Northern Pride is the North East's biggest LGBTQ+ charity specialising in events, campaigns and the Northern Pride Festival. In a guest blog written by Kate, Head of Marketing at Everyturn, Kate reflects on her moving and inspiring day at Northern Pride.
At 8.30am on Saturday, I was on my way to set up our Pride stall for Everyturn Mental Health.
If I’m truly honest, I was feeling less than festive. It was a very rainy, inhospitable day in Newcastle. And when I say rainy, I really mean it.
But even (or perhaps especially) when the weather is bad, it’s so important that we show up. If you see ‘LGBTQ+’ and ‘mental health’ in a headline, it’s usually safe to assume that the content will focus on the mental health challenges often faced by people in those communities (and with good reason).
But we also know that connecting with other people, sharing experiences, and being there for each other are all crucial to keeping any of us well. Our purpose at Everyturn is to make sure no one struggles alone with their mental health, so with that in mind, we brought along a whiteboard to our Pride stall.
On it, we asked people to share a message of hope – for someone they know, for a stranger, perhaps for themselves.
It started small. But as we found out, Northern Pride-goers are a hopeful crowd. The rain didn’t put them off; they came in their thousands.
We didn’t have a big budget, and we didn’t have lots of freebie giveaways – but nonetheless, people queued, and queued and the number of colourful post-its grew and grew.
“Thank you so much, this has really lifted me”
Some people dived straight in for a pen, knowing exactly what they wanted to say; others took their time, carefully considering the encouragement they wish they’d been given earlier in their lives.
People cried. A lot of people (yes, including me).
We had young LGBTQIA+ people accompanied by their parents and grandparents, who hugged and stuck their post-its next to each other on the board.
“I just want to hug them all, I really do”
Some notes were hilarious, some were moving, some hinted at the story of the person who wrote them. But all of them, without fail, were written with love, encouragement, and hope.
And, as often happens when people find out you work in mental health, people really opened up about their own struggles for acceptance, or the cost-of-living crisis, or the long waits for diagnoses or healthcare. The drag queen who’d had a ‘mental breakdown’, the mum with an autistic child, the man who still can’t afford to train as a counsellor.
Yet despite their struggles and heartbreaks, they all wrote a note.
My rainy eight hours at Pride taught me of the love, courage, grit, creativity, and perseverence of our LGBTQIA+ friends. And reminded me that, when given the opportunity, really we all just want to connect.
And, reader, we definitely needed a bigger board.