My biggest passion is to give people as many options as possible when faced with mental health challenges whether they are the carer, relative, friend or patient. The ‘Yellow Book’ succeeded in reaching so many people in very differing ways so I am very happy to be running ‘rethinkyourmind’ again. I felt very privileged to receive the Laing & Buisson Independent Specialist Care Award for ‘Service Excellence’ in 2013 for the work with this project.
Music plays a huge part in my life as a musician, songwriter and lead singer of ‘Refuge’ – an acoustic band made up of 3 members: myself, Sam Munton on bass and Phil Seaman on lead guitar. The latest album ‘Moving Inwards’ and new single ‘Reflections’ were played by BBC Introducing and we have had positive feedback from the Head of Music at BBC Radio Two. Although I am the only one with mental health challenges, my fellow band members have always been supportive of the projects we have created around well-being.
During my early 20’s I had a number of admissions into hospital before being diagnosed with bipolar. When I came out of hospital, support around finding work felt very limited with a few voluntary placements or a massive leap back into the workplace. Fortunately, I was introduced to SISO, an organisation that provides another option by offering a support setup with regular therapist meetings. All their work is around wellbeing which empowers its Development Workers to take control of their own recovery. I was given a job, a laptop a phone and a small wage but most importantly a purpose and an opportunity to feel safe and supported. I felt empowered to take control of my own life and move forward to help others by creating projects around mental health:
Allowed a Voice (2010): a ‘Refuge’ album that incorporated music & poetry by SISO members to raise awareness of mental health challenges, featured on ITV News. Support signposting was included in the album sleeve.
Open Minds (2011): National competition that involved mental health charities & 11 NHS Trusts. We produced an EP for download from submitted art & poems, selected by artists including: Jean Binta Breeze MBE.
‘rethinkyourmind’ & the ‘Yellow Book’ (2012): a national competition, partnered by mental health charities & 38 NHS Trusts, inviting entries of art & poetry inspired by the sentence: ‘With good mental health I have..’ We assembled 2 assessor panels; developed an online resource, released a downloadable single selected from entries & designed a book with 8,800 free copies distributed nationally. The Project was endorsed by, amongst others, Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, The Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, NHS Confederation & tweets from Stephen Fry.
These projects were nominated for 4 national Laing & Buisson Independent Specialist Care Awards: ‘Personality of the Year’ (2011) ‘Innovation’ (2012 & 2013), ‘Outstanding Contribution’ (2013) Winning ‘Service Excellence’ (2013)
‘Refuge’ is currently working as ‘Moving InWards’ which had been funded by the Arts Council England and supported by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. Our aim is to make music an everyday feature on mental health hospital wards. We have created music workshops and taken these on the wards, feedback has been very positive. Through this project we were mentored on our music by Mark Morriss, former lead singer of The Bluetones and Gaz Birtles, formerly of The Beautiful South. The project culminted in 2015 with the release of an album, all proceeds from this are used towards the continuation of the project beyond its current funding.
2015 proved to be a year of positive change for me and I am very happy to be moving on independently with joint ownership of: Develop-Insite CIC. This means that I will be involved in the continued growth and development of all these projects and the facilitation of many more. I extend my deepest gratitude to my family, friends and colleagues that have supported me in my role and on my journey.
Thank you for being a part of this project and for your interest & support.
“Music produce a kind of pleasure that human nature cannot do without” – Confucius