“It’s a taboo subject.”

“Our community find it very difficult to talk about mental health. People feel stigmatised. Religion, culture and beliefs all have an impact on how people see mental health.”

By profession Nkoyo Shadracks – known to everyone as Precious – is a mental health nurse. Outside of work she runs Bold Step, a voluntary group that’s dedicated to improving mental health in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community.

“But mental health is just part of life, like physical health. It’s just the same as having a broken leg or diabetes,” she says. “I wanted to set up a group where people felt comfortable talking about these issues in a normal conversation.”

So in 2017 Precious set up a platform on Facebook where she posts a motivational quote each day and encourages others to do the same. She also uses social media for live broadcasts on specific issues like depression or schizophrenia.

“I openly discuss these issues on Facebook Live and get immediate feedback. Sometimes, when I have finished, people call me up and confide in me. ‘Do you know what,’ they’d say, ‘when I had a baby I think I had postnatal depression, but I didn’t realise it until listening to your talk.’

“It’s so important for us all to have somebody we can trust. It’s true: a problem shared is half solved. Just offloading can be really helpful.”

Since Precious started Bold Step she’s noticed a growing openness in her community to talk about mental health. But she’s always looking for new ways to help.

“As we all know, anxiety levels during the pandemic have been high,” she says. “The BAME community has been hard hit. Many have lost family members. So, in May last year, I started an online group for women to vent their anxieties.

“It’s very satisfying to see I am making some impact in supporting people.”

“It’s called ‘The Hangout’ and every two weeks we get together online – there are 20-25 in the group – and we discuss anything that’s causing anxiety. Yes, we share pain and sadness and often there are tears but it all alleviates stress which is a good thing.”

Manchester Wellbeing Fund, through GMMH NHS Foundation Trust, supported us to purchase our first equipment for online sessions,” says Precious.

During the Covid crisis Precious has used online meetings to connect with others who’ve been struggling. From listening to her group, and as a mother herself, she’s aware of how difficult the enforced isolation is for young people.

“Routines have been disrupted and children have been separated from friends. So in December I set up a Zoom group for young people. We talk about how the pandemic is affecting them, what their challenges are. They don’t have to discuss problems openly, they can use the chat feature to message me privately if they want.”

Through these online connections Precious has been able to get feedback from families about the issues they’ve faced over the last year. One of biggest has been online learning.

“If there are four children and only one laptop, that’s obviously very difficult and will impact on each of the children’s ability to learn. With help from GMCVO I managed to get some Comic Relief funding and was able to supply some netbooks. And what a relief for struggling families. It’s been really rewarding to put that support together.

“Through encouragement from the Ardwick and Longsight Mutual Aid Group and with funding from Forever Manchester, we’ve also been able to help families in need with food parcels. I have my own family so I know how challenging it can be over school holidays to feed your children. This pandemic has been like one year-long school holiday! It was amazing to see the joy and relief when we delivered those food parcels.”

Shopping for supplies to support struggling families.

Precious works entirely voluntarily for Bold Step but is looking forward to establishing the group as a registered charity and linking with other services like Mind UK, the Mental Health Foundation, and Young Minds. “It can be very time-consuming,” she says. “Sometimes I can be talking to a parent until 11pm and that’s after a day’s work and seeing to my own kids. But, when you have the passion, you will find the time.”

Contact Bold Step here:

Website: https://www.boldst3p.org/
Twitter: @BoldSt3p
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BOLD-ST3P-1110740805767435
WhatsApp: +44 7485 447975