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Who are we...?
We are supporting the national Time to Change campaign, which aims to challenge stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. Breaking Barriers Magazine is a celebration of the exciting Time to Change work in Leeds. It aims to give a voice to people with mental health experiences; with a particular focus on how people have overcome stigma and discrimination. This magazine has been created by the Time to Change Project worker, Tricia Thorpe, and a group of passionate volunteers. Their work uses creativity to engage with members of the public to challenge stigma. The focus of the campaign is ‘It’s time to talk’ it aims to create a climate where mental health problems can be discussed more openly; Breaking Barriers magazine hopes to kick start conversations about mental health in Leeds!
The volunteers and Tricia Thorpe meeting Ruby Wax and Sue Baker [director of national campaign]
Is the campaign making a difference? The Time to Change campaign has measured a 4% reduction in discrimination experienced since it launched in 2008, and a 2.2% improvement in public attitudes. Join the campaign to continue to the movement to reduce stigma and discrimination!
This could be you...
How to get involved We’re looking for people with lived experience of mental health issues to talk to the public about mental health. This is the best way of breaking down stigma and discrimination. Become a volunteer Join us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/timetochangeinleeds Have you got a story to tell? Contribute to the next Breaking barriers magazine or do a video blog. Challenge stigma - you can do something now to help end mental health discrimination. Contact Tricia at email@example.com for more info.
Who is Kayla? Kayla Kavanagh is a solo artist with a difference.
Challenging stigma with a banner
Abi from SewYou talks about her changing attitudes
The science of wellbeing
How Mindy Goose used the work of the New Economic Foundation in her photography.
What is the Human Library? ‘I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time It never occurred to me that I could be a book myself”
Do I need a label?
“I’d like to take you through the journey of multiple diagnosis”
Keep people talking...
Communities in Leeds coming together to create wellbeing cards
The Artist within..
“Over the years I’ve come to realise that only drawing and creating art makes me feel whole and complete”
Overcoming Isolation Page 18
“I come from a family with a history of post-natal depression and manic depression”
What’s your goal?
“It’s only in the past few years I have found the strength to push myself to do things”
Changing times by Chris Butler
It’s time to break these barriers for good.
‘Music saved my life’
Kayla Kavanagh is a solo artist with a difference. The Yorkshirebased singer/songwriter plays nine instruments, writes and performs her own original music and has toured the UK with her ‘one-woman band’ show from the side of a VW Campervan. Hidden behind the music lies Kayla’s life with a mental health condition called Borderline Personality Disorder - a mental illness that affects around 2-3% of the population, characterised by a chronic instability in self-image, emotions and relationships. Kayla tells us how she battled a long road before her diagnosis, and how music saved her life.
“I had grown up with bipolar and autism in the family, so I was well aware of mental health problems, but it wasn’t until I was 11 years old that I experienced any problems first-hand. It was day three at senior school. My primary education had gone fine, but here I was in a new place, daunted by the unfamiliar people and surroundings. I just remember being extremely fearful. I spent three years not even trying to fit in. When I was 14 I pushed myself to join in with activities, I even joined the drama club but found it a real struggle. I remember one day I pushed myself so hard I went home and sat alone in my room, just numb – I felt I didn’t belong anywhere, I felt so alone. This was the first time I self-harmed. At the time it was a way of expressing how I felt inside – a release I could not put into words – but ten minutes later all I felt was hurt and very ashamed. In April 2007, I took a really bad turn. It is hard to remember all the details but I hit a real low. It all came to a head one day: the worst day. I remember texting Nigel, all it said was: I can’t do this any more, goodbye. The next thing I remember is being fished out of a lake by the police. The detail is blurred, I felt as though I wasn’t there, like I was kind of dreaming. I later realised this is termed depersonalisation and was a symptom of the Borderline Personality Disorder at that time. I don’t know exactly what drove me to that point, but starting out in music was hard, especially with my self-image and self-esteem issues. I hated social situations and I felt as though everyone hated me. It sounds strange that I hated being around people and crowds but I wanted to be in music – I think it only worked because when I was on stage I put on a mask. I was ‘Kayla the singer’ and ‘Kayla the musician’: I had a facade, a show to put on. But I soon felt the knocks when the mask came off. In April 2009, I went through six weeks of assessment and was given the opportunity to talk about my issues and how I was feeling. I asked to see my notes and there it was: BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder. I was a little scared because I didn’t know much about the condition and it sounded rather scary, but I was also very, very relieved I had finally got a name for what I was suffering. I now knew the name of the thing I had to face. I know some people fight for the labels to be lifted, and others dislike the title of the disorder, but to I worked hard at learning more about my condition and the things I can do to help manage it. I am an advocate working in any way I can to raise awareness of this condition and help break the stigma attached to it. Within six months I was speaking at the National Personality Disorder Congress in front of 250 professionals. My life today consists of mental health and music: a reflection of myself, and I really feel like I have a purpose and a place. And of course having the support of Nigel has really helped me through. I still struggle with my condition and have good days and bad days, but with the help of music I can express myself and heal in a way I never could have without it. It is true: music really did save my life.”
‘I was lonely, always trying to fit in, never really knowing my place’
At 15 I started to discover music and immediately fell in love with it. I suppose looking back now I can understand that black-or-white, allor-nothing characteristic of my illness, but back then it just became a burning passion. I started playing and soon I could play five instruments. I had found an escape, and one that was constructive, rather than destructive. Music gave me the opportunity to make friends as well: I would go to the music room in break-time, and from sitting on my own playing the piano, other people came to join me. I found music helped me integrate and communicate with people. I decided to go to university to further myself and learn as much about music as I could. Pouring myself into my music gave me focus and determination, and completed my degree. In 2006 I found a one-year digital Masters degree at Hull and decided to further the passion I had found for music technology. It was here that I learned how to live loop, which I now use a great deal in my performances. While studying I met Nigel, who was into producing. I started working with him, and very soon we fell in love. It has now been four and a half years since we met and we are still going strong. Not that it has all been a bed of roses. He has been a rock to me, and has had to deal with a lot.
Her album ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ is out now and available from: w w w. k a y l a k a v a n a g h . com/music & itunes
‘There’s no reason to be scared about people with mental health issues, because I have been living with my mum, who has had mental health issues the whole of my life’
Michael, young carer, aged 12
Challenging stigma with a
Abi from SewYou talks about her changing attitudes towards mental health and the stigma surrounding it. Abi ran a creative project for Time to Change which produced an eye catching banner. Which was displayed withpride at Leeds Pride. This is an abridged version of Abi’s blog from the Sewyou blog, you can read the whole thing here -
“A little while ago I was tweeting away with Victoria Betton of Love Arts Leeds. We arrived at a discussion about whether I’d be able to work with a group of people to create a stitched banner. The remit was in 8 weeks to teach them to sew from scratch and then facilitate their creation of a banner to be marched at Leeds Pride, carrying the Time to Change campaign message: Let’s end the stigma around mental health. I’d be working with volunteers to complete the project. Some hadn’t touched a sewing machine before and almost all couldn’t sew a single stitch. No problem, I thought. I’m a good sewing teacher. I can teach them and they’ll love it… And then a [what I felt was a huge] bomb was dropped; the volunteers were [as they are referred to by the NHS] ‘service users’. This meant they are people who are currently facing mental health issues them selves. I would lead the project and the banner is going to be sewn by the very people the message is about.
go out for 5 weeks and was on medication just so I could leave the house and not panic when I saw traffic.
“What I felt was a huge bomb was dropped: the volunteers were currently facing mental health issues themsevles”.
What I’m saying is that, although I’ve never been sectioned, I do understand how sometimes your mind isn’t what you would like it to be, what you need it to be or what you know it can be. People judge you. People think you’ve “gone mental”. I know lots of people who haven’t yet been given the chance to understand mental health issues. I was out with friends on the Friday night before the Monday at Inkwell. One of my friends asked me how I was feeling about Monday and, specifically, about “going to get all the Nut-Jobs to do sewing?” I thought this statement was a fantastic demonstration of stigma. Comments like that are common, and – what’s worse – they are accepted. They are exactly what the Time To Change campaign is all about. I still don’t know what the right terminology is, but it isn’t that. I asked Tricia what would happen if something took place in a session that I couldn’t deal with – she said everything would be fine. I was still worried. What if they had Schizophrenia? Bi-Polar? Would they be Psychotic? Will I be safe? Would they ‘have an attack’? [I had no idea of what, just an image of someone losing control]… Would they be able to concentrate? I’m being really honest here about what I was thinking so you can understand where my head was before I went in there. Would you have thought any of that too?
“I learned that all the thoughts I’d had before this event, and even that very morning, were examples of stigma – of my lack of awareness”.
I sought advice from a mental health professional I happened to know because I was feeling concerned about my ability to give them what they needed. His advice was clear and simple: ‘be welcoming, listen to people, make it fun’. He said I’d probably already worked with people who were mentally ill in my 9-to-5, but never known it. I was a bit scared but I did have a rough plan and a design for the banner. And I was excited. I concentrated on the positives. Despite my trepidation - the paradox here is that I do have my own experience of a mental health issue - I was once in a road accident and ended up with an anxiety problem. I didn’t
What did I learn?
I learned that those with mental health issues are normal people who have stood up and said “I don’t feel OK. Please help me”. Which makes them different to all the normal people who “don’t feel OK” and haven’t stood up; I have learned a new definition of the word ‘normal’. Also that sometimes, people working with service users can make them feel patronised by saying everything is ‘amazing’ when it’s not amazing, at all — [because they’re not stupid, they know it’s only being said in the context of their mental health issue, not their actual achievement]. I resolved to only be absolutely genuine with feedback I gave about their sewing. I would anyway, but I now have a heightened awareness.
“One of my friends asked me how I was feeling about Monday and, specifically, about “going to get all the Nut-Jobs to do sewing?” I thought this statement was a fantastic demonstration of stigma”.
I learned that the stigma of mental illness reaches far and wide – someone told me about a time when they had broken their arm in 3 places. The doctor at A&E took one look at the person’s NHS notes and saw the term “psychosis” and sent her home. Without treatment. She later returned and received a full arm cast because the reason she was there was because of a broken arm, not psychosis – but the latter had ‘blinded’ the doctor to her real, medical need. Another person shared that when she had ended up in A&E [due to the extent of her self-harm] the doctor saw NHS notes around mental ill-health – and instantly stopped talking to her as a person, but talked about her to the person who had brought her in. I learned that these weren’t people I needed to be worried about at all; These were people who were honest,friendly, funny and who I liked. There is no ‘Them’ there is just ‘Us’. I also learned that all the thoughts I’d had before this event, and even that very morning, were examples of stigma – of my lack of awareness. They aren’t ‘Nut Jobs’ – well, only as much as I am. I’ve always been a pretty ‘black and white’ thinker – things either are or aren’t. This is sometimes too simplistic and I miss details that I later realise were important. Before I started this I thought
I was “mentally well” and the group of people were “mentally ill”. But I was missing detail. Individuals aren’t ever just one thing – not me, you, anyone. Think about it – someone receiving support for [for example] Bi-Polar Disorder are they any different to you? You might take an antihistamine for your hayfever or take a flu remedy if you have a nasty cold. You might ring a friend for a chat. And someone diagnosed with a mental health issue might have meds too – or talk to a psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse or therapist to get their specific support. I’m now thinking that ‘mental health’ is a relative concept… There is no such thing as pole position in mental health – no one person absolutely has it and no one person absolutely doesn’t.”
The Science of Wellbeing
Mindy Goose writes about how she used the work of the New Economic Foundation in her photography.
“I have suffered from depression, on and off since my teens. I only really came to terms with what this meant for me when I hit my 30’s, and by acknowledging that I am wired differently have I been able to cope better. I struggle with motivation at times, which makes me feel like projects take twice as long as they should do. I also find that I can judge myself quite unforgivingly and lose confidence in my abilities as a result, even if my friends tell me I work harder than I think, I never think I work hard enough. I discovered the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ when I volunteered at the Love Arts Leeds festival in autumn 2011. How can a scientific study quantify and improve your mental state? Is it possible?? I decided to take on board the simple message in Take Notice and produce my own wellbeing book, which will form part of my final degree show at Leeds College of Art in summer 2012. A simple pocket size book with images of everyday objects, landscapes, journeys and routines photographed in a way that makes them seem unusual, beautiful and unique. The idea is to have something small that can fit in a bag, that I can look at and see the world, my world in a more enriching way, and hopefully to inspire people who see my images to take notice themselves. For me I have found I have opened my eyes, I see more, I have stopped burying my head in the hope that seasons I don’t like pass me by quicker, I can get motivated by my routine, making more out of what once were tedious tasks and now I notice that there is beauty in even the most mundane of things.”
You can see more of Mindy’s work and read her blog here: www.mindygoose.co.uk
In 2008, nef (New Economic Foundation) was commissioned by the UK Government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Well-being to review the inter-disciplinary work of over 400 scientists from across the world.The aim was to identify a set of evidence-based actions to improve well-being, which individuals would be encouraged to build into their daily lives. Evidence suggests that a small improvement in well-being can help to reduce some mental health problems and also help people to flourish. The results of the project are the ‘Five ways to Well-being’. More information about the project can be found on the nef website: www.nationalaccountsofwellbeing.org
The five ways to well-being are:
Connect… Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day. Be Active… Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and one that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
Take Notice… Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you. Keep Learning… Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun. Give… Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
Myth: People with mental illness never recover
Fact: People with mental illness can and do recover
The Human Library in Leeds
What is the Human Library?
The Human Library is all about personal contact; it allows people to listen to people’s real life experiences of mental health and the challenges and achievements from their personal perspective. By listening to people’s stories it makes mental health real, which we hope will have a deep impact on those who attend.
Human Library in progress within the the work place
Every story and human book is unique, so as part of the training each human book created their own title and a blurb to give potential readers’ an overview of their book. They were then involved in designing a front cover which reflects their story, giving each book an original and creative look.
We hope that people who borrow a book will leave the library with more understanding and empathy about what it’s really like living with a mental health issue.
In everyday life it can be difficult to have frank discussions about issues that are considered to be taboo. However, the Human Library provides a safe and open space to facilitate such conversations. Examples of questions asked in the Human Library include ‘is it true that personality disorder is one of the worst diagnoses to get?’ or ‘do you feel your bi-polar has affected your chances in job interviews?
‘Since doing the event I’ve found it easier to talk to people about personality disorder and what it means for me living with it day to day’
We wanted to ensure that each volunteer felt valued for their support of this project, as the event would not be possible without their involvement.
‘I really enjoyed taking part in the Human Library, I feel like I am doing my bit to change the image of people with mental health problems and I hope I came across to members of the public as an ordinary sort of person who they could live happily next door to’
‘Fantastic opportunity for me to go beyond the diagnosis on paper to what it’s like in reality’
Below, one of our ‘books’ talks about his experience
My first human library meeting was at a mental health conference in Beeston - locations of human library events can vary, and like this may be part of an event with a similar theme. The attendees of the event were invited to take a look at the human book catalogue which had the descriptions of our ‘books’ and to sign up for a time slot - ten to fifteen minutes. There were about six human books and I had three slots.When it was our turn, we went into a large room, and we took a seat, and our first readers were introduced to us. My first one was a lady called Jo. I was asked about the human library, my involvement in charity work and going to university, which are the main points I wanted to cover in my book. When I warmed up, we got into a fluid conversation and the time flew by! It’s deceptive how time passes sometimes, you think there isn’t much but there is the potential for a very engaging conversation! My second reader was Rob - a young man who has overcome serious illness, and again we got on very well, covered the same basic subjects but got into further discussion on charity opportunities he’s an experienced runner who would like to ‘fly the flag’ for Time to Change and his own experience of prejudice the numerous operations which saved him left him with a deformity in his hand which he is self-conscious about, but he was in great humour and I felt quite humbled by all of the things that he had been through. We were able to converse on the same level, which I think was helped greatly by the format. I had interesting conversations with people who I’d never met before. I’d had many reservations over the course of the day but in the end, I felt I’d done something for a good cause, I’d helped encourage understanding, and I’d done something I felt happy about. If you want to improve yourself, do something creative, enlighten someone, or just try something different, I recommend the human library. You don’t have to work your schedule around it and it can be very cathartic. I believe it’s going to do a lot of good in the future, and you can help.
‘I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time. It never occurred to me that I could be a book myself.’
I’ve been going to young person groups for years, most of the latter part of my fading youth in fact, and in that time I’ve found quite a few worthwhile projects to get involved in, and when I was told of the human library I was intrigued. The first sessions were informal, easy to understand and informative. The team are very understanding and over the course of the sessions they helped me to think about my subject and my approach. To be a human book you have to decide on your story, not word by word but something you can talk about. My book was about my anxiety, my friend also suffers from anxiety but it’s ok if people are talking about the same affliction. Every person has their own life story, their own experiences, they will always be different a -nd then there’s the presentationa cover for the book and a brief description of what you want to talk about. We had a couple of practice sessions with the staff, one playing the role of a listener and another as librarian and these helped to give me the confidence that I could do this. And so I was ready to try the human library for real! A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have imagined I’d join a project like this, and in these early stages I still feel hesitant about going. I’m not compelled to go to any meeting, if it’s one of my bad days I can sit it out, but I believe in this project and I get the sense that the others do.
By Andrew, ‘Lightning Wit and Paper Nerves’
Do I Need a Label?
“I’d like to take you through the journey of multiple diagnosis, when it was my mental health problems began, how it evolved and how people reacted, including my family members”
“I’d like to tell you when it started. From what I can remember. I would have been about 7-8 years old. I can say my childhood was far from idyllic, what parts of it I can remember. The realities of life at that age were becoming increasingly confusing. Most people have a trigger or event in their lives, which is the start of their mental health problems. For me there was no one particular trigger but the pressures of life, multitude of places, my homelife and distressing, disturbing events that went on for a number of years, were probably the key factors. I was detached a lot of the time from the traumas and living nightmares that were actually my life. I knew the only help I could find was through my friends. They were my source, the ones I could talk to. I found them increasingly important to me at the time. We all need friends, in times of distress and confusion, but my friends were only real to me. I found having conversations with them became a problem in itself, talking to them wasn’t tangible. In my world other
people didn’t like it and I was condemned for it. My family background was a very religious one, the churchs attitude was anything that wasn’t in scriptures was a bad thing and if you were bad you were going to hell. I was then so pressured by this, talking to my friends became bad and evil I had to stop talking to them. (Well out loud at least). What had been an avoidable relationship had to go underground and become a secret, silent association. What I haven’t told you is that along with mental confusion and voices and other abusive elements I also had a compulsion to self harm and eventually had to do this. The first time I remember doing it I was probably about 9 year old, it was all made out to be a silly accident, which should be punished and never spoken about again. Self harm for me became an additional tool in my arsenal from the real world. My teenage years are a little hazy, I was in and out of trouble, running away and trying to cope the best I could with the ever confusing realities of my life. Those were actually a living hell, but I was a bad person, a trouble causer and wasn’t worth bothering with or talking to. I felt I was different and didn’t fit in anywhere and my life was not worth living. At the age of 16 I managed to leave home successfully having tried many times before but always found that I couldn’t. I had met someone and saw having a partner and a good relationship as a good escape strategy. Well, I reckoned it couldn’t be worse than being at home. I just wanted safety and true companionship. I need someone to understand me and not condemn me but this never really happened. I had dabbled in drink and drugs before, but now it had started to spiral, out of control, my life then went from one disaster to another, but I always felt it was my fault. I was first hospitalised in my early twenties with clinical depression. This was to become a pattern that lasted for the next twenty years. I was put on anti-depressants and so began my journey into a different world. It is now what I kindly refer to as cotton wool world, it just detached me further from the real world, whatever that was! I was ostracised by my family for being in (THAT PLACE) and was definitely going to hell now for committing a big time sin and for the shame and humiliation it might cause if their friends and family found out. The stigma of having a nutcase in the family was too much to take. I stumbled on through the next twenty odd years, in and out of hospital with breakdowns and suicide attempts. Seeing one psychiatrist after another.
My second diagnosis was multiple personality disorder, this went on to manic depression and schizophrenia and the list went on, another diagnosis another label, another medication another psychiatrist. I just didn’t really think about it at the time, I don’t think I had the capacity to think most of the time as I was in a zombie like state. It was always upping medications, changing medications, but none of that helped what I was feeling inside, it just numbed it a little. It was also very confusing, it wasn’t only that I felt different, I felt like I must be some sort of freak.What was wrong with me, who was I, why was everything so confusing. If I could put a label on myself and my mental health problems, I would say it was like post traumatic stress disorder. The effects and the aftermath and my inability to cope with it, I just didn’t know how until recently. A couple of years ago everything changed, it was my last hospital admission, and I had been having a lot of blackouts and seizures. As they thought my medication at the time was making them worse, they withdrew my medication over a short space of time and also advised me to see a psycologist. I remember being quite angry at the time, I had to wait quite a long time for my first appointment, things weren’t easy for a while as I was coming back to the real world, but I persevered and a whole new world opened up for me, through a lot of talking and therapy. I have learnt new coping strategies and now do positive things for my own wellbeing and to help others. I take things one day at a time and it’s taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am today. I’m still on my journey of discovery and learning and I actually feel my life is now worthwhile. Some people should not be distinguished by labelling them because they don’t fit with the norm of society. People are individuals and may be a little different but should all be treated with the same respect.”
Keep People Talking
With a Wellbeing Card
Communities in Leeds coming together to create wellbeing cards
Research shows that people who are unwell with mental health issues receive far fewer cards or messages of support than people with physical health problems. The Royal College of Psychiatrists survey shows that 8 out of 10 service users say that receiving a card would help their recovery.
Above: Tricia Thorpe, Time To Change Project Worker with Trisha Goddard.
Over several months the Time to Change Leeds team led workshops with community groups, varying from young people, learning disabilities to older peeople in sheltered housing, to produce designs and positive messages for wellbeing cards and postcards. The workshops produced designs for cards based around participants’ own experiences of mental health, whilst engaging them in debate about the impact of stigma and discrimination. A further benefit is to build up participants’ own confidence in taking part in creative activities. The aim of the cards is to break down the stigma relating to mental health by openly ackknowledging it, and offering support to friends and family. Eight designs were chosen to be made into stylish wellbeing cards. The slogans inside the cards have been provided by members of the Time To Change Leeds Facebook page following a request for people to think about what message would help them if they were feeling low.
Below: Trisha Goddard talks about her own experience with stigma and mental illness “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was inundated with ‘Get Well Soon’ cards, all of which were really touching. If you’re thinking I only got those cards because I’m in the public eye, let me just tell you this: when I lived in Australia, I was equally in the public eye and yet when news leaked out that I was in a psychiatric hospital following a breakdown – not a peep! No cards and certainly no flowers. If anything increases feelings of isolation and unworthiness just when you’re at your lowest ebb, this does. Feeling ‘invisible’ because people avoid you, not knowing what to say, rubs salt into a wound, which sometimes takes a long time to heal. In Leeds, volunteers and members of community groups have created some fantastic card designs for people in hospital with a mental illness. The cards offer kind and thoughtful messages to offer support and let your friend, colleague, family member or loved one know you care. Please don’t hold back because you’re unsure of what to say. Buy a card and show that you are thinking of them.”
“When times are hard and the road seems long, I’ll give you my hand and keep you strong” “I was there for you yesterday, I am here for you today and I will be with you tomorrow”
Cards on sale at The Copy Centre, 19A North Lane, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3HW. Busters Cafe, Becklin centre.
and all events that we attend. .
Here is a selection of designs.
We would like to thank everyone for their creative input: Time To Change Volunteers, Feel Good Factor Women’s and Men’s Groups, Forrest Hill Sheltered Housing, Bangladeshi Youth Group, Beeston Action for Families, Leeds Combined Arts, Maltings at Community Links.
The Artist Within
ver the years I’ve come to realise that only drawing and creating art makes me feel whole and complete. Whilst drawing I feel at peace in my own reality. Take away my ability to draw and you might as well take away my ability to breath. Creating artwork helps me escape from the monotonous and upsetting aspects of reality and provides me a sense of achievement. I’m driven by pure passion and expression. Being creative tunes my ability to hyper-focus and keeps my obsessive personality at bay, in a positive and productive way. My work reflects fun, freedom, individuality, proportion, movement, progression, imperfection, difference and a balance between emotion and logic as well as provoking interaction, discussion and accessibility. I prefer to draw when I’m out and about. I’m like a sponge that soaks up my entire environment, both visually and audibly. I find inspiration in nature, shapes, light, contrast, emotions and interactions between people, as well as in my own need to constantly learn and progress as a person/artist. Each piece is a bookmark to my emotional state, which is why they’re titled with the date of completion. The artworks produced represent different things to different archetypes/people, suggesting a conversation between objective and subjective perspectives. This is something that I think is important about art, people coming together and finding freedom in their own opinions, as well as accepting the individual interpretation of others. This helps me to remember that nothing is ever one sided and we all view the world from a different angle. This is also why I choose to sign more than one corner, as it’s not my place to say which way people should view the world
“My own personal experience with
mental health has continued over a decade. Like most that experience these issues I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I tried various attempts of negative escapism, whether it was alcohol, drugs, self harm, or at my worst, attempted suicide. In my darkest moments I would recklessly play Russian roulette with my life with no concern of consequences or the effects it had on others around me. At the age of 25 I hit my lowest point and had my moment of clarity. I stopped drinking at that point, which helped me find the strength to no longer be ashamed of bearing the scars on my arms in public. That was my main personal stigma that I was concerned with, the shame that I felt, as people stared. I’ve been sober now for almost 7 years. I’ve been through therapy and pushed myself to change in so many ways, which has given me a happiness that I never thought possible. I’ve come to realise
that people stare at anything that is different, and it could be curiosity rather than malice. I respond with a smile, which diffuses any tension.
My favourite experience is probably with children, as they ask why my arms are different. I respond simply with, ‘I used to feel very sad, but now I’m happy and everything is ok’. That’s always enough for them to accept.
There are still certain situations where I wouldn’t show my scars, like a job interview. I feel like they wouldn’t see past the marks and they’d automatically think that I’d take time off sick or be too emotional. Even though it shouldn’t be
like this, unfortunately it’s quite realistic that there are employers out there who would have those opinions. Once I’m in a job though I don’t care and I’m confident enough to wear short sleeved shirts. I can count on one hand how many people have asked me about it in the past seven years, and it has never been negative.
main stigma that I’ve come across in others. People can see getting help as a weakness, not fully grasping the concept that pain will always resurface tenfold if it isn’t dealt with productively.
You can see more of Kelly’s work on her website here:
Having mental health issues has helped me grow greatly as a person and I fully embrace my individuality. When people call me ‘weird’ or ‘strange’ I always take it as compliment and say, ‘Thanks’!
If people suffer pain in their lives that they’re unable to resolve, I always encourage them to seek counselling or therapy, regardless of how small they think it is. That’s probably the
Overcoming Isolation “Yes, I struggled but I got there in the end and that’s what matters.”
“I am writing this article because I want to help people like me, who experience mental health issues. I come from a family with a history of post-natal depression and manic depression. I have experienced severe depression since childhood, which meant that my growing up was filled with both mental and physical illness. My mum was depressed while she was pregnant with me, and didn’t eat properly during the pregnancy, leading to weight and eating problems, and feelings of emptiness in later life. She also had post-natal depression and manic depression throughout her life. I took on the responsibility of looking after my mum when I was quite young I knew nothing of manic depression; at that time nobody really spoke or knew of mental illness. I did not understand why mum was still in bed at 5 o’clock, only to sleep on the sofa when she did get up. I thought the medicine the doctor had prescribed was making her tired and sleepy, and she stopped taking it.I tried to make mum happy by looking after her, cooking and shopping, making her breakfast in bed, paying the bills, the list was endless. I did not realise mum was struggling with manic depression. I witnessed her mood swings which could include her being irritable, swearing, screaming and throwing tantrums, refusing to eat, talking too much, followed by sulking and looking off into the distance. I have now come to know these signs well. Now in my thirties, I am too ashamed to admit I have severe depression. Some days I struggle to get out of bed or go out, but then some days can be better than others. I found that talking with someone who does not judge me, in a supportive environment, makes me feel better. But not every one of us can open up in this way. Depression will always be a part of me, I accept it with open arms, yet will always fight it. It gets me when I am weak and then I start down the lonely path I have come to know so well.
Photograph posed by model. © Stuart Leckenby 2012
For anyone experiencing mental illness it is a personal struggle, but remember you are not alone. Talk to someone, anyone, until you find that person. Sometimes when I look at my CV, I think: Wow, how did I even manage to keep a job?! But I have been employed by ten different organisations, I have a degree, a diploma and I am a qualified beauty and holistic therapist. I have raised money for charity and have found that I am most happy when I’m helping people; I get a real buzz out of it. I find keeping busy, being focused and setting goals helps. Yes, I struggled but I got there in the end and that’s what matters.”
‘My mum’s not crazy....... she has mental health issues’
Young carer age 16
What’s your Goal?
Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust need you! During 2012 they are running a campaign called ‘What’s your Goal?’ inspired by the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games.
They aim to inspire members of the public, service users, carers and staff to set a goal that makes a positive difference to your health and your life. As part of this campaign LYPFT invite you to take part in a shared attempt to break the current World Record for the longest line of bunting. They would like you to be involved with making the pieces of bunting; there is no limit for the amount of bunting you can make, whether it’s one piece of 99 pieces. As the campaign is inspired by the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games they are encouraging participants to set a personal goal and then represent that goal on a pre-cut bunting triangle using fabric pens and other items that can be sewn on to the fabric. Evidence shows that we are much more likely to achieve our goals if we write them down. Our participatory activity will enable us to capture your goals in a creative way whilst at the same time enabling you to contribute to a bigger record breaking goal. The activity will reflect the Olympic values of setting aspirations and attempting to achieve them as well as bringing people together for a common purpose. LYPFT have estimated that to make 2.5miles of bunting we would have approximately 12,500 individual triangle pieces of bunting are needed. They are confident that they will be able to achieve more that 2.5miles length of bunting line, with each piece of bunting being completely unique to an individual and/ or their goal. The campaign is part of lypft’s local support for the Time to Change campaign. Bunting makers will be invited to a special event as part of the 2012 Love Arts Festival in October where hopefully this world record achievement can be celebrated.
Hello! My name is Sally Ann. I am 18 years of age and it is my first year as a student at Leeds City College. “From the outside I appear as the average teenager.
I love being out with my friends and family, this is the time I can usually be myself and joke around! I love anything to do with art and being creative, you can’t move in my bedroom for quirky little things I have picked up through time. I live for my music, my iPod can be my best friend and can really help to take me to a safe place in my mind. When I am well, I can be the most confident, bubbliest person ever. I love putting my time into learning about other people and working to help others. Just recently I have become involved in volunteering for various organisations, such as Young Minds and Time to Change. I enjoy being able to use my experiences to help others and also to spend time with people who I can talk to openly and not feel judged by my ‘problems.’ My mental health issues started from a very young age. For the past 10 years I have had intense support to work through my difficulties and to try to and find ways of coping with overwhelming feelings. I suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and with that come elements of depression and symptoms of personality disorder. I have reached very low moods in the past and have been admitted to hospital a number of times.There was a time in my
life I was too frightened to leave the house, I wouldn’t dream of using public transport or being in crowded areas. This was hard, as most of my friends were out and about and I felt I was being left behind. My education was suffering through High School and I needed a lot of support for me to be able to achieve my grades to go to college. It was so hard being a young teenager being the ‘odd one out.’ I had so many nasty comments directed to me throughout school. People avoided me as I was ‘different’ because I sometimes was quiet or away from school for long periods of time. It’s only in the past few years I have found the strength to push myself to do things, to try to and keep up with people around me. I am starting to get to know myself and find an identity. I try my hardest every day to keep going, sometimes even getting out of bed is an achievement. I have to take things slowly and plan my life around my moods. I feel I am on the right road to recovery, despite it being a slow and painful process; I have in the back of my mind that I will get through it. By taking small steps I feel myself building a life for myself. The next step I want to try to and take is to start looking after myself a bit more! Due to my emotional state, I feel my physical health has deteriorated throughout the years. My diet and eating habits became unusual and I found myself gaining weight due to not eating until the end of the day because I had felt sick with anxiety. When I did eat, I would use it as a comfort and I started to become very unhealthy. I kept hearing how exercise can help your mood and can be key for people who suffer with mental health issues, but I have always ignored it. Part of my illness means I become tired very easily and the last thing I wanted to do was exercise. Also the thought of exposing myself in a gym full of people was frightening. Despite how I may present myself to people, I have many concerns about my body. I often don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I used to be happy with my weight and shape; I was a happy size 10. Unfortunately due to my lack of control I have found myself having to buy larger sizes. I have come to the point where I want to set myself a goal to see if I can start to like my body again and feel comfortable within myself. I also want to test the advice I am constantly being given that being fit and active can improve your mood. Having
seen the ‘What’s Your Goal’ campaign I thought it would be a great opportunity to take some action. I have joined a gym and aim to actually use it! It’s taken me years to get where I am today. I can’t stress how times have been hard in the past. This time last year I would have never of thought I would have been speaking to the public, let alone embarking on a challenge like this! No matter how many times people said to me ‘it’s going to get better,’ I didn’t believe it. Eventually I allowed myself to believe and now I dip my toe into unknown waters occasionally and this is how I am building my strength gradually. No one deserves to feel isolated and unhappy with themselves. There are people out there to help you build strength and confidence. Don’t let anyone hold you back from achieving your goals, there is ALWAYS someone out there who believes in you and who will help you believe in yourself.”
To find out how you can get involved today go to: www.whatsyourgoal.org.uk To request a guidance pack today contact Fran Limbert on (0113) 30 55944 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s time to break these barriers for good.
I am now firmly in my middle years. I am at that age when, in the words of the song, “things ain’t what they used to be”. It’s that time in my life when I notice additional lines in my face and the effects of gravity on some parts of my body; policemen (and women) are looking younger; and that my taste in popular music somehow seems to have stopped developing in the 1980s and early 90’s! In mental health services the difference between now and what I was doing as a nurse 30 years ago feels like living in a different universe. The large hospitals have gone, the majority of professionals now work in community settings, the same professionals work with service users and carers to help people to achieve their goals for improving their health and improving their lives. The concept of “recovery” is, if anything, more important than that of “treatment”. Reflecting on this, and thinking about where we are now compared to when I started work in mental health and learning disability services in 1978, many thousands of us service users and carers, doctors, nurses, psychologists, with other professionals - have been at the leading edge of a social revolution. This revolution has transformed and improved how services are provided. This is not always plain sailing and, along with the successes, there have been some failures and there will be times when things go wrong. However LYPFT successfully supports and helps thousands of people across Leeds,York and North Yorkshire each and every day. This is a “never ending story” (another rather cheesy song I recall!) and there is always more to do. One of the last taboos is that of people being able to be open and honest about their experience of having mental health problems. This is an everyday issue. For example, people have told me that they would rather ‘phone in to work saying that they have “flu” rather than saying that they are experiencing stress or depression. This is because people are literally afraid of a negative response from their employer and their colleagues. For employers the paradox is that because of this mental health at work does not seem to be a big issue for them when the exact opposite is the case. At home, some people with mental health problems experience discrimination, and sometimes even fear, within their communities. In mental health services, there are still some people working in services who have a negative attitude with regard to the potential of people with mental health problems to make a positive contribution to society. It’s time to address this – it’s “Time to Change”. For us in LYPFT working with partners, and our fantastic Time to Change Project worker and volunteers, we are squaring up challenging this last no-go area head on. It’s time to break these barriers for good. Chris Butler Chief Executive Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
‘Why is something so widely experienced, so constantly STIGMATISED ...?’
Member of the public 2012
Next Breaking Barriers out Nov 2012
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Many Thanks to all who contributed with their stories and thank you to Mindy, Emma and Andrew for their input on the design skills.
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