'Unfiltered Talks'- An Open Panel Discussion

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On the 19th of June, we collaborated with Bilal Jogi, CEO and founder of Lipstick, Social Media Marketing Agency and Emilia Kolbjørnsen, Community Manager of a volunteer-based female friendship group called Manchester Girl, and our founder and CEO, Omar Latif, to create our open panel discussion- Unfiltered Talks.

In our current climate, we face modern day pressures of societal norms such as social media and its deception of reality, so the aim of the event was to open the conversation around mental health in an unfiltered manner. In doing so we hoped to empower, inspire and improve direct and indirect sufferers of mental health issues. Due to the large turn out and the vocal nature of our guests we believe we did just that.

The event started off with an beautifully written poem by anxiety sufferer, Leanne who bravely performed it:

Dear Anxiety,

You made me believe the thoughts in my head were actually true,

But all it's been is a battle, of thoughts from me to you.

My thoughts have all been positive and made me smile each day,

But your thoughts have all been negative and you've just been in my way.

My thoughts tell me I'm worth it, that I'm beautiful and kind.

Your thoughts tell me I'm worthless and happiness I wont find.

My thoughts tell me "get out of bed and do something exciting and fun"

Your thoughts tell me "Stay where you are, can you not see what you have done, you have lost the person that you are and no one likes you any more. The worse thing you can do right now is walk out of that front door".

I close my eyes and I try my best to pull myself together.

Will this battle of me and you carry on forever ?

But I'm finding strength and I refuse to let your negative thoughts get in my head.

I will go out, people do like me, and I'm jumping out of bed!

I'm learning to not listen to your negative thoughts, this has got to end.

This battle with you was just a war and you was never my friend.

So I'm breathing in.

And I'm exhaling out.

All of the bad thoughts you try and say.

I've won this battle.

This war is done.

So please.

Just go away.

After the poem the panel discussion started off with an introduction of each panel member who then had the chance to tell their experiences of suffering with ill mental health. Each panellist had their own unique story, Bilal focused mainly on anxiety, Omar's was a mixture of his own personal story which led him to founding WeAreASSIF through the death of two friends and Emilia talked about how she felt moving from country to country was a reflection of escapism.

After these introductions a series of questions were asked by the host and using event technology, slido.com which enabled the audience to interact anonymously. Questions from the audience came in thick and fast which allowed some great responses from the panel members. There was also room for healthy debates around mental health, social media validation and yoga towards the end of the event which made for an invaluable array of different view points.

Each panel member had an area of expertise which offered up valuable advice for the audience members. After the open panel discussion ended the whole room engaged in friendly discussions and many said the event had accomplished what it set out to do: Empower, Inspire and Improve.