Written by J.L.Ruston
It’s not very often you come across a business that wholly reflects the purity of the first day of spring that is continuously shining from within Abbie Williams.
Ms Williams Is the CEO and Founder of Letters of Hope, a non for profit that exudes compassion which has sweetly evolved from being a family tradition to an international saviour.
Some of us over 20 are already struggling to understand and use the new technology that’s being developed at what seems like a daily rapid rate. We forget that our grandparents are even more boggled than us, having come from days feeling closer to the feather quill and ink than chatGPT.
When Abbie moved from the UK to Australia in 2017 she’s not shy to say that there was a difficult first six months of adaptation to transition through with the heavy knowledge that everyone she had ever known and loved was on the other side of the planet and there are so many variables to face in front.
These days most of us are fortunate enough to be able to pick up the phone and facetime the people we miss the most. It won’t substitute a cuddle, but it’s better than nothing. But with neither of Abbie’s grandparents owning or knowing their way around a mobile phone, a handwritten letter was the next best way to go.
The sweethearts passed regular letters filled with fiery motivation, confidence, love and hope that helped to ground Abbie and unbeknownst to them, began to build the foundations of her most purposeful adventure yet, Letters of Hope who can now boast of 135 volunteer writers each spilling their own words of encouragement to strangers calling out for a kind word in a tough time.
In her teens, Abbie was diagnosed with OCD, obsession compulsive disorder which has largley been miscategorised as a person who has to have everything squeaky clean, in the right spot at the right angle every second of every day. This is nowhere near the case, in fact OCD is represented in many different forms of behaviour and severities tailored to each individual, like a lot of other blind stereotypes.
For Abbie, her experience with OCD is more around intrusive thoughts and internal rumination, as opposed to external compulsions.
“When I first started struggling with that in my teens, I honestly thought there was something really wrong with me. I felt like I’d lost my mind.” She shares.
Hearing other people talk and share their experiences of OCD was the way Abbie realised ‘oh other people feel a bit like this too’ and first found the courage to connect the dots and get officially diagnosed. Now in a place where she can return the gesture to the world, Abbie is a qualified Mental health first aid instructor with a growing reputation for being able to bring people out of their darkest of places through both her letters and online openness about her condition and day to day ups and downs in relation to.
In 2018, after a year of jumping up and down with excited anticipation at the post box awaiting a love filled letter form the UK, Abbie put a call out for anyone else who would like to receive a letter of hope,
“I just wanted to make other people feel nice and just feel good. So I shared a post in a community group on Facebook just asking if anyone wanted a letter and that’s just how it started.”
Letters of Hope saw rampant increase during and following the pandemic which aliens with the post effects that are seeing so much of the glove struggle with. Through this, her own heart was opened up to a wider world of generosity a lot closer than expected.
“When you struggle with your mental health, it can feel really lonely. I think especially through COVID people kind of got into that cycle of saying all the things that were happening everywhere and putting the news on and saying negative things. So I think it’s [letters of hope] just opened me up to the kindness in other people because the more that I grow and Letters of Hope grows, the more people are like ‘how can we help? What can we do?’
I’ve got this big box underneath my desk of handmade cards that someone has created and sent in so people just want to get involved and help. It’s shifted my perspective on just how nice people in the community roll”
Her now 135 volunteer letter writing base turned supportive online family, many of whom have their own deep lived experience and possess the urge to help alleviate as many feelings of mental burden for another. Pen to paper writing is a fading commodity, yet the clarity gained from physically jotting things down on paper is scientifically huge. Letters of Hope is not only helping the letter recipient, but also the person holding the pen.
“Being able to see how much that process helps them [volunteers] has been huge. Just this morning I shared a piece of feedback with one of my volunteers and she was like ‘I really needed this today.’
It’s so nice actually seeing the impact on that group of people as well as the letter recipients. You can see that there’s clear benefits. Just the whole letter writing process is so therapeutic for people because it forces you to be stuck in that moment and focused on that one thing which I think sometimes we just don’t do as much nowadays with technology.”
Letters of hope have been sent off to 22 different countries so far with not just a one time use. Receivers have sent in photos of their letter pinned up to a wall for future reference in a time lacking strength.
“I launched a survey at the end of last year to our letter recipients.” Abbie smiled. “Every single person who’s answered it has said that they keep that letter which is really awesome. It also showed that people who open their letter and read it, there’s a significant boost in their mood and a significant shift when it comes to seeking further help and support.
67.5% of people who received a letter of Hope, were not likely to seek further help and support for their mental health before they opened it, then after opening the letter it’s in the high 90%.
So it’s interesting to see how that perspective shifts after they read the letter and how that has an ongoing impact on their mental health journey. It shows just how deep this goes. You have no idea the ripples that could have, it’s actually not just that person externally. It’s massive!”
Abbie doesn’t stop there. If you follow her instagram @Lettersofhope.care you will find an abundance of open, honest, detailed, nonjudgmentally explained videos of what it’s like living with a mental health condition, what it’s like taking medication from her side of things in case anybody else feels similar. She explains step by step what happens at the doctors when you go for your first sign up appointment all the way down to what information you’re going to be facing on the doctors forms.
“Seeing how many people have similar challenges, despite where they’re from, and despite their backgrounds and their walks of life, then feeling and sharing that kindness too is a universal huge thing.”
She faces the world with humour and a smile and isn’t afraid to realise when a moment needs to pause or when she needs to reach out for some help. Anybody scrolling through and facing a similar life experience with mental health and have no idea where to get started with help or find confronting it daunting, Abbie walks you through the whole shebang with such transparency that her followers find both soothing, refreshing and alleviating.
Below, Abbie shares how she manages to build Letters of Hope whilst managing a mental health condition as well as just life.
Some days are hard but for me I’ve got this little wellbeing shelf which kind of keeps me going when I’m struggling.”
A shelf containing all things homey and sweet, pictures of family and loved ones, great memories holding trinkets and a bunch of eye wateringly wholesome letters of received hope.
“Whenever I kind of lose sense of what’s keeping me going and what my why is, I try to reconnect to these things, and it just motivates me to keep going and keep trying to make a difference.”
Acknowledging that communities have come a long way in terms of how we work with and understand mental health, yet there are still many miles to go Abbie raises the importance of how life changingly beneficial free kindness and compassion is and just how pivotal that can be in someone’s recovery.
Scott Adams rightly said, “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
And with that, we encourage you to share your kindness with the world today and send somebody who you think may need some words of encouragement a beaming Letter of Hope.