it was so bad that it lead me to feel suicidal. It was the worst time of my life – a never-ending nightmare. I had severe trust issues as well as body confidence and low self-esteem. The abuse also had a negative impact on my education, social life, hobbies, and relationships with family, friends and professionals. There was always this fear in the back of my mind waiting for something bad to happen and waiting to find out who would let me down next - it affected so many aspects of my life.
Did those experiences affect your grades, education and your friendships whilst you were growing up?
If I hadn't of experienced the things that I did whilst I was growing up then I would have done 100 times better academically, I would have got better grades in GCSEs, A- Level, and at university. I would have finished university and 6th form much earlier rather than later, and I would have progressed my career quicker. It’s had an enormous impact on everything, my past, present and my future. Whilst I was growing up no one spotted that anything was wrong so I had to deal with everything on my own. If there was extra support put in place either from voluntary, community and NHS services during my time in education, then everything would have turned out much better and I would have been able to become a better person emotionally, physically, mentally and academically.
Now that you’ve faced anxiety and depression, what advice would you give to help anyone who’s currently battling the same issues?
We’re all human, and we all face issues at some point in our life, it’s about trying to manage it. Everyone's at a different stage in their life and everyone is on a different journey, so it is important that you don’t compare yourself to others, we all make mistakes and you just have to learn from them. I live by the motto: Whatever life throws at you, whatever challenges hurdles and whatever obstacles you face, just keep going and don’t give up. It’s really important that people see that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel (eventually), and you have the power to turn a negative experience into a positive. Some are quick to throw the towel in and they don’t realise the amount of potential that they have, it’s really important.
You’ve had films shown on ITV News and films that were screened as part of World Mental Health Day, what drives you to create content for mental health charities?
I campaign for a lot of organisations to help raise awareness for racism, bullying, islamophobia, and mental health which are all issues that are really important to me. My Fixers racist bullying film called ‘Words hurt just as much as actions’ – shows that people shouldn’t underestimate how words can have a detrimental effect on someone’s mental health. In 2015 my best friend committed suicide and I lost another friend due to drink driving, both of which had a severe impact on me. The day my best friend passed away I promised myself that I would work harder, so I have dedicated a lot of my campaigning to my best friend and to everyone else that struggles with mental health. This gave me a newfound motivation to address mental health issues in students, men, and especially BAME – because these groups are often not heard about. I regularly consult with young people across the country on youth issues, because I want to make sure that I can do whatever I can to change things, influence decision makers, raise awareness, and turn my experiences into a positive one.
You’ve also had the opportunity to speak in front of thousands of people in the audience and millions of people watching online at WE Day UK, Wembley and as TEDxYouth Speaker how did that feel knowing how far you’ve come to be able to get up and speak about your experiences in front of a large audience?
I’m so grateful to have had had some of the opportunities that I have had! It was amazing to have the once in a lifetime opportunity to speak at We Day, Rita Ora introduced me and my story at Wembley Arena whilst talking to over 12,500 people about racism and bullying. I also presented my first ever TEDx talk in the Channel Islands showcasing my films. I also had the chance to visit the House of Commons to speak alongside Jeremy Corbyn, to raise awareness for mental health in young people and BAME communities. I’ve also been lucky enough to have been a part of the Heads Together campaign, which allowed me to meet the royals to talk about mental health and running marathons! I would have never of thought in my life I would be doing anything like that. Going from a shy, quiet girl that couldn’t even speak, or look at people in the eye compared to now - it’s like a dream come true. I hope I have encouraged people to come out and make a difference in their own communities and their own nations. It’s crucial that people engage and speak out, one voice is loud but a thousand voices are louder.
Has your outlook on life completely changed since you’ve overcome anxiety and depression?
It has been life changing. I’ve been able to work in the Youth, Voluntary and Community Sector for over 12 years, having volunteered on all levels locally, regionally, nationally and in Europe. I’m able to do things that I wouldn’t usually have had the confidence to do, which is a big deal. I’ve had various positions in youth charities, youth advisory groups, youth forums, youth councils. In 2016 I was lucky to have my hard work recognised by winning the Janey Antoniou Award from the charity Rethink Mental Illness and also the first ever award at the National Hate Crime Awards for Young Upstander award. My outlook on life has completely changed, overcoming mental health issues has been a huge challenge that not only impacts you but also has huge impacts on your wider networks. I’ve grown and developed as a person and I continue to learn things every day. Previously I wouldn’t have been able to have a comfortable conversation with people, I was very nervous and scared of people but now people say I cannot stop talking about things I am passionate about.