Onika Speaks Out!
This week we were incredibly proud of Year 10 student, Onika Cuffie, who competed in the Haringey Final of the annual Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge. This year the final was held at Northumberland Park School and Onika was joined by finalists from across the borough. Onika’s speech, on the theme of mental health and the importance of reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues, was extremely powerful. Onika spoke bravely and passionately about how mental health has had an impact on her life and her family. She gave an incredible performance and moved members of the audience to tears.
Read the transcript of Onika’s speech here:
Talk About It by Onika Cuffie
I have a question. Does anyone in this hall know someone suffering from a mental illness? Raise your hand now.
Could you imagine a world where we blame someone for having cancer? Or a heart attack? Could you even begin to understand why someone would put that burden, that shame, on someone who is fighting for their life every single day? No? Well, believe it or not, this happens - but probably not to someone suffering from cancer. No, but to someone with anxiety, an eating disorder or depression.
Day after day people are being dehumanised and ostracised for something they have no control over. See, we’re all members of one body, and it is our duty if we know that someone is in a dark, inescapable, agonising torment of fear that we pull them out of that and tell them we love them. Although love may not mean so much to us right now, someone’s life depends on it.
My Dad suffered from schizophrenia for several years, this was a result of drug use and reckless behaviour. Like all reckless behaviour, it had its consequences. His consequence was that he wasn’t allowed to raise his only daughter, so she had to grow up without a father.
On this day last year, my 16 year old sister committed suicide. Three hundred and sixty five days ago I lost my blood to a silent but lethal suffering. Though her absence has scarred me in ways that I didn’t even see as physically possible, I don’t blame her. More so I blame myself. I blame myself for not telling her how significant she was. I blame myself for not telling her how much I truly loved and appreciated her. Her entire life was spent walking a tightrope I didn’t know existed and I let her fall.
She wasn’t the only one who grew up this way. A wise man once said ‘If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror, look a little longer and stare a little closer!’
Although insecurity destroys all things beautiful, recognising beauty can burn insecurity.