BIRD.org.uk: Helping young people shine their brilliance and grow their resilience.

 

chrome ball sculpture covered in yarn bombed flowers and nets.

Yarn-bombed sculpture at Newcastle, County Down. Photo my own.

Creative Mental Health

As you all know I am passionate about the power of creativity, especially music, to boost mental health and grow self esteem. So I’m doubly delighted today because, via Twitter, BIRD has appeared on my horizon.

The organisation BIRD is the brainchild of Founding Director Neil Phillimore who has brought together a unique group of creative activists who nurture young people struggling with various life issues and stresses. BIRD’s mentors take them through a process of self expression using various media, especially music, song, drama and creative writing.

The power of arts and social support for mental health is well documented, as I have found in my own research and gleaned from many others’ studies. BIRD’s work is active proof that boosts what seems to me to be an emerging sense of self-affirmation, recovery and growth for otherwise vulnerable and at risk youth. Perhaps the word I’m looking for is empowerment though I feel there’s a lot more to it- as they say so much better themselves with their name BIRD, Brilliance, Integrity, Relationship and Delight.

With schools forced to cut arts budgets and society offering little in the way of free community provision for young people to find support and encouragement, this fantastic project deserves recognition for their service to the 16-25 age group, so many of whom are overwhelmed and underserved.

A Beacon of Inspiration

I believe also that BIRD is a beacon of light in terms of what can be done in creative mental health support. They need support for their current crowdfunding appeal so they can upgrade their resources and continue their work. This project could also be a workable model for further and more widespread initiatives and is certainly one I am keeping my eye on for future inspiration.

Good luck to all you folks at BIRD and keep up the great work 🙂

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From Belfast to Paris: A Gesture of Empathy and Solidarity

image of guitarist band member onstage wearing a tshirt with PARIS on it and a black armband

Stiff Little Fingers guitarist Ian McCallum performs at the Back of the Mill venue in Paris, as the band opted to continue with the gig as planned following the terrorist attacks on Friday evening. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. The veteran Northern Irish punk band defied safety concerns to perform in trouble-hit Paris, telling the crowd: “The world has their hearts with you.” See PA story POLICE Paris SLF. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Read the full article here:

Belfast Band ‘Stiff Little Fingers’ first to play Paris post-massacre, in a gesture of empathy and solidarity.

[citation: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/paris-attacks-belfast-band-stiff-little-fingers-defy-safety-concerns-to-play-paris-gig-34211070.html ]

There were numerous reasons for this Belfast band to defy fear in order to honour their booking in the Paris venue yesterday. Mainly, though, it was through deeply experienced empathy, the band members having grown up during the worst years of the North’s troubles in the 1970s, when few music acts (with the exception of ‘The Clash’ and ‘The Bay City Rollers’) ventured into this neck of the woods.

It was a pity, since like young people everywhere, we were obsessed with music and bands; they are part of a rite of passage. All of which makes the recent Paris tragedy more poignant given the young age of many of the victims. Reaching out and expressing solidarity is perhaps the most admirable of human traits and like all human communication is often manifest in symbolic and archetypal language and action. Music and performance in all its guises provide comfort, empathy, outlets for emotion, opportunities for interaction and identification and can facilitate healing of all kinds of ills, especially grief.

Most people I know are struggling to hold back tears when we hear and read the news reports of the happenings of Friday last. While there are certainly numerous pockets of human suffering across the globe over which we all grieve, Paris has caught us particularly badly because, I feel, of the seeming randomness of it and the exuberant youth who were wiped out or injured at the concert along with all the others relaxing in Paris’s renowned café culture.

We need to believe that peace is possible. ‘You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.’

How we can improve the mental wellbeing of young people

Anj Handa at Anj Handa Associates writes about the need to improve on the mental wellbeing of young people. I couldn’t agree more and would add a few points: I worry though that society is focusing too much on diagnosing and medicating young people and not enough on dealing with the social conditions that could have an impact on growing the positive mental health of citizens. Very interested in positive mental health promotion, especially for young people and I believe it to be bound up with strong self-esteem and a vibrant society full of opportunities for people of all abilities.

Anj Handa

Image

A shocking report published recently by The Prince’s Trust revealed that one in five young people is suffering from mental health issues. Tragically, it also highlighted that long-term unemployed 16 to 25-year-olds are twice as likely as their peers to have be on anti-depressants and believe they have nothing to live for. This number equates to around three quarters of young people.

Now, leading Mental Health charities, such as Rethink Mental Illness, the Mental Health Foundation and Sane have joined the debate, saying that not enough is being done on mental health for young people and that lives are being put at risk. They have called for more training for teachers and GPs and for awareness to be raised among parents and teenagers to be able to spot the signs.

Personally, I feel that awareness-raising is crucial, but that we also need to equip young people with the tools to…

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Professor Dinesh Bhugra on refreshing psychiatry

tag cloud, multicoloured words relating to psychiatry, like mental health, treatment and medical.

Psychiatry’s New Era

With admirable clarity and much insight on cultural and social factors in mental health and wellbeing, Professor Dinesh Bhugra is due to take up the Presidency of the World Psychiatric Association.

Symptoms are not the essential focus, rather ‘social functioning’ is key, argues Professor Dinesh in a recent Guardian feature interview by Patrick Strudwick. Click the link to read the full article in the Guardian

and for Professor Bughra’s site,

Professor Dinesh Bhugra.

 

Psychiatry needs Social Anthropology and Sociology

With a polymathic background in not only medicine but in sociology and social anthropology as well, Professor Dinesh heralds in a much needed new era in approaches to mental health across the globe. Not only do patients and citizens need this, psychiatrists and allied professions do too – according to Professor Bughra, morale is at an all time low and much needed services such as day centres and rehabilitation models are currently under erosion.

I am in total agreement with this new approach and hope it will materialise in not only improved services, but services that take account of service users’ views and those of many people who have incorporated what might be termed ‘psychiatric symptoms’ into a creative way of being human – as well as finding ways to improve and boost their own mental health and wellbeing with positive psychology, creative and meaningful activities and various forms of social support. One very uplifting and encouraging story is told by Eleanor Longden, who discovered that many people are voice hearers and that the voices are often attempts to heal, emerging from the inner world (as R. D. Laing and Carl Jung also intuited in days gone by).

While some might argue that psychiatry should drop the  diagnostic ‘labelling’ altogether and that medication should have no place in mental health support, others see the changes required as a more expanded repertoire within the mental health professions,  to include mindfulness, meditation, diet, various healthful activities and especially some form of regular, meaningful occupation. For more detail on these themes see a recent post on Ruby Wax’s book, Sane New World and some recent scholarly work by Joanna Moncrieff, The Bitterest Pills and Rapley et al De-Medicalising Misery.  My own book based on service user perspectives is due out in April 2014, Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health.

I wish you all good mental health and welcome comments, views and suggestions for helpful sites and other media.

Psychiatry tag cloud Image citation and source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Psychiatry_tag_cloud.svg

Michael Ehrhardt

Permanenter Ausstellungsraum

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