Wake up

It has been a hot minute, I know! 2021 has been a very busy start for me, lots of new adventures and opportunities, which is very exciting. However, it has meant I have had much less time to be writing here! I am back today though and do apologise for taking a long absence, I can’t guarantee the posts will be as consistent as they were before but I will do my best to share with you as much as I can. I’ve always wanted to ensure that the content I do share is quality and worthwhile, and that takes time, so bare with me!

Today’s post is an important one. Something I’ve learnt over the past few years of my life is that it is important to always speak up about injustices and global issues, even if they don’t impact you personally. Sometimes, we get stuck in our own bubble, living our lives, dealing with our own issues, that we don’t look up and see what’s going on around the world. So, today, consider this me waking you up to wider world issues that we should be concerned about.

Before we get into it, I do want to disclaim that after the year we have all had, I think that it can be quite overwhelming constantly bombarding yourself with the news. Finding the right balance is important. Don’t constantly check the news or read about world events all day, everyday. Have a designated time to catch up and be aware and then make sure after that, you shut off. We can’t simply ignore what is going on around is, but we must also protect our mental health and know our own limits.

Uighur Muslims in China

It makes me sad to be raising this issue again on my website, but the situation in China and the horrific oppression Uighur Muslims are facing has only worsened. There must be more awareness of this issue. On September 22nd I shared information about the concentration camps in China. Today on the 14th February, the situation has only worsened, five months on.

If you haven’t read my other post. In the province of Xinjiang in China, Uighur Muslims are being detained into ‘re-education camps’, and they have been for the past few years. It is believed that over one million people are being forced into labour and tortured. Inside this camp Uighur women are being sexually assaulted and mass sterilisation has taken place with the goal of supressing the population.

People that have managed to escape these camps have reported physical, mental and sexual torture. Research shows that almost half a million people are being forced to pick cotton which is then supplied to newly built factories next to the concentration camps. These vast cotton fields in Xinjiang account for 1/5 of the cotton that is supplied to the global fashion industry.

The Chinese government continues to deny claims that these camps are anything more than poverty alleviation schemes or vocational training schools. Records suggest that the reality of these camps is to enforce loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Holding any different identities of faith and culture is seen as untrustworthy and therefore a radical belief. Uighur Muslims and other minority groups are brought to these camps to be ‘de-radicalised’.

This crackdown on Uighur Muslims began in around 2017 on the grounds of counterterrorism. It was a campaign to assimilate the Uighur community and eligibly de-radicalise with indoctrination programmes, which is really horrific torture methods. This crackdown was justified to the Chinese government because of a Uighur independence movement. Uighur Muslims are native to the Xinjiang province and held independence for short periods, their religious faith has built tension with the Chinese Communist Party.

If you want to read more personal stories of the horrors that have taken place in the concentration camps you can click here. You may find these stories upsetting.

When I last shared my post, little was being done to help stop this injustice. Leaders around the world have finally started to speak up. The US has declared the activity in Xinjiang to be a genocide as well as banning imports from the province because of the inhumane forced labour. The UK has declared China’s actions to be barbaric and has now introduced measures to tackle the human rights violation. UK companies now cannot trade with Chinese companies connected to the forced labour. Fines will be put onto British companies that do not publish modern slavery statements. The UK, as well as various other western governments, have condemned China and continue to put pressure on their actions. Whilst many condemn the actions of China, not enough is being done to save Uighur Muslims from their oppression and to free them from the camps.

What can you do?

Often we learn about this news and think, well, I’m on the other side of the world, what can I do? Firstly, stay educated and keep speaking up. Share posts, read articles, stay up to date with events. The more people know, the better. Overall, the media has struggled to gain coverage from the camps because there are such strict rules and bans in Xinjiang. We need to keep sharing and speaking about this issue, raising awareness is the first step before change can happen, so keep speaking!

Secondly, find resources that can help to amplify voices and spread awareness. The Uyghur Human Rights Project shares press releases and news about the continued oppression in China. It is a great way to keep up to date and share the right information. They are a human rights research, reporting and advocacy organisation. They promote democratic freedom and human rights for the Uighur community.

As well as this, Save Uighur, are working to raise media attention and awareness of the crimes of Xinjiang. They are an education and advocacy project campaigning for the liberation of Uighur Muslims. They are part of a Justice for All campaign based in Chicago, Illinois. Justice for all work with various grassroots, media, and advocacy campaigns to address issues that do not receive enough international, public and political support.

Thirdly, sign petitions, this one here calls for more countries to stand up for Uighur Muslims and to raise awareness. The one here calls for the Winter Olympics in Beijing to be cancelled if Uighur Muslims are not released. A country does not deserve to host the Winter Olympics whilst over a million Uighur Muslims have been stripped of their rights and detained into concentration camps.

Finally, boycott complicit fashion brands. Whilst most countries have banned imports from the Xinjiang province, be conscious of this issue when you shop. It took a long time for awareness to be built up about the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in China. The entire fashion industry was buying into this human rights violation. A representative from Anti-Slavery International explained that “there is a high likelihood that every high street and luxury brand runs the risk of being linked to what is happening to the Uighur people.” Some of the worlds leading clothing brands buy cotton from the Xinjiang province, be aware of this and shop responsibly. Now more than ever small businesses need support, use this as even more of a reason to buy less from fashion giants who do not ethically source their materials or support their workers.

Thank you for reading…

I hope you found this post insightful and helpful. Even when global events aren’t appearing right in front of our eyes, they are still happening, and this is not the only one. Stay educated and keep speaking up, raising awareness is pivotal if we want leaders to take stronger action against human rights violations. I wanted my first post back to be something important and outside of our general world view. I hope this post woke you up and that you will continue to stay aware of what is going on outside your bubble.

I’m hoping to come back soon with a post on mindfulness. My last one did so well so I want to come back after learning a bit more about it and share some more experiences I’ve had on my own mindfulness journey since then.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

A disclaimer before I begin. I will be discussing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, as well as suicide. If this is something you are sensitive to or triggered by, then this is a warning. There will be links at the bottom of this page to resources that can help support you. You are not alone.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are hundreds of writers paving the way in various fields and raising awareness about important topics.

One of which is Matt Haig, a best selling writer based in England. Matt writes in various styles as a journalist, children’s and non-fiction writer. Matt is active on his social media accounts working towards breaking the stigma around mental health.

Some of my favourite books by Matt are ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and ‘Thoughts on a Nervous Planet’. Both of these books are non-fiction and tackle the issues and stigma around mental health, as well as Matt recalling his own personal battles with depression and anxiety. Today I’m going to talk about ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. This is one of my favourite books and I urge anyone and everyone to read it, whether you are going through your own personal journey with mental health or are seeking ways to support a loved one, even for just general awareness! Mental health is becoming a pandemic in itself, breaking the stigma and shutting down stereotypes is extremely essential in tackling this issue. It is an enlightening and informative read.

Matt’s writing style is so engaging and his ability to explain such complex mental health struggles in such simplistic ways is truly inspiring. He uses various metaphors and explanations that allow people to really understand the way depression and anxiety can affect a persons life. Matt also includes scripted conversations with himself, portraying the inward struggle and turmoil he felt when his illness spoke to him.

Mental health is such a vast and complex topic, being able to explain its influence is something many struggle to put into words, but Matt Haig does this in a wonderful and effortless way. It allows people to really understand how mental illness can consume a person and the mental and physical symptoms that come with it.

But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.

Albert Camus, A Happy Death

Matt discusses the invisibility and ability depression has to creep up on a person and consume them. Whoever that person may be; a billionaire, an alcoholic, a mother, a teenager, or a businesswoman. Depression can affect anyone and whilst some mental illness are related to past trauma, some may feel they do not have a reason to feel the way they do. This only leaves those people feeling guilty and confused for the way they are feeling. When those around them try to belittle their emotions or behaviour this guilt can intensify. Ending this stigma is SO important, Matt seeks to do this in a number of effective and informative ways within his book.

Another key statement Matt raises in his book is that mental illnesses impact and appear differently on everyone. This means that there is no set way to overcome it, get around it or deal with it. Understanding this is so important! Mental health is a journey of good and bad days. There is no one size fits all solution. There is trial and error, Matt retells how he began to cope with his mental illness within ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’.

The key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them. Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

In an effort to break the stigma around depression and mental health, Matt compares physical and mental health issues. He uses a variety of scenarios to explain this idea but as an example, you wouldn’t say to someone who had just broken their arm, ‘Oh, just get on with it, stop thinking about it!’ So why would you say to someone with depression, ‘Mind over matter, just get over it!’. Mental health issues are just as much issues as physical health issues. There is an obsession to separate the body and mind, when we should take time to care and nurture both. As much as we can have issues with our physical health, we can also have issues with out mental health. Matt pushes this idea throughout his book.

Matt fluctuates between retelling his own personal battles and experiences with depression and anxiety to more statistically informative facts surrounding mental illness. According to the World Health Organisation, “1 in 5 people will experience depression in their life”, and “A million people a year kill themselves. Between ten and twenty million people a year try to. Worldwide, men are over 3x more likely to kill themselves than women.” These figures clearly suggest to us that there is a mental health pandemic amongst us, which is why breaking the stigma is important now more than ever.

When you are depressed you feel alone, and that no one is going through quite what you are going through. You are so scared of appearing in any way mad you internalise everything, and you are so scared that people will alienate you further you clam up and don’t speak about it, which is a shame, as speaking about it helps.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

These are just a few topics Matt touches on in his book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. He also explores the benefits and drawbacks surrounding medication, exercise and therapies. What coping mechanisms work for him, including some discussion on what he has learnt from Buddhist thought in controlling his anxiety.

Matt also discusses how the modern world has set us up for failure due to the feeling that we will always need more, stating that: “The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more?”

Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

Matt’s story is truly inspiring and a message to anyone who feels suicidal that things really will get better again. Matt found a way to live and enjoy life, something he never thought he would ever be able to do again. Mental health is an ongoing journey, doubts can fill your mind and depression can creep up on you, but learning to control those thoughts and to know that you are more than what your depression and anxiety is telling you, is the present theme throughout ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’.

If these topics interest you then I’d recommend you grab this book! It’s a great starting place for anyone wanting to grasp more of an understanding on depression and anxiety. Matt honestly and authentically captures the experiences of mental illness. After facing his own struggles he is not hesitant in stating that life is really hard. However, we can learn to see the beauty of it again within the simple moments, not everyday is promised to be amazing, but it will get better.

Links to mental health support

  1. https://www.samaritans.org/
  2. https://www.mind.org.uk/
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

Reasons to Stay Alive: https://www.waterstones.com/book/reasons-to-stay-alive/matt-haig/9781782116820

Welcome to my first post.

Hi I’m Zoe and welcome to the first post on my new blog! I’m looking forward to sharing my ideas and thoughts in this new creative outlet. As a general consensus, my goal is to share and write about important topics that interest me and that I believe more people should be talking about. This could vary from hard hitting, yet highly important topics like our current political climate and societal issues, to something a little lighter like my favourite informative books or media. I love to read, learn, write and talk about these important topics shaping our society. To me education is one of the most powerful tools we have and I consider myself lucky that I am able to learn and expand my own mind.

As a recent philosophy graduate this blog can be hit with an immediate stereotype. A liberal arts student posting about society and it’s implications in our lives, as if that’s never been done before. However, and not to be biased, I think that philosophy is one of the most important subjects areas out there. Throughout my own degree I learnt a great deal and gained a whole new perspective about important topics such as politics, society, race, feminism and morality. I believe that these topics need to be circulated into education and everyday conversations more regularly because they impact our daily lives. My aim with this blog is to bring those conversations to life. These topics can sometimes strike people as academic and ‘stuffy’, but as a writer I would love to do these topics justice and present them in ways that allow everyone to engage in the conversation, because everyone should be.

To disclaim, I certainly do not know everything and as a young person in their early 20’s I definitely have a whole lot more to learn. But that is why I wanted to start this blog. I want to creatively share my own educational journey. I’m sure I will make my own mistakes along the way but I hope to bring light to topics that are important to me and that I believe should be important to others as well. Stay tuned for new upcoming content of me thinking way too much and potentially getting a little too deep. I hope you enjoy!