Meet Maylis Djikalou – Programme Director At Create Space

TW: Suicidal ideation/addiction 

Maylis Djikalou is an extraordinary individual with an incredible story. She’s the type of person that you could listen to talk for hours on end because she has such a unique perspective on the world which comes from her lived experience. 

Originally from Côte d’Ivoire she migrated to the UK with her parents at a young age. “We are a majority Black country and so there was such a sense of pride, and just the legacy that really fueled the women and the people that saw in my family and so when I came here I didn’t get why other black people were almost diminished and struggling, and eventually when I encountered racism. I was like, oh, that’s why.” 

Her career started in the fashion industry but after reaching what seemed like the top of her career, she started facing struggles with mental health and addiction. “I was always very expressive with clothes and things like that but eventually it was one of those places where you can have as many masks on and just get away with it. All of my addiction issues were just fueling work. Eventually, I got to the kind of top or what seemed like the top of my career at a really young age and I thought, this doesn’t feel it doesn’t feel like what I imagined. At the time I was really suicidal and it just needed to stop. I needed to step away, and it took a drug-induced psychosis to land me in a place where I was scared and reprimanded for six months in prison in Holloway prison”. 

She’s now been a well-being professional for the last 10 years working as a transformational coach, consultant and Programme Director at Create Space. A non-profit organisation on a mission to support queer people with reaching their full potential by creating safe spaces for them to explore or transform areas of their life that they might be finding challenging or simply want to improve. They offer free self-development workshops which are all delivered by LGBTQ+ mentors, coaches and well-being professionals. 

“It was in the darkest moments that I discovered the gift of desperation, and with it, eventually came the courage to open up. I wanted to devote my energy and curiosity to help others become more agile and connected emotionally throughout life transitions.” 

Young people’s charity Just Like Us recently released a survey where they found that of 2,934 secondary school pupils (1,140 of whom were LGBT+) by Just Like Us, 55% of LGBT+ 11 to 18 year olds are worried about their mental health on a daily basis, compared to just 26% of their non-LGBT+ peers. While LGBT+ young people are more than twice as likely to be worried about the state of their mental health than their non-LGBT+ peers since the pandemic began, the new research shows that Black LGBT+ young people are particularly facing increased mental health struggles. Black LGBT+ young people are more likely to be worried for their mental health with 61% worrying about their mental health on a daily basis, compared to 56% of white LGBT+ young people.

With statistics like this, it’s imperative that LGBTQ+ people have the resources needed to take care of their mental well-being. Organisations like Create Space can help us tackle some of the internal battles we might be facing. “In terms of supporting LGBTQ+ people you get the end of the line kind of crisis support or doing the prevention piece but for everyone that’s in the middle, there’s not much out there. Coping mechanisms can be positive or negative, but somehow, some way we need to shift things together. Which is what Create Space aims to do. Our key mission has never been anything more than underlying how powerful the community is because of its resilient nature, as individuals, because the community is only as strong as its parts. When we’re talking about our purpose, whose voices do we even want to hear sometimes it’s just a basic curiosity for us when we’re like, wow, who’s this individual, and sometimes it’s just being really mindful that our panel of faces that we’re presenting is going out to a global community, and as much as we started in London we have people from Nigeria, people from India joining and so it’s saying, how do we communicate with them as well. The actual bottom line is that human beings need help.”

AZ Magazine have teamed up with Create Space on ‘Give Me Strength’ is a self-empowerment workshop introducing new processes and tools for identifying your unique strengths and creating more ‘moments of success’ in your own life. By focusing on what we’re naturally good at, we begin to see and nurture our own value. We stop reacting to the world around us, and instead find the confidence to create more opportunities for ‘moments of success’ in our own lives, but also drive forward positive change for our communities.

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