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!



Arty-Folks is recruiting new Trustees

Arty-Folks is now looking to appoint new Trustees to the Board who will assist us in delivering our strategic plan, and ensure that we continue to be a distinctive and successful charity.   The mission of Arty-Folks is to be a leader in driving social change by tackling the root causes to mental ill health through the transformational power of the visual arts and peer support.

We are looking for highly skilled individuals who think outside the box and will enjoy working with us towards Coventry City of Culture 2021.  We are keen to hear from candidates who can offer particular expertise in one or more of the following areas: finance, IT, HR, mental health and well-being, corporate sponsorship, and fundraising.

We are also specifically looking for a new Chair of the Board and a Treasurer. Candidates will support the Arty-Folks values and have an understanding of governance, and the skills, intellect and outlook to contribute effectively as members of a high caliber board.

Commitment required:
– attend four x 2hr meetings per year including the Annual General Meeting
– occasionally meet with staff or volunteers depending on your skill set and availability
– commit to serving a minimum of three years with the Board

As a Trustee we expect you to:
– be passionate about improving the mental well-being of working age adults
– have an understanding of the challenges small charities like Arty-Folks face
– demonstrate integrity in all your dealings and have good, independent judgement
– be innovative and think outside the box
– have an honest and open approach and take decisions for the good of Arty Folks
– have in-depth understanding and acceptance of the legal duties of Trustees.
– have a good sense of humour

Please note that Trustees are volunteers and receive no payment except for agreed out-of-pocket expenses.

To apply, please email your CV with a brief covering letter describing your specific skills to the Chair of Arty-Folks using email: info@arty-folks.co.uk.



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.

Arty-Folks exhibits at Positive Images Festival 2018

Main floor – We are so proud and excited to exhibit for the first time “Inner Child” sculptures created by our Making Way group.  These sculptures are in two parts; ‘parent and child’ and took the best part of 4 months to complete. This was a particularly beautiful project where we explored being kinder to ourselves and to stand up to those negative voices in our minds.

Main floor – by popular demand we are exhibiting ‘Spiralling’ again, a magical installation created collaboratively by members of Arty-Folks’ young adults group.

1st floor – Paintings by members of all four groups that Arty-Folks runs weekly. These landscapes are inspired by Aboriginal paintings and map out personal places of importance and that help us grounding.

Positive Images Festival is in its 24th year and runs Saturday 16th June – 7th July.
You can pick up a copy of the programme at Coventry Central Library



Spiralling Willow Workshop Saturday 19th May 2018

Saturday 19th of May           Free Workshop 11am-1pm
Central Library main floor.  Learn to make a willow spiral basket

Originally ‘Basket Case’ referred to WWI soldiers who had lost arms and legs and had to be carried in baskets by others.   Later, and until the 1960’s, ‘Basket Case’ referred to the mentally ill at Insane Asylums who wove baskets as part of their ‘therapy’ and to do something ‘useful’.  To suffer a mental illness is still seen as a mark of disgrace today even though many recover fully, or learn to manage their condition especially if they get help early on.

15 Minutes is how long it will take you to make a small spiral willow basket
on Saturday 19th of May 11am-1pm.

Join us and together let’s challenge the stigma that still surrounds mental illness today.
Work with Arty-Folks towards a world where people are able to have everyday conversations about mental well-being within families and across the wider community.

MHAW pic

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