Martin Stepek’s inspiring Mindful Voices podcast, produced for SMHAF, showcases people with lived experience of mental health issues and discusses mental health with healthcare professionals.

I asked the host about his reasons for creating this encouraging podcast and learned that Stepek met many great people in work projects and “felt it would be beneficial to introduce some of these people to a wider audience so that they could perhaps benefit from the wisdom of these people’s experiences.

“People who have managed in their own lives to overcome great challenges, and now dedicate their lives to helping others do the same. They are very different personalities, from different backgrounds, but all have a strong altruistic drive, and an understanding of the need to care for themselves if they want to care for others optimally.“

The podcast aims to provide support for wellbeing in Lanarkshire. There are three inspirational episodes to explore:

Episode 1: Garry King

Episode 1 introduces Garry King, a former professional footballer and social care worker. Now, King is a lead volunteer in a local town. King says: “I feel blessed today that I’m part of a charity.” He states that communities need to stick together during adversity and one way is helping other people with food on a daily basis.

“Getting well is about maintaining and practising the principles what life should be about.”

King had addiction and anxiety issues, lost his job and had relationship problems. All that led to isolation. At first, King did not know that there were ways out of it but guidance and support allowed him to move forward. King’s advice includes caring for yourself and showing compassion for others, being yourself and having the courage to ask for help.

King says: “Getting well is about maintaining and practising the principles what life should be about.” King loves acting, live music, songs and singing and enjoys mindfulness.

Episode 2: Simone Janse van Rensberg

Episode 2 presents former graphic designer Simone Janse van Rensberg, who now works for a health improvement charity in Lanarkshire.

“I wanted to look after my mental health as well as my physical health.”

Janse van Rensberg experienced worry and anxiety when being alone with her young children. She says: “I wanted to look after my mental health as well as my physical health.” She enjoys walking and spending time in nature or with animals and is also interested in yoga and mindfulness. “This gets you into the right mindset to look at things differently and have balance”.

Gratitude for being alive sets the tone for her day. Writing things down, reading, painting and doodling patterns or just the act of drawing, when lines suddenly form pictures that express feelings, can help you to just be there and experience clarity. She emphasises that everyone is unique but people have connections with each other, we all breathe the same air.

Episode 3: Izzy Bissett

Healthcare support worker Izzy Bissett talks about mental health in this episode. Bissett discusses the devastating impact mental health issues and addiction can have on people. But mindfulness and relaxation can help. Bissett says: “Through the day if I’m feeling stressed, I just take a few breaths.”

Living in the moment, slowing down one’s walking and thinking, not rushing, helps to feel calm. Bissett adds that it is important to enjoy life, enjoy the beauty, the sun, the birds, the trees. She enjoys the sounds of nature while gardening. People need to see reality, appreciate the good and learn to deal with the bad times. She loves the emotions in Glasgow’s music scene and the great atmosphere at concerts, where you can experience a group identity, meet people of any age and take in the colours.

Creativity can be a way of releasing negative frames of mind, even if just temporarily

Martin Stepek believes that music and the arts can help people live their lives better. Stepek says: “My life has been very fortunate. I try to live with gratitude as my main feeling inside, and I try to perceive every moment I live as an opportunity to take something positive from it, and give something constructive to it.”

“It’s great that SMHAF exists, as mental health and the arts are incredibly closely intertwined. Creativity can be a way of releasing negative frames of mind, even if just temporarily; but also creating things helps sustain a positive view of life and thus can play a major role in sustaining good mental wellbeing in the face of difficulties in life.”

Martin Stepek offers a free mindfulness class every Tuesday evening for the public at the University of the West of Scotland’s Lanarkshire campus. You can listen to Mindful Voices here.

Dr Antje Bothin is a Talking Heads volunteer living in Lanarkshire. She has authored an inspiring book on a treasure hunt around Iceland featuring a character with selective mutism. When not writing, she can be found volunteering in nature or drinking tea. Read more of her work on her blog.

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