#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: Meet Clevan; creator of YANA (You Are Not Alone)

Social Media Manager and Marketing Consultant Clevan shares his story of battling depression, and why he started YANA

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and at Circular we are all for encouraging discussion of Mental Health. Raising awareness is vital, and it’s necessary to do so in a safe way.

Who are you?

I’m Clevan from Thornton Heath, South London (aka the 7 as Krept & Konan like to call it lol). I’m the Creator of YANA (You Are Not Alone) and in my spare time I do social media managing and digital marketing consulting, and political commentating here and there.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is an online platform where people who suffer/ed with mental health illnesses can share their stories; extending it further than just a picture and a quote but providing a space (a blog) where they can share in depth about their battle and experiences with their mental health illness.

Why “You Are Not Alone”?

I started YANA (You Are Not Alone) after battling with severe depression from last year. My depression first began when my father died and I was left with the memory of him wanting to say something to me but due to the worsen affect of the cancer, I wasn’t able to decipher what he wanted to say to me. So I had told him, I’d call back the next day but it was too late, he passed away and I was left without knowing what he wanted to say to me, as my family didn’t know either. This lead me to a downward spiral of depression in my life. While still grieving, I still had to focus on Uni which became very difficult for me, many times when I had assignments to do, I would just breakdown and it all become too overwhelming that many times, my assignments wouldn’t be completed or completed to the best of my ability. Uni can be a very lonely place for real — many times I felt alone with no one to turn to and even though I had friends who I could possibly try to talk to, I felt ashamed to share with them how I was feeling and thought they wouldn’t understand. So I kept my pain, my thoughts and my feelings to myself.

To add to the downward spiral in my life, I had to also deal with finding out that I wasn’t able to continue my university course in Politics and progress to my final year due to me failing my 2nd year twice.

I felt like I was in this dark hole swarmed with so many bad things happening to me — one after the other. I started to feel like I couldn’t go on living as I was tired of it all. This is when I started trying to take my own life on two occasions by overdosing on drugs and resulting in me having to be taken to hospital on one occasion. I couldn’t cope with all these bad things happening to me — my father’s death and failing uni.

Failing uni made me feel like a failure, especially when all my other friends were graduating and also the fact being a black person in Britain, you need to work much harder than your white counterparts and having a degree was one element to this.

I want to go back to uni to study marketing. However, as I’ve used up my student finance over 3 years already my only options are:- 1. I fund it myself (which I do not have the money for), or 2. part-time degree which will take place over 4 years. It’s been difficult for me mentally to cope with not being able to go back to uni right now and dealing with the constant rejections when applying for marketing internships as many agencies/companies want applicants with a degree. This made me feel like I failed in life.

To cut a very long story short, I finally overcame my depression by just spending time away from social media, talking to my close friends, travelling and watching youtube videos — this is where I discovered incredible inspiring people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Eric Thomas, Steven Bartlett, Casey Neistat, who helped me regain self belief and helped me realise that despite everything that I’ve been through, it’s never the end for me but only the beginning, you can still make your comeback and achieve everything you had set out to accomplish. These set backs in life are there for you to learn and build you up for greater things.

I decided to start YANA (You Are Not Alone) after my experiences with depression and to encourage and let others who are going through any type of mental illness that it’s okay to talk to someone and it’s the first step to recovery. We are not alone, so we shouldn’t be suffering in silence.

Is creation an effective form of stress relief? If not, what are your go-to activities to relieve stress?

I think creation can be a mechanism to relieve stress. It allows for some to be in different world where they no longer even remember about their worries. For others creation allows them to be expressive about how they are feeling and also enable them to share their story through their creation whether it be art or music, etc.

Why do you think so many stay silent about MH Problems?

I think so many people stay silent about their mental health condition because of the stigma and negative perception attached to mental health. If you tell a friend that you have depression, some of them may just laugh it off or say “come on man, man up”. There is no seriousness about mental health and this then leads those who are suffering from a mental illness to suffering in silence.

On the other hand, it could be due to the persons family or religious background. If those with a mental illness told their family from an Afro-Caribbean or an Asian background once again for some their family members or parents may not take it serious, laugh it off or dismiss it as a ‘white person thing’ as they think people in the BAME community don’t experience any sort of mental illness. If you’re also from a religious background, it can be incredibly difficult to get the help and compassion you actually need; numerous times you will be told to “just pray about it”. But for so many religious people suffering from a mental illness, sometimes religion isn’t enough to help them or it doesn’t help to solve the root cause of their mental illness.

This is why I started YANA (You Are Not Alone) to share the stories of those are/have experiencing/ed a mental illness and those who are suffering I’m silence. In order to encourage them that it’s okay to talk about how you are feeling and what you are/have going/been through, that they are not alone others are going through similar experiences as themselves and that the first step to overcoming their condition is by talking. #EndTheStigma

How do you think we can go about de-stigmatising MH?

We can start by firstly changing our perceptions of mental health rather than viewing it as something negative and be more educated about mental health.

Be compassionate, understanding and most importantly a person who is ready to listen, whenever a family member or friend is opening up to you about how they are feeling and what they are going through.

Check up on your family and friends regularly just to see how they are doing and make them know that you are there for them to help if they need you.

Lastly, supporting mental health charities, organisations and projects like Samaritans, Heads Together, CALM, Sanctus, You Are Not Alone, etc who are helping those suffering with a mental illness to get the help they need to recover. This allows more people who are suffering alone, or in silence, to open up and talk about what they have been through; helping change the perception of mental health by sharing stories, and setting up events to discuss and help tackle mental health issues.

It’s also been a huge help to tackle the stigma of Mental health by having people in the public eye like Stormzy, Rio Ferdinand, Laura Mvula, Zayn Malik and others open up about their own mental health, as it helps show others that they aren’t alone even their favourite music artist or footballer is going through the same thing.

What is next for YANA?

Well we had an interview with Chams & Mr Exposed (Keith Dube) on Radar Radio recently talking about YANA and mental health for Mental Health Awareness Week.

There are few collaborations with some well known people to come, obviously more people sharing their stories and maybe some events and a few other top secret things planned.

So if you anyone wants to share their story, write a blog, support YANA, get involved or just keep updated they can follow YANA on Twitter, Instagram and on Medium.

Or, you can get in contact with Clevan personally on Twitter and Instagram.

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