A Different Kind of Approach to Mental Health
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
COVID-19 has had a major effect on all of our lives, with many of us having to face challenges that are stressful, overwhelming, and which have caused strong emotional upheaval in both adults and children.
The Mindspace Project, led by three therapists who have personal backgrounds with depression and mental health, offers a holistic option to mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, without resorting to medication as the first port of call.
Galadriel McGrail explains that she launched the Mindspace Project back in November 2020 in the midst of the pandemic in an effort to fill a gap that she believed existed within the mental and emotional wellbeing services provided to the community in Gibraltar.
“After 20 years in the Gaming Industry in Project Management within Software Development, I decided to leave and embark on this journey,” Galadriel states, going on to say that she founded The Mindspace Project in honour of her late father Derek McGrail, in the hope of being able to provide the tools and the alternative therapy that he did not have available and for this to be accessible to the entire community.
Personal circumstances led Galadriel to embark upon a course on counselling, which she took alongside Energy Psychology and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) based courses. Massively impacted by the effectiveness of the latter, she dropped counselling and in 2020 qualified as an Integrative Therapist.
Kationa Matto had worked as a pre-school practitioner for over sixteen years at St. Christopher’s school but wanted to find a different way to working with children and helping families. “Education was very limiting for me, so I started on my journey with yoga,” Kationa explains. Taking a leap of faith, Kationa retired and took time out to raise her third child whilst also looking for ways to develop her own growth. This led her to form Mindful Kids, running family yoga classes and parenting workshops. Galadriel and Kationa met studying the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and NLP and realised they shared a vision in offering similar services, so combined their skills under the Mindspace Project.
More recently, Galadriel and Kationa have been joined by fitness specialist Tony Gaul, awarded an MBE by the Queen for his services to the British Army and to charity, who was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) two years ago. Tony is an experienced and highly qualified physical training instructor and motivational speaker whose vision is to support those who may be struggling with mental health. Tony had a traumatic abusive childhood, both physically and mentally, but is keen to say that he is not a victim. “I ran away from home at fourteen and joined the army at sixteen, which was the best thing that I could have done because it gave me a family – but in that process I spent over a thousand days on the frontline fighting, and that had an effect on me,” he states. Tony had got to the stage where he wanted to end his life, but credits an EFT session with Kath Temple, founder of the Happiness Foundation, as having a transformative effect. “It didn’t happen overnight but I slowly realised that I had to look within myself rather talking to someone about my trauma.”
Tony runs fitness programs for children that include life-coaching and motivational speaking that will help empower the kids and provide tools that will help them self-regulate emotionally. “The sessions include anything from a walk to a jog, to using outside apparatus for training – and whilst we are doing that we are working on self-belief,” he says. “It’s all about self-love and self-care, but very much using language that they understand.”
“It’s about being present and mindful,” Tony comments. “The kids often think that they can’t meditate because they have too many thoughts in their head and they will ask how to do it, so we tell them to accept those thoughts and then concentrate on their breathing.” Apparently, the children think that Tony is ‘cool’ and will listen to what he tells them to do. Galadriel says that it is easier for the team to deliver a message that parents may want to deliver themselves, but the kids resist that, so when it comes through true stories and narratives the message gets through. “They accept and engage with it and then they put it into practice themselves,” she states. One example the team gives is of a six year old who had a worry whilst she was at school. “After our storytelling session on worry, she came back and said she had remembered what they had done in the session, so she stopped what she was doing, did her breathing, and the worry went away,” Kationa says, adding that it may be something small to us, but it wasn’t to her.
The team explain that children will model what they learn at Mindspace to their parents, which in turn helps the grown-ups around them apply the same tools and techniques, such as mindful breathing, when angry or stressed. “Living with anxiety and stress have become the norm,” Kationa comments. “People have anxiety because they are thinking anxious thoughts, it is a process,” Galadriel explains. “The Mindspace Project is trying to change that mindset and get back to understanding why people are having those thoughts.”
The team have developed a series of programs for young people under the theme of Emotional Regulation, including The Magic of Storytelling for children aged 4-7 and Fitness with a Difference for teens from 12-16, as well as Fitness with a Difference for 8-11 year-olds and Yoga with a Difference for teens. Their intention is to promote fitness in its own right, but also as a means to engage our younger generation in activities and discussions which will empower them to become healthy happy adults and break the cycle of stress, anxiety and limiting beliefs.
The Mindspace Project provides a space where the children feel safe, where they will be heard, seen and understood. Galadriel explains that there is a theme running alongside the sessions every week, such as dealing with anger, bullying, tech dependency or dealing with hormones. “Because we are all therapists, if a child needs something we are always on site during Tony’s fitness sessions to notice any problems, concerns or worries that arise and we can intervene and provide help as and when needed.”
The fitness sessions are held outdoors, weather permitting, in places such as Alameda Gardens or Commonwealth Park, but if not then they use the space in their small clinic in Horse Barrack Lane where their therapy and storytelling sessions are held. Kationa has a strong belief due to her educational background that the sessions they provide should be included as part of the school curriculum.
The team undertake one-on-one therapy sessions for both adults and children, and their vision from the start has been to work and support parents as much as the children. “We want to be there for the entire community, and we now have the powerhouse to do that,” Tony comments.
The Mindspace Project is growing through word of mouth and advertising. “We really feel that we are gaining momentum now and it is building really quickly, but it is still important for the team to make sure that we are doing this correctly,” Tony says. “People often feel that when you offer therapy you are intruding, but this is very non-intrusive,” Kationa adds. At the moment the Mindspace Project doesn’t get any funding, but the hope is that they will soon garner support from local corporations and from the government as the work they are doing becomes more well-known.
Recently there have been two new additions to the Mindspace team. Abigail Garcia is an SNLSA (Special Needs Learning Service Assistant) in a secondary school who believes that there is so much that can be done for the younger generation to be the best they can be in all aspects of life. As a mother herself, Abi is experiencing first-hand the incredible impact the Mindspace Project is having on her own child and her aim is to help the younger generation in Gibraltar achieve their dreams and overcome all obstacles. The second addition is Odile Matto who has started working diligently behind the scenes to ensure that all their events run smoothly.
This incredible team of transformational therapists, performance coaches, Masters in Neuro Linguistic Programming, Yoga teachers, mediators and EFT Practitioners are on a mission to break through barriers that some of the young people in Gibraltar, as well as the wider community, are struggling to overcome – barriers that keep them from dreaming, believing and achieving.
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