Sheffield mum wants to help others following harrowing rape ordeal

A Sheffield mum is speaking out about being a survivor of rape and sexual abuse in a bid to build bridges and help those still suffering in silence.

By lisa wong
Tuesday, 18 June, 2019, 16:04
Members of ADIRA

Ursula Myrie, 46, is trying to break barriers within the Afro-Caribbean black community by telling the story of her own suffering.

Having been sent to Jamaica when she was two, for five years she suffered at the hands of both her family and community. 

Members from the Adira support group

Marriage and two daughters followed eventually, but this later led to Ursula and her daughters fleeing to a refuge in Sheffield with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

Her mental health suffered hugely throughout the years. 

She self harmed from the age of seven, became an alcoholic at 20 and was sectioned. 

Today, Ursula is in a better place mentally. 

She continues to receive counselling but is unable to work a regular nine to five job. 

However, none of this has stopped her from using her lived experiences to create many positive things for her community. 

Adira, a support group specifically for black women, is just one of Ursula's projects. 

She is also 'community mum' to several young people and her dedication is demonstrated by the fact that she will clear her diary for the day in order to see to those young people.

Other current and future projects include mental health conferences, the making of a Breaking the Cycle of Abuse documentary, a campaign to 'Change the Culture', an awards ceremony and a survivors' ball.

With BBC Three and Good Morning Britain also keen to work with her, Ursula's diary is filling up fast, but this hasn't stopped her from continuing to grow her ambitions. 

In the next year, she is planning to launch a 'young people listening service', where she will train volunteers to simply listen to a young person. 

The importance of listening is what prompted another one of Ursula's upcoming projects - a 'hairdressing social enterprise'. 

The program will target those who are not able to go to college and train them to listen.

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Ursula came up with the idea after realising that people liked to go to the hairdresser, not solely to get their hair done but ‘to just talk to someone in a normal setting’. 

Many of them would never consider going to a therapist.

It is a venture that could help many in the black community who Ursula believes are still suffering in silence. Her story is just one of many but she does not want to be defined by her experiences. 

“I am passionate about using my voice to help others and get their stories heard,” she said.

Ursula believes the spike of black males currently overpopulating the mental health wards highlights that individuals don't get help until they reach crisis point.

Her success in connecting with young black males, in particular, has been recognised among other organisations which have questioned how she does it so successfully. 

Ursula's answer is that the problem lies in homes. 

Behind closed doors, physical or emotional abuse is happening all the time but talking is not encouraged because the act of abuse and obeying is justified of 'culture'.

Voo-doo, witchcraft and demonic are just a few of the words used to describe anyone who attempts to divert from the idea that “mental health is a white man's problem”. 

Generational differences are part of the reason why Ursula has received a lot of criticism for her work.

Several members within her own community 'begged' her not to host the latest conference because she would be 'airing their dirty laundry'.

She was also criticised for inviting 'white organisations' to speak on the panel.

Despite the backlash, Ursula believes that if speaking out helps save just one life, it is worth it. 

She hopes young people, who she calls the talking generation, can open the door to changing views on mental health in the future and the taboo surrounding abuse within culture.

According to Ursula, the media also needs to stop portraying black people as thugs and praise them for the good things they do.

Things are beginning to change with Flourish and Mind, two of the more well known mental health organisations in Sheffield, now to work with Adira.