Before our new festival about art and the workings of the mind, we speak to Brian Dow, the Director of External Affairs for Rethink Mental Illness.
Why is a festival like Changing Minds a good idea?
Too often we think of mental health as a threatening concept and that is certainly true for mental illness. So bringing the public together to understand and celebrate the incredible artistic contribution that has been made by people who have been mentally unwell and seeking to improve understanding is an inspiring idea for a festival.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
In my last year at university I had a meeting with a careers’ adviser. I arrived late and generally dishevelled so I didn’t notice that my flatmate had sabotaged the form I’d been asked to fill in, adding at the bottom 'but what I really, really, really want to do is play for Dundee United'. Though the meeting was generally excruciating the adviser asked me at the end 'What’s stopping you?' It was a question more than advice but it’s stayed with me ever since and reminds me it’s always worth asking 'what is the advice I am giving myself'.
How do you relax when feeling stressed?
I run. In a circle. For as long as I can. It doesn’t taste as good as beer but the effect is better. By the way the circle is usually quite big.
What book, song or performance changed your life?
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Fundamentally, it’s taught me the value and honesty in saying 'I don’t know'. So often we take what we are given by our own minds, performing mental shortcuts which are essential in much of day to life but can equally lead you down the garden path if you’re not alert to it. We’re conditioned to pretend we know more than we do but it’s actually liberating to acknowledge when you are not certain about something.
If you could have one super power what would it be?
Singing beautifully. Not a conventional super power I know but when I think how I have been mesmerised...
Which living person do you most admire and why?
I try not to lionise anyone. Everyone has virtues and vices but I admire lots of people for lots of reasons. Above all I admire acts of generosity when it is easier to do the opposite. Neil Laybourn and Jonny Benjamin, the two men involved in the Find Mike campaign are both irresistibly good people.
What are your top tips for improving mental health?
Talk about it. Talk about it. Talk about it.