Yasmin Geddis founded ZGBTST with the aim of changing the mental health system forever following the tragic loss of her younger brother, Zachary, to suicide in 2017.
Yasmin and her family work hard to bring communities together and provide help and support to everyone who needs it. The main goal of The Zachary Geddis Break The Silence Trust is to treat each client as an individual; to ensure they feel accepted and not alone.
In this episode, we discuss with Yasmin the different types of support available through the trust and how they are working to bring communities together across Northern Ireland.
Podcast (click here for transcription)
More about ZGBTST
Zachary Geddis was only 20 years old when he completed the act of suicide on March 18th 2017 in his University accommodation halls whilst attending the University of the Art’s London studying Fashion Illustration. Zachary was the life and the soul of the party, he was adored, loved and admired by many within the community as he was a popular athlete and model. To this day, people still stop the Geddis Family and tell them wonderful stories about Zachary.
Zachary was the type of person to respect individuality and promote uniqueness as this was how he, and many viewed him to be. Through his short but fulfilling 20 years, he has helped countless people with their own mental health struggles and sexuality. His willingness to accept everyone and offer his hand in time of need has been an inspiration to many.
Unlike others, Zachary was very open about his struggle with mental illness and had been seeking advice and mental health support since the age of 16. It was at this time that the Geddis Family started to see the cracks within the Northern Ireland Mental Health Services. Zachary found it particularly hard to transition from Child to Adult Mental Health Services and was repeatedly let down and discharged from their care.
Unfortunately Zachary lost the battle against his demons, Zachary’s Sister Yasmin made a promise to him that his legacy of kindness, fire and hard work will live through her voice forever. Already, Zachary’s story has touched the hearts of thousands, from all corners of the world. The promotion of the “Not All Wounds Are Visible” and “Keep The Light On” tag lines, have been avidly used since the establishment of The Zachary Geddis Break the Silence Trust as we believe this is what Zachary represents.
Zachary was popular, beautiful, intelligent and funny – but even the most confident people can become victims.
Yasmin Geddis founded ZGBTST with the aim of changing the Mental Health System forever, highlighting the importance of looking after your mind and bringing much needed attention to the area of Mental Illness. To be a voice for those who have been silenced and to fight for those who can no longer fight.
Register your interest in the services provided by ZGBTST
Vanessa: Hi, Yasmin, thank you so much for joining us today on the second episode of the Community Calling podcast. How are you?
Yasmin: I’m okay. Very excited to be here.
Vanessa: Oh, me too. I’ve been looking forward to chatting to you all week. And how have you been finding lockdown? What has been keeping you going?
Yasmin: this lock down a lot more difficult than the very first one. I think a lot of it has to do with the weather. You know, the weather is really not doing us any favours, you can’t get outdoors and stuff. I go for walks with my father every morning, which I find very therapeutic. But yeah, work has slowed down. We’re attached to a thrift store in Coleraine, also in Maghera, and then we’ve got another premises in Coleraine as well. So three altogether, and they’re not open to fill capacity because people aren’t coming out so it’s hard. It’s hard to maintain services and stuff whenever you don’t have the capacity. [00:01:00] It’s just been hard to kind of keep it authentic, keep everything going.
Vanessa: I know, it is hard and people are scared to leave their homes at the moment. I would love to chat to you today about the Zachary Geddis Break The Silence Trust, and know a bit more about what you guys do and how it all came about.
Yasmin: So, the Zachary Geddis Break The Silence Trust was launched on the 16th of October, 2017. My brother, who is Zachary Geddes, took his own life in his university accommodation on the 18th of March, 2017. So it’s nearly his fourth anniversary and after he passed away myself and my family, we struggled with the brief by suicide services, which was number one.
We had also started speaking out about Zachary’s passing. I remember whenever he was front page in the newspaper whenever he passed away and the editor was in our [00:02:00] talking to us about what happened and he asked me ‘what way did I want him to put it?’ I was like, put what? And he was asking about how he passed. I said, you need to tell everybody that he took his own life because that’s what happened. It was one of the first times that we had seen, and other people had said to us, you know, we can’t believe that, that you actually said that. And I was like said what?
I don’t understand why people think that we would be ashamed. We’re obviously very upset that it happened. However, it’s just the same as going out and getting hit by a car or it’s just to see them as like going on holidays and never coming home again. You know it is a method of passing away and it shouldn’t be stigmatised the way that it is.
I almost felt like people were judging us when they find out how Zachary passed. That’s not the case. He had absolutely everything that you could ever imagine and nothing had happened [00:03:00] to him growing up. He was born with this chemical imbalance and he did not receive the help that he needed. He was discharged every six weeks. He didn’t obtain help from the adult services. We had put them into private services and people don’t deserve to have to be put through that. That’s a strain in itself. Through us talking about how he passed away and talking at his funeral and continuing his voice afterwards, I started up a blog. It got popular and I was speaking about what happened to my brother and what his experiences were before he passed away. It all really developed from people saying to me, you know, you could really do something about this and change people’s perceptions and that’s what I wanted to do.
The of ethos of the trust is to provide mental health services, but also to show people that everybody has problems, you know, and just the odd do end up leg [00:04:00] Zachary. However, it can happen to anybody and that was the sole reason to why it was developed.
Vanessa: What you’re doing is really important. I think now, especially during lockdown, people are saying it’s okay not to be okay. Everyone struggles with their mental health. Sometimes it’s just by getting the right help like what you’re doing and you are giving help to people too, which I just think is fantastic.
Yasmin: Thank you very much. You know, we do strive. What we do is we issue surveys to the community and also with the people that walk through our doors, they would inform us and say, ‘Yasmin, I think it would be good if you did this’ or ‘I think it’d be good if you did this or that’, or ‘I think the services is missing this particular avenue’ and without funding I just go ahead and do it. I don’t ask for permission off anybody. If someone believes that that is what we need, then that is what I give them so that there’s no opportunity to turn around and say, ‘You weren’t there [00:05:00] whenever I needed you.’ It’s like, no, we’re here. You know, we’re here and we’re thriving and we’re not closed. We are open and we’re still here for you.
Vanessa: What is it that you actually do to help people within the community?
Yasmin: So I first started off as a mentor system. So we began basically online where it was a blog which was showing people that this is what happened me and if it’s happened in you, I understand.
So you can’t turn right and say, I don’t understand. So there’s no one, no client that can walk through the doors and look at me and stare at the, I don’t understand what they’re going through because. I’ve suffered myself. I’ve watched my brother suffer. I’ve watched family members suffered NAI. I’ve been a part of mental health issues before, during and after suicide. You know there’s people who have experienced like a lot in life and within 28 years, I have experienced a lot in life.
That’s really what it was in the first instance. Then [00:06:00] we go offered premises. I was on the Lorraine Kelly show for the UK’s most inspirational woman of the year. After loads of things just kind of started flying forward for me.
So, I got to premises and Coleraine very quickly. We opened three in 2020, which is like during a pandemic. So actually our workshop that we are in now is one year old. It turned one year two days ago. So it’s only been open in a year and we opened up two premises. Then after that, we implemented counsellors in there who are all voluntary and professional. They work from the workshop and they do online and in-person counselling. I am a youth mentor which is something I am really passionate about, I help children with their mental health issues and they resonate with me very well. I have a very good rapport with young people, particularly young men. We are a 65% male clientele, [00:07:00] which is basically unheard of. Normally health services have more females, but most of our clients and users they’re actually male and they respond really well to us.
We do support groups. We have an online book club, you know, we do webinars. I do free webinars every two weeks. There’s not really anything I don’t do. We do everything that we can. We’re launching suicide with support groups later on this year.
Vanessa: So, like you said you do everything. I think that’s amazing because there’s something to suit everyone. People require support and help in different ways so it’s good that you are a bit of an all rounder and that you can really help anybody and everybody.
What I wanted
Yasmin: to be able to do whenever we got our first premises is to be a one-stop shop. I didn’t someone to come through the [00:08:00] door and say, I’m looking for counselling but I also am homeless. I didn’t want to then have to go and send them to another organisation that they would have to attend another appointment to get assistance and another area of need. So I’ve actually helped homeless people get houses, get more points, appeal their points and be at their tribunals.
We also provide like legal services. Thankfully I have a postgrad and human rights law so that kinda helps the trust a lot as well in terms of having that legal background. So it really is like a one-stop shop in terms of everything that you need, you can achieve in the one set.
Vanessa: And I saw that when your friends achieve the spirit of Northern Ireland and you worked alongside them as well. Could you tell me a bit more about that too?
Yasmin: Yeah. So my friend Leanne, she’ll go mad if she ever hears this. She dedicated her Spirit of Northern Ireland to her community. [00:09:00] What she did, and it really was the first one I had seen that I know that they do exist. I actually interviewed her for mental health awareness week in 2020. We were kind of talking about it and she says that she had actually seen it from one of her English friends.
However, she implemented the Bushmills coronavirus support group and it was one of those first ones around in the community that kind of brought everybody together and were like issuing prescriptions and doing food drops and they really brought alive the community spirit during the day. What they did is create a Facebook page, I was part of that Facebook page, then we got referrals from anybody that needed mental health support during that time. Everything was very up in the air and now it’s not so much. We don’t really expect to come out of lockdown and we’ve kind of settled in the fact of this is actually going on. Beforehand, we hadn’t settled in and it was like, ‘What do you mean we have to stay in the house?’ and [00:10:00] that impacted so many people. Now there’s all these befriending services. So, that’s basically what the trust provided people was with phone calls, you know? So we linked up with her. She’s a great friend of mine.
Vanessa: It’s great that people can come together and do something so amazing. You are both so passionate about two different things and you still brought a community together.
Yasmin: I know she’s a great inspiration, you know, she does a lot of good work within the community. And she’s been one of the people who have helped me from the beginning. I don’t think anything starts without any sort of mentors and she’s definitely been that type of person for me, but yeah. We created a helpline, which was one of the very first initiatives that we did. It was 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was a very hectic helpline and I decided to just go full on and with this and it was me, manning it , it wasn’t the trust. It was sat beside my bed. It was [00:11:00] fully manned and the helpline actually won the point of light by Boris Johnson I was awarded the point of light for the trust for the help.
Vanessa: You have such a great community spirit about you and you can hear how passionate you are about the community from your voice.
Yasmin: Yeah, it really is humbling whenever someone tells you that you’ve saved their life. That’s probably the first time I heard that I remember where it was at and what year and all that.
It was 2017. It was only a couple of months of trust. It only been up and running a couple of months and someone said it to me and honestly, I felt like I had achieved that life goal there and then. As soon as that’s said to you, you know, that changes you as a person. The classification and stuff from helping other people, it’s hard to beat.
You know, people don’t believe that the charity sector, like the voluntary and community sector is a business. However, building something from absolutely nothing – this came from a wee boy’s voice. You know, and that’s how this was [00:12:00] created and this was formed to do that. It’s extremely hard. And every milestone that we’ve passed has been an amazing experience for me. You have to remember on the hindsight I’ve ever said, my brother’s not here. That’s that’s the hardest.
Vanessa: I agree. And I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve all been through. Going forward, what can businesses do to help you with your community work?
Yasmin: We just want to be able to support in any way that we can. This is a secret, but we do an alternative Christmas every year. So every year I spend from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day in our workshop. Normally we have an open door policy, so even in the middle of the night I’m here. Me and my family are here. You know, we do an alternative Christmas where there’s no Christmas lights, no nothing and we support people with mental health issues throughout that three-day period. [00:13:00] This year we did food bags because we couldn’t hold our one-to-one support. We did food bags and we distribute to over 70 families within the community.
However, I, I emailed three well known organisations within our town to ask them if they wanted to benefit from our food banks. We’ve had so much stuff. I was like, listen, we have all of this stuff do you have any community members that use things that would be able to benefit from these food bags? If you just like, give me an email, tell me the numbers and stuff. Nobody got back to me. I feel as though there’s not really much of organisation support, especially where I come from. That’s all that I really want. I want to be able to reserve as users to use our services, not for any gratification, but just for the fact of I want to help people.
And if I have [00:14:00] them here, why not use them? You know? And I think they’re good, you know, and like, that’s all I really want to want to achieve is that I want the community to work together in order to make the community members. Thrive and to promote a more positive mental health and wellbeing within the community and further afield. We have people from the Republic of Ireland and people from across water that use our services, but through there, and I would love to link with other organisations and other businesses to further promote that.
Vanessa: I love that you have such a passion for the community work that you’re doing and that you and your family worked so hard to help others.
Yasmin: I come from a Karate background. So I’m actually an instructor. That’s my everyday profession. I gave up my career whenever Zachary passed away and I came home and kind of took over the family business and stuff, my dad’s back out at it, so I’ve been kicked to the side again. I am no longer in charge, you know, but [00:15:00] that’s what I do.
I was, I’m funded by the Northern executive and I’m deep in the community with my karate as well. So that kind of gave us a good basis and it came to me if me want to help people with their struggles. I know what it’s like to lose someone to suicide and I didn’t want it to happen to anybody else, if there’s something I can do about it. We’ve got great clientele and stuff at the moment, but it’s all about pushing further and getting bigger. And I hope that that’s what we can achieve in 2021 and forward.
Vanessa: The team of Community Calling can’t wait to see how you are going to develop everything over the next couple of months and just everything you are doing. We can’t wait!
Yasmin: Yeah. Lots of stuff planned so we will see what happens!
Vanessa: We can’t wait. Yasmin. Thank you so much for coming on and chatting to me today. I really appreciate it.
Yasmin: Well, thank you very much for having me. It’s fab.
Vanessa: Thanks Yasmin little chat later. Bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai