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Friend-Ship Keeps us Afloat during Lockdown - The Youmanity Photo Competition.

You know me! Love a good competition... and what's better than a good competition? A competition DOING good. 'Youmanity' is a charity that raises awareness of social issues by encouraging cultural activities, most notably their annual photography award. Photographers from all over the world tell important human stories by sending in their images, and the competition is open, worldwide, to all levels of skill. The 2020 competition theme was “Friend-Ship” - to acknowledge the importance of friendship in maintaining good mental health. You can imagine that I was super enthusiastic. I'm a big believer in the power of Creativity to promote better Mental and Emotional Health.

(CLICK HERE for my post about the BENEFITS OF ARTS & CRAFTS). Getting creative with a photo was a fun project for me!

Combatting isolation is especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic. With many nations in various forms of lockdown - loneliness and social isolation have become health problems as virulent and deadly as Corona itself. Because it takes time to register suicides, it can be a lengthy process to collect and analyse data relating to Covid-19 and suicide. However, pre-exisiting knowledge of mental health influences and threats can be applied to the effects of Lockdown - and it doesn't paint a pretty picture. Samaritans reported:

As we are all in lockdown, Youmanity asked entrants to create images using screenshots from video calls. Speaking for the jury, Michael Pritchard said:

During lockdown, meeting online has been a lifesaver for many people, and for many, the only way to connect families. All the entries showed the importance of that connection to fight isolation. The shortlisted entries connected different generations, lovers, friends and neighbours in ways that were creative and, most importantly fun – with plenty of smiles.”

The judging panel this year consisted of: Anne Williams - Documentary Photography Historian Aris Kourkoumelis - Asst. Curator of Photographs - The Royal Collection Trust Lise Hansen - Project Manager - Thrive London Marie Popon - Project Manager - KeolisAmey Docklands Michael Pritchard - Director, Education & Public Affairs, The Royal Photographic Society

Priya Nagda - Swainson - Suicide Prevention Officer - Papyrus

Angelo Ludice - Chair of Youmanity.

...and guess who placed 3rd?! Your's Truly, dear readers! Chuffed to bits! I entered an image of my niece, Issy, enjoying 'Aunty Wu-Wu's Boo-Ka-Lay-Lee Concert'. I felt that it encapsulated a fair few things that have kept sane through lockdown, and life in general. First and foremost, my lovely family, but also discovering and learning (the Ukulele gifted to me by my niece's Mum), performing (Creativity and Arts) and music.

For an intro to Ukulele - a really easy instrument to learn, that brings great joy and quick success, SEE MY UKULELE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE .

I only realised, in writing this post, that participating has also eased one of my biggest Covid-19 pains. With no income for a year, and being strictly locked-down in shielding, I have had to cancel my charity donations, and had begun to feel lazy and useless. Feeling like a burden is a common indicator amongst those with depression, like myself.

Samaritans note that:

It just goes to show that we can make a difference to others in many ways. You don't have to stand handing out at the soup kitchen to do good (though if you want to do that, don't let anyone stop you!!). We can help others in ways that help us too - ways that we enjoy. Just picking up a phone and calling someone can save a life - and you may never know you are a hero to them. Sending a card, engaging someone in an activity...

Whatever you like to do, just DO IT! Make the connection - you'll thank yourself.

With 2,000 entries from 43 different countries, Friend-Ship has been one of the most successful competitions organised by Youmanity to date. It made me really happy to be a part of an activity that was bringing cheer to so many people, and for a good cause, too! Second place was awarded to Shamil Agaev from Russia for capturing a family birthday celebration. Zura Agaeva’s grandchildren, each in different parts of the country, managed to position a balloon within a portion of their screen to form the number ’60’.

Nicola Parker from Surrey, England, came in first, and won the Competition with ‘A Kiss from Across the Miles’. Nicola’s screenshot captures three generations: herself, her daughter Molly and 80 year-old mother Mary blowing a kiss from a nursing home.

I'm very proud and happy to be among these joyful and creative winning moments. If you'd like to learn more about the work of Youmanity, just CLICK HERE . What ways have you found to make connections during lockdown? Have you been struggling with loneliness? Who brings a smile to your day?

Tell me all about it in the comments.

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