C.K. “A typical NEETS”

I am lazy, obese, uncooperative, irresponsible, a typical workshy NEETS (Not in Employment Education Training or Studying).  I am sure that’s what my GP thinks.  He won’t consider looking at my mental health until I comply and take medication for an underactive thyroid.   Like most adults he doesn’t listen and I don’t trust the medical profession anyway because I believe they are to blame I became orphaned at 18.

I will always remember the night before saying to her “you want me to be a girly girl like Hannah Montana but I am more a tomboy like Lily” and she smiled, she looked happy.  My mum was funny.  She smoked a fair bit but drank rarely.  She always wanted me to tickle and massage her feet.  My dad always blamed me if something went wrong and she wouldn’t argue with him, she would just calmly stick up for me. I think she had been a grave digger at one point.  She loved the Bay City Rollers and Priscilla Queen of the desert.

I woke up to the sound of my half-brother screaming my mums’ name.  She had complained to the doctors that she had pins and needles down one side and they did lots of test and scans but I don’t think they took it seriously.  She had a brain haemorrhage at 5am in the morning in the bathroom in front of the sink.  We waited for the ambulance and for dad to return from work, and we just knew that nothing was ever going to be OK.  I don’t really know what happened after that.  Mum was my safety and now it was all gone one November day.

All these people coming round saying I am so sorry, staying for a bit and then leaving again.  I was in a terrible state, everything bubbled up.   I just remember sitting there numb, staring into empty space.  I remember constantly having these vivid dreams my mum coming back to live again, then not knowing where she worry when she would die again. It’s been nearly 10 years now and not much has changed.

My dad was a lot different afterwards.  We all were. He pottered on but drank a lot more.  He already had an operation for throat cancer but then it came back with other cancers.  He died within a couple of weeks of diagnosis and I don’t know who was there when he died.  I went to see him but I couldn’t say goodbye to him.  Later I went into my bedroom and I scraped my wrist for ages, it was just a way of bringing me back to reality and help me deal with my anger and sadness. The scar reminds me that whatever I am going through now can’t possibly be as bad as then.

To me, life is an endless stream of dealing with loss.  Yes, endless: I had a 50/50 chance of surviving at birth, then my jealous half-sister put a pillow over my face when I was a few months old, my step-brother sexually molested me when I was 3 until my early teens, my mother died when I was 15 and my dad four years later but it didn’t stop there, my auntie, my cat.  I know it sounds silly but the reason why I got the cat was to help me cope, and it died too of anti-freeze poisoning.

Shortly after that I started to attend Arty-Folks with a friend.  I was living at the YMCA and I had made some good friends by then.  Since then, I think I have been doing alright-ish, considering.  I might have to get used to living with these feelings but I can’t.  I hate it.  I want it all to go back to normal.  I am still not over losing mum, let alone losing my dad.  I have tried different counselling but I struggled to find the right words.  I can’t just chat about the past, I need some direction.

Sometimes I can still have a laugh and joke but as soon as it’s gone it’s back to feeling crap, nothing stays.  I had the support from so many agencies and so many opportunities put my way but nothing seems to warm my soul, not even God.  I am trying to let him in but I also need some answers!

I always had an interest in art and I used to like watching the crafty shopping channel.  I quite like to learn how to do things.  At Arty-Folks I got so disheartened and frustrated because I just couldn’t ever finish a project.   My mentor explained to me that it’s not my lack of abilities or willpower.  I feel so low and it’s draining me.  And I am so angry with GP’s, with God, and I can’t quite accept that things just happen for no rhyme or reason.  I am scared when something good happens or when I am happy because I am convinced something bad will follow.

I don’t self-harm, I don’t take drugs, I don’t drink or get drunk very often, I am not addicted to social media, gambling, or gaming, and I am looking for a job working with animals.  That’s why my GP thinks I am fine and doesn’t take how I feel seriously.  It’s all down to my thyroid and medication will sort it out.  So I put on a fake mask and I get on with it.

N.R. “My brain felt itching”

I don’t know what happened to me, why I got so ill.  I had married the year before and I came from India to Coventry to be with my husband in September.  But by Christmas I was having panic attacks, smelling blood all the time.  I was hearing voices laughing and saying horrible things about me.  I was scared that my neighbours were part of a conspiracy against me and I used to sit alone at home too scared to even leave my room.  I was isolated with strange thoughts and feelings, and I was getting weird experiences like in horror movies. My husband couldn’t understand and he was getting frustrated.   I felt that there was another person inside of him like a ghost.

I met my husband through a matrimonial internet site and he seemed kind, affectionate and respectful, a modern man which made me decide to marry him.  We both felt well matched and I was then happy with my life.  I don’t know what went wrong.

The GP admitted me to the mental health hospital and I stayed over 6 months.  Even there I felt there were ghosts in me and around me everywhere.  My brain felt itching all the time with stress and my mind was crying a lot.  My Care Coordinator referred me to Arty-Folks and I felt so much better meeting other people with similar problems.   I started to relax and enjoy my artwork and my mentor helped me to start volunteering and join other groups.  After a year I was leading a busy life but still didn’t feel I was progressing.

Arty-Folks suggested changing medication as I had been on the same one for over 10 years, something I hadn’t considered.  It took a while to sort it out with mental health professionals but you wouldn’t believe the difference it made to my mind and my quality of life!  My mind belongs to me again and I live in the present.  I can hear myself think and I know what is real and what is not.  My Arty-Folks mentor told me that I used to let out a torrent of words without start or finish but I have now started to look at my story, warts and all.

I was born in India and I was very happy when we all lived with grandparents in one house.  I still don’t know why I had to go to a primary school for military personnel and move way.  I hated this school. There were 65-70 children in one class and teachers had to be very strict and punished us often.  My English was very weak and when I had low marks I was scared that everyone would make fun of me.  I was always worried they would call my parents and that I would have to repeat a year.  I had my book always with me, worried about forgetting things. I had no friends and I felt like an outcast because I didn’t come from a rich family.

12 years I was at this school and it felt like a prison.  I couldn’t wait to start secondary school and make new friends.  I wanted to help everybody.  If somebody asked me for money I would give it to them.  I would help with their studies and do their homework for them.  I just wanted to make friends, whatever they asked me to do I would do.  I would also go with them bunking class, just to go with them, to have fun.  But actually, now I realise they were not friends, they were just using me.

My parents believe I got this mental illness because I didn’t obey.  I was 20 when my mother found out I was in love with a boy I my class. My mother was shocked and she wouldn’t allow it.  At the time I was highly excitable and probably already ill.  I thought I was happy, I had friends, I was at college, and I had a teenage crush on a boy.  My parents said I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, and I was aggressive and not listening to anybody.  They took me to the hospital where many people held me down and injected me with so much medication that I slept for 2 weeks.  After that I was blank and I not able to function without meds.  When I went back to college I was afraid to talk to people and they weren’t talking to me.  I felt like a ‘mental patient’, a feeling that is still haunting me today.

In India if you have a physical illness people understand but if you are mentally unwell they keep away and consider you an outcast.  Nobody knows back home I have been ill and I have learnt to hide it from everybody.  It was my parents’ dirty secret.  I feel guilty and ashamed of the things I have said when I was ill but most of all I feel sad about my past.

I have completed a Masters in Computer Science but I don’t really understand this illness.  Arty-Folks has always encouraged me to express my thoughts and feelings in my artwork and to share my experiences with my peers.  It has taken me a long time to find the courage but they did not judge me.  I am so proud of my artwork and I am always excited when we all exhibit together.  I can show my husband how I feel and I can show him that other people have similar experiences.  It makes me feel so much more at peace knowing that I am not the only one.

My husband and I have been through a lot these past couple of years but it has brought us closer and made us stronger together.  I feel good now and I am looking forward to starting my own family.

A.C. “Being patient with myself”

I started Arty-Folks just before Christmas together with a few friends.  Perhaps not surprisingly my Arty-Folks mentor felt that I wasn’t going to last because I was in a pretty bad place.  I felt everything had gone wrong so far and I felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of being an adult and looking after myself.  I was drinking, smoking, eating junk, self-harming, overdosing, and I was taken by ambulance to A&E two or three times each week.  They usually bandaged me up and sent me on my way.  Nobody ever asked me why I was doing it.  I was in such a dark place but nobody seemed to care.

All I wanted was someone to listen and to help me make sense of what I was going through.  I guess this is what kept me going to Arty-Folks and develop the dialogue with my mentor.   At first we resolved practical issues like debts and dealing with landlords, and then we discussed how I can improve the dialogue with medical staff through to good and bad coping strategies and the past experiences that are fuelling those.

Since joining a year ago I  moved into my own place, started intense DBT therapy, stopped smoking cannabis and cigarettes, was drinking in moderation and only socially, was volunteering at Arty-Folks and at my church, and I even started playing badminton.  Best of all I haven’t had a stress-induced seizure for over 6 weeks!  I have good friends and I am getting on really well again with my close family and I had a fabulous Christmas.  Seriously, I was doing amazing.

A new year has started and I am not sure what is going wrong again now.  It feels I have lost direction and I am slowly relapsing.  I started drinking and smoking again because I wanted that fuzziness and at that moment being tipsy makes me happy.  I knew things were really going wrong when I started to hoard my medication rather than taking it because it usually leads to an overdose.  Of course I know it’s not the right thing to do but I wanted this feeling of being stuck to stop.  I was scared of slipping back but at the same time also scared of going forward.

I couldn’t wait to get back to the art group and the first workshop back was great.  I loved playing with flowing colours as we were creating a ‘soup of potential’.  But at the end of the session I was still feeling really down, disappointed in me and disheartened.   I sat down with my mentor after the art class for what we call ‘mental fishing’.  It’s always a ramble at first because I can’t really understand why I am feeling this way but eventually what’s bugging me floats to the surface.  It takes time, lots of time, good quality time where my mind is allowed to bop up and down in murky waters until it hooks onto something, the thing that has been draining me in the background.  It really is a bit weird and I always feel a bit anxious at first because you just don’t know where it’s going to take you.  But after we’ve gone past the bits and pieces we can see how things link up and themes emerge that make sense to me.

I still really want to become a nurse and I realised how worried I am I might never make it.  I have failed Uni  twice because I was so desperately ill and I know I won’t get student finance again.  I know that I need to be patient and get myself well but at the same time my future career direction is weighing heavily on my mind.   I realised that I am under intense pressure because my dreams were shattered once before when I was 12.  I was air cadet then and I loved it.  We went away on week-ends, there was always something to do, always friends around me, and I was proud of being a core marksman.  I then went to military college, a boarding school where things started to go wrong.  I was harassed and bullied by prefects and when I came out as trans I was discharged on medical grounds.  My dream of serving in the military was shattered.  I started Uni and became a welfare officer but found helping others much more interesting than the engineering course.  This made me decide to change to a Nursing Degree but unfortunately I was so ill by then they threw me off the course.

Isn’t it strange that you can be so very mentally ill and you are the last person to know?  I was hearing voices and self-harming regularly but still didn’t realise how ill I was.  Other people had to tell me and only now can I can look back and see how vulnerable I was, how confused, how lost, and emotionally tormented.  Believe me, looking back at the things you have said and done is very, very hard.  I feel guilty and I feel ashamed, and I still don’t fully understand how I got to such a dark place.

My mentor is encouraging me to talk my experiences through openly without fear so I can learn to understand what motivated me and have empathy for myself.  I have to learn to be patient, to take one step at a time and to develop the confidence that each step I take will lead me to solid ground and towards my future full of potential.  I know I am now in a different place and that I have a lot of good people around me but I find it so hard to trust I won’t slip back.

B.S. “Beating Depression – It’s my life! 

I just couldn’t figure out what was holding me back.  I had found Arty-Folks on the internet and I hadn’t talked about my mental health to anyone before.  I remember my mentor saying that I didn’t seem to realise how ill I was, and no, I didn’t.  I didn’t think I was ill at all !  I thought it’s just my personality – I am a misfit, dislikeable, unacceptable, a failure, a burden on my family, too quiet and shy to make friends.

Coming from an Asian background, the expectation to be successful is embedded in me.  But I failed 6th form and I couldn’t get out of my head that I started off with four subjects, dropped Art because it was too time consuming, failed Math at the end of the first year, took Economics and Biology but I failed Biology at the end.  It was a waste of 2 years.  I went to college to do a HND in Business and topped it up to a Degree, but again it was the wrong choice.  I was accepting that I was a failure and a disappointment to my family.

One day, I was watching TV with my mum and I knew I should have walked away before she started going on about marriage, that I have only a couple of years because all the good ones go.  I said nothing, looked down on my phone and cried.  I have always walked away and I hoped they would get the hint and let off. My family see marriage as a law, it has to be done, and a good husband is the sign of success for an Asian woman.  And even though no one is saying it out loud, I feel they look at me and think that I am a failure.  They can’t break away from their old-fashioned ways, I can’t conform, and we can’t meet in the middle either.

What I really wanted to say was:  “Mum, I know you want me to get married and you believe that finding Mr Right would sort me out.  But I don’t.  I don’t think like you.  I don’t want to get married now and maybe not even later.  I feel I need to do something else first but I don’t know what that is yet.  Stop putting pressure on me and give me time to find out for myself what is right for me.”  Instead, I retreated into my bedroom and cut myself.  I didn’t feel like I belonged to my family more than ever before.

I have had so many part-time and temporary admin jobs since college and I tried hard to get on but they all depressed me deeply.  I couldn’t fit in, I never felt normal like everyone else.    Two years went by and some things had changed in my life but didn’t have much of an impact on how I felt.  I was still up all night locked in my bedroom and not able to face the day, hoping that tidying up my room would tidy up my head, often cutting or starving myself.  I knew what I didn’t want in life but I couldn’t map my way forward.  I began to recognise that my physical health was starting to deteriorate and I finally accepted I needed the help of anti-depressants to stabilise my mood.  In between jobs I have always come back to Arty-Folks, usually in tears.  I felt Arty-Folks was the only place I had friends and was accepted for who I am, where I felt at home.

Arty-Folks encouraged me to make a commitment to myself, to listen to myself, to follow my passion.  I began to realise that maybe, to find my own way forward, I needed to stop stressing, give myself time to work out what is right by me, and apparently the rest would follow.  Frightening!  But also exciting.  I had always found it hard to have a say, to speak up, and now I had my peers listening to me, and Arty-Folks giving me time and space to become me.

Slowly, through my artwork I began to express my frustrations and to find my voice.  So here I am now: I am following my passion and I am studying Foundation in Art and Design without worrying ahead where it would lead me.  At the start it was hard as I didn’t feel I had anything in common with others again and I struggled to deal with the harsh criticism of my tutors.  But I could always talk it through with my mentor at Arty-Folks and I am slowly learning not to care about what other people say.

September 2017, I am following my passion and I am studying Foundation in Art and Design at Coventry University without worrying ahead where it would lead me. At the start it was hard as I didn’t feel I had anything in common with others again and I struggled to deal with the harsh criticism of my tutors. But I could always talk it through with my mentor at Arty-Folks and I have slowly learnt to stand by my own views.

March 2018, I am preparing for my last assessment and I will be sad when the course
finishes because I have had a fantastic time and I have made amazing friendships for life. I had something to get up for every day and I have finally been able to turn my body clock around. Yes, I am not nocturnal anymore and I can get up in the morning and be on time! I don’t self-harm anymore and I am eating regularly. No, I don’t have a job lined up but I am not worried. I don’t think that I will fall into the same depth of depression as I have done in the past. I know now that a job is just a means to an end and not a measure of my worth. Most of all I am thrilled that I have been able to inspire some of my friends at Arty-Folks to follow in my footsteps and I will be happy to give advice and support if they need it through their Foundation year.

September 2018, I was completely upfront with my employers and colleagues about my depression and I was so surprised that they were so understanding and supportive.  I am working full-time now and I am really enjoying it.  I have not missed a day at work yet and I am always on time and I feel for the first time happy and content with my life.

S.M. “Living with Schizophrenia – I am doing my best!”

Don’t you think I am trying?  You are telling me that I don’t live in the real world, that my reality does not exist.  So let me show you what my reality looks like and then you tell me how much you would like to live in it.

I am Tamil and born in Sry Lanka during the civil war.  My dad left us unprotected when I was 2 and went with my two eldest sisters to work in the UK.  My mother and her ‘cousin’ took us to India where we led a very quiet life hidden away.  I had a very kind friend, Leo who visited me every night to reassure me.  He told me how much he loves studying IT at Uni and one day I would like to do the same.  When I was 13 my mother paid a lot of money to an agent and had me smuggled into the UK.  I will never forget every word of our last conversation, how we cried and hugged, and how she promised over and over again that she would soon follow with my little sister.  I had to burn any identification so if I would get caught I wouldn’t be sent back.  Trafficked over land, I remained in hiding in various locations for 2 years until I reached the UK.  I will never forget the BP petrol station where I was finally reunited with my father.  I was 15 years old and I weighed 5stones or 35kg.  I was more dead than alive.  During all that time Leo was with me, my constant and reliable friend.

My father turned out to be a violent drunk who attacked me with a knife and threatened to kill me.  I moved in with my oldest sister but she beat me and locked me up like a slave.   I moved to my other sister but she treated me like a house maid.  One day she left me with her 6 months old baby and went to Spain on a holiday with her lover, just like that, without telling anyone.  Nobody cared and nobody wanted me.  My father died when I was 19 and I lost residency.  Since then I have no right to be anywhere because I am nobody.  Legally, I don’t exist.  I have no country I can prove my own and where I have the right to feel safe.  I don’t have a home anywhere in this world and I am all on my own.  I don’t belong and nobody belongs to me.  You have no idea how frightening to be truly all alone in this world is!  I made a new friend, Rachel, who began fighting my corner.  I admire her, she is so strong!

I have tried every way to get back in touch with my mother and sister but they seem to have vanished from the face of the earth.  I feel she sold me out.  I had no money and nowhere I could stay but my sister’s jilted husband took me in, hoping that I would help him look after the two children.  Instead, my voices and visions became so powerful I became a liability and I am grateful he is looking after me.  Even Leo and Rachel struggle to protect me from the screaming people with burning faces that are attacking me day and night.  The constant noise is deafening and keeps me awake.  I live in constant panic that somebody will take me away, and most days I am unable to leave my bedroom.  I was hospitalised many times and at first I always felt safer there but staff make me so angry when they tell me that my reality isn’t real.  It is very much real to me!

My care coordinator introduced me to Arty-Folks and I was relieved that nobody there was telling me to give up the two people my life depends on.  I loved the art straight away.  It was so different from anything I knew and I loved learning new things all the time.  After a few months I started to feel more relaxed and I made new friends, real ones you will be pleased to hear.  I also started bit by bit to tell my story and Arty-Folks then helped me to work with the Refugee Centre to get at least a temporary visa.

Arty-Folks visited me when I was sectioned again and for the first time somebody showed an interest in my reality.  Nobody had ever asked me before what the voices were saying or tried to help me make sense of my experiences.  I was always told that my world is not real and to take these pills that would make it all go away.  Medication usually works for a little while and then the side effects start like cramps, shaky legs, drowsiness, nausea, it’s horrible.  Talking about my past made me realise how desperately lonely I am, how worried I am about my mother and sister.  I think of them every day and I pray they are still alive.  I worry if we would recognise each other if we met now.  I remember their promise and I just can’t understand why they have not been in touch with me.  I am so sad but I am also so angry because they have lied to me and they have abandoned me.

You can say that Rachel and Leo are imaginary but they are helping me stay alive.  The reality you say is real and you think I should live in is one where there is no one single soul I can count on to be there for me when I am desperately sad, lost, and lonely.  I prefer to live in my reality where I am hunted by pure evil but I also have two people who are always at my side fighting my corner.  I attend Arty-Folks whenever I can because it’s a safe place for me where my visions and voices get quieter and sometimes even disappear when I am doing my artwork.  But I am often not able to win over this immense fear of leaving the safety of my bedroom.

Arty-Folks at Coventry Recovery & Wellbeing Academy

The Coventry Recovery & Wellbeing Academy offers a huge range of courses and workshops to promote personal development and self-management of health conditions.  Arty-Folks is one of the many delivery partners and we will be running our popular 3 week course Fine Art to Well-being during 2019.

Relaxation through Art is aimed at anyone looking for alternative coping strategies to improve mental well-being for themselves or to help others. In this course you will explore how being creative can benefit your sense of well-being and you will become more confident using creative techniques that help to relax.

You don’t need any previous experience of art or crafts and all materials and equipment are provided free.

Course Dates 2019

January 2019:    7th, 14th, 21st,  1pm – 3pm
April 2019:          1st,  8th, 15th,   1pm – 3pm
September:       16th, 23rd, 30th, 1pm – 3pm

To enrol https://recoveryandwellbeing.covwarkpt.nhs.uk/Default.aspx

Participants’ Feedback:
“The course had a positive impact on me continuing in the week and it provided me with techniques to use going forward.”
“How art links to mental well-being is very interesting and I feel now much more able to join a general art class.”
“It has enabled me to be more in the moment and to let go of negative thoughts.”
“It has helped me process some of my issues and helped me access feelings I didn’t realise I had.”
“It helped me focus on art with a therapeutic basis in a step-by-step approach.”
“I got into my flow during the art. Focusing on art rather than a washing machine of thoughts is great!”

Course Facilitators

Lorella, Practitioner – It doesn’t matter whether you are experienced or a complete beginner. The focus of this course is not on teaching traditional art skills, but on relieving mental stress and finding alternative ways to de-stress. Even in such a short course, there is a magic that happens when people learn and create together. It’s fantastic to see how quickly people get to grips with using art for the benefit of their well-being. This course will give you a starting point to embed creativity in your life.

Simone, Co-Facilitator – I enrolled on this course January 2018 when I was looking for something that would help me get through my anxiety of being in groups. And it was just what I needed! I learnt to relax and let go of thoughts that didn’t serve a purpose and it got me away from all my usual worries. I have since joined Arty-Folks’ service and attend my weekly art class regularly because I recognised that art was helping me to communicate and connect to others.  Even if you are not sure if it’s for your it’s worth trying because the art is not intimidating in any way.  Just give it a go and I will be there to help you through!



World Mental Health Day 2018 focus on Young People

World Mental Health Day 10th October 2018
puts the spotlight on Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.

Members’ acrylic paintings map out places and people that are important in their lives. With this exhibition we want to raise awareness that feeling part of a community is the best ‘medicine’ to maintaining good mental health.

A survey released this October 2018 by BBC Radio 4 found that 16-24 year olds are the loneliest age group in the UK.  Young people have to face a world where human rights are violated wherever they look including cyber crimes, cyber bullying, and violent video games.  Additionally, young people face a huge range of pressures from achieving in education, fitting in socially, conforming to gender roles, portraying a certain image online, as well as dealing with family breakdowns.

Youth loneliness is not taken seriously by society and so it can feel like a personal failing.  By putting children and young people’s feelings down as ‘typically teen moodiness’ we silence and disempower them and we are putting their mental well-being at risk.

Most young people will come through challenging life events without serious harm.  However, the NHS reports 24.3% of people registered with mental health services are aged under 19, and that the number of girls and boys self-harming is increasing at an alarming rate.  In the UK suicide is the leading cause of death in young people and over half of those who die by suicide have a history of self-harm.

Framing young people’s experience of loneliness in medical terms such as depression or anxiety is not useful and will only reinforce the sense of shame and stigma many of them feel.   Instead of keeping their feelings bottled up, we need to encourage young people to talk about how they feel, help them understand loneliness as a normal experience and legitimate feelings for them to express.

What does it take to grow up healthy, happy and resilient?

Human beings are by nature very sociable and we need to take time to listen and exchange experiences, have fun, and connect to our peers.  The BBC survey shows that 61% of young people say that taking part in group activities is the best solution to tackle loneliness because sharing an interest is the simplest way to make new friends.

Arty-Folks received £75,000 from the Heart of England Community Foundation
to run a 3 year programme for young people 18-28 year old who are struggling to find their own way forward.  Weekly “Making Headway” group offers art for self-development combined with 1:1 life skills coaching, and inter-generational mentoring.  The project is in its second year and it has helped our young people to push through their fears and start Foundation in Art and Design at University, college courses towards and employment.

Feedback from a young service user: “Arty-Folks is a safe place for me where I made my first friends after 4years of being in Coventry, where I feel comfortable being myself. The group has helped me become mentally stronger and I am now back at Uni.

Arty-Folks “Making Headway” group provides young people with opportunities to meet with other like-minded people and and promotes a sense of belonging to a community.
To join Arty-Folks therapeutic art programme:  every Wednesday 12.30-2.30 at Holyhead Studios (formerly known as Artspace), 16 Lower Holyhead Road, CV1 3AU.

Lloyds Bank Foundation supporting Arty-Folks for second time!

Lloyds Bank Foundation recognises that small charities can make a vital difference and have granted Arty-Folks £14,982 to improve digital capabilities so we can reach more people struggling with mental ill health in Coventry.

The report “The Value of Small” commissioned by Lloyds Bank Foundation shows that small to medium sized charities are making a huge difference to individuals and communities with their work on tackling social issues such as mental ill health.  It finds that small charities such as Arty-Folks have a distinctive impact locally because we act as the glue that holds services and communities together and we are able to reach the most marginalised in society.  However, 84% of local government funding is going to larger charities with more than half of funding going to a small number of very large charities.

Lorella Medici who has led Arty-Folks’ work in the city for the past 23 years comments: “More people than ever before slip through the net because they don’t score highly enough to qualify for mental health support even though they are clearly in need.  Many also become more ill while they are waiting to see specialist services which can take up to a year even if people are in crisis. But small charities like Arty-Folks can be accessed anytime and people can also self-refer without formalities and waiting lists. 

Pictured: At the Arty Folks group in Coventry is art leader Lorella Medici in the art studio.
Pictures by Adam Fradgley

We may be small, but our programme of therapeutic art groups combined with 1:1 mentoring and coaching helps people regain their self-belief to move on in life.  Through therapeutic learning and with the support of peers our members achieve a robust level of mental stability.

This is the second time Lloyds Bank Foundation has funded our development ambitions and we are extremely grateful.  It is boosting our determination to become more visible in Coventry so we can support more people to stay safe, better manage their mental health, and make positive choices.”

Feedback from a current member: “It is difficult to admit that you have fallen out of line with what society expects and others may not be able to understand how ill it is possible to become.  Arty-Folks is a really good anchor where I can relate to people who have been in the same boat and where I am not judged as weak. I feel probably for the first time at home, safe and a part of the community, with friends to call on, and with interests and hobbies that make me feel my life is worth living.”

Arty-Folks runs a therapeutic art group every Wednesday 12.30-2.30 at Holyhead Studios, 16 Lower Holyhead Road, CV1 3AU.  For more information visit www.arty-folks.co.uk or facebook/ArtyFolks

Pictured: At the Arty Folks group in Coventry is art leader Lorella Medici in the art studio.
Pictures by Adam Fradgley

Heritage Open Days, September 15/16 2018

Saturday 15 September: 11am – 5pm
Sunday 16 September: 12noon – 4.30pm
at Holyhead Studios (formerly known as Artspace), 16 Lower Holyhead Road, Coventry CV1 3AU

What’s On
Arty-Folks members are exhibiting fantasy film creations in the community room
Artist studios will be open and artists will be present to talk about their work.
Children’s activities – colouring, collage, heritage trails.
A range of community groups will be exhibiting artwork.
Exhibition of plans and photographs documenting the history of the building.

The building historically served as a Quaker Friend’s meeting house, Police social club, youth centre and one-time rehearsal space for the Specials, Selector and other 2-tone bands. Since the early 1990s the building has been an arts facility offering artists’ studios, community space hire, workshops, events and specialist ceramic facilities. The building retains a wealth of original features and artefacts which illustrate its varied history and uses.

Heritage tours available of the building to include the artist studios, basement used by the Specials and Selector for rehearsals, classroom gallery, and members office and community room (former friends meeting room). Tours will take place on the half hour throughout opening times. No need to pre-book but tours are limited to 8 people per tour. Meet in the main entrance hall. Visitors can wait in the community room till the tour starts.

To download the Heritage week-end brochure

Willow workshop at Positive Images Festival 2018

Originally ‘Basket Case’ referred to WWI soldiers who had lost arms and legs and had to be carried in baskets by others. A ‘Basket Case’ is someone who is regarded as ‘useless’ and it became a derogatory term for people with mental illness that is sadly still often used today.
Nobody is useless.
Arty-Folks challenges such stereotypes and misconceptions and we are working towards a world where people are able to have everyday conversations about mental wellbeing within families and across the wider community.
The workshop is free and our artists will show you how to use willow and make a spiralling hanging basket for your garden. We hope it will then continue reminding you to relax and clear your mind in times of stress.