From a single teenager’s bedroom in Bournemouth, Letters of Support is making a difference all around the UK and across the pond…
Since 2018, Harriet “Boo” Eaton has written over 300 letters through her project Letters of Support, to anyone struggling with mental health. Here, she explains more about her inspiration, procedure, and future plans for her project.
TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT “LETTERS OF SUPPORT”…
I would simply describe it as a project I set up to help individuals struggling with mental illness through writing them personalised letters or emails.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START THIS PROJECT?
Initially, I caught a feature on BBC Three that showed someone else who had started a similar project. I saw it during my summer after having done my GCSEs, whilst I was staying with a family in Australia. This prompted me to slightly freak out, and have a, “Oh God, what am I going to do with all this time?” moment, as I didn’t have any other plans for the remainder of the very long summer. So, I thought that taking up this action of writing letters to people would not only be a nice thing to do for them, but would give me something to focus on.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE PROCESS BETWEEN RECEIVING A REQUEST FOR A LETTER AND SENDING ONE OFF?
Usually I just let requests for letters build up, and then crunch quite a few of them out over about a day or so. I get these requests through an online form which people fill out, which includes details of what that specific person wants the letter to be tailored to, such as if they’re generally feeling a bit down, or stressed out about exams. Then I will either write a letter or email to them, depending on their location, and then just send that off, electronically or through a post box!
YOU MENTION THAT YOU SOMETIMES SEND EMAILS RATHER THAN PHYSICAL LETTERS — IS THIS TO PEOPLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
Yes! There have been a lot of requests from America, which I send emails for. Other than that, requests come from all around the UK really, not just locally – I even had one from Ireland the other day, which was so exciting!
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO EXPAND THIS PROJECT IN THE FUTURE?
I’ve been thinking about this recently, and am actually not too sure what I’m going to do, as I’m off to university next year. It has died down a bit for now, so could be manageable next year, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I hope I can continue — I would love to carry it on and even make it a bigger thing.
IF YOU WERE TO EXPAND, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT GETTING OTHER PEOPLE TO JOIN YOU?
Yes, for sure! I think that one thing I would really love to do it to collaborate with artists or poets and be able to include an extra something with the letters, just to make them that bit more special for the recipient.
OBVIOUSLY YOUR WORK HAS AN IMPACT ON OTHERS; HOW HAD THIS PROJECT IMPACTED YOU?
It has impacted me in so many ways. Definitely been a really good thing to focus on, but also, I find that when you can’t do anything for yourself in a situation, it’s really nice to be able to do something for someone else. Getting replies from people, saying how much the letters have helped them, is just the greatest feeling ever. I think the mental health crisis – the lack of funding for services – going on right now is appalling, so just being able to do this small thing, and help even just a few people, is really empowering.
WOULD YOU SAY, THEN, THAT THIS PROJECT HAS BEEN THERAPEUTIC FOR YOU?
Definitely! I think that if you’ve written something positive down enough times, you’re going to start to believe it for yourself!
FINALLY, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO HELP OTHERS, BUT DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START?
To me, the best way to start helping others is to get better at really listening to them, so that your response is as good as it can be. That being said, you’re not always going to say the right thing. Mistakes will happen, especially in the early days, but I think that this is all right – as long as you acknowledge what you’ve done, and try and fix what you can, and learn from the experience. Be brave. Saying something is so much better than saying nothing!
Also, I think a lot of it is simply about making the effort. Realistically, I can’t do anything to completely change these people’s situations, but I can show that there is somebody who cares about them and who will do something for them.
To find out more about the Letters of Support project, check them out on Instagram. Find out more about the Rising Tides Film Festival on their Facebook and Instagram pages. For more local stories from the local film, TV and media world, click here. And you can also follow HQB Media on all our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.