Poppy Jaman on how racism and being caught between cultures triggered depression – Bryony Gordon’s Mad World
Poppy Jaman, chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England, has spoken about how racism, poverty and discrimination prompted her to become a leading mental health educator in the UK.
Speaking to Bryony Gordon for her award-winning podcast, Mad World, the British-Bangladeshi entrepreneur said growing up in the middle of two cultures played a part in her diagnosis of post-natal depression and anxiety, but also made her “incredibly ambitious”.
Jaman, 41, was raised in a Bangladeshi family in Portsmouth. At school, she was one of 10 black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) pupils who were subject to every day acts of discrimination, such as being asked to step aside during a school picture. When she was 13, Jaman’s family moved to an area where they were the only ethnic minority family. On her first night in their new home, someone threw a brick through the window. The eldest English speaker in the household at the time, it fell to Jaman to report the incident to the police.
“Racism made me feel like I needed to get out of Portsmouth,” said Jaman. “It probably triggered the activist in me [too].”
Mental health activism became Jaman’s calling after she was diagnosed with post-natal depression and anxiety following the birth of her first daughter when she was 20. In 2007, the Department of Health asked her to find a way to train people across the country in mental health assistance.