1432283520 Together We Can News http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/ Together We Can News en info@togetherwecan.org.uk Copyright 2015 2015-05-22T08:32:00+00:00 Maudsley Showcase roundup http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/maudsley-showcase-roundup http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/maudsley-showcase-roundup#When:08:32:00Z On 12 May we proudly showcased eight other donation-funded projects in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week (11-17 May). It was held at the ORTUS Learning and Events Centre, which is a building funded by supporter donations.

In keeping with this year’s theme of ‘Mindfulness’ we based our showcase around the Wheel of Well-being project, which aims to improve personal well-being and mindfulness by dividing well-being into six areas. 

It advocates positive change in six key ways: Planet, People, Spirit, Place, Mind and Body. It's based on research that has provided evidence for how particular actions, activities and practices have the ability to improve mood, reduce the risk of depression, strengthen relationships, maintain overall health, and even increase life-expectancy.   

Using this wheel as a foundation for the day, we opened activities with a series of short talks by SLaM staff and representatives from the projects to demonstrate the essence of each segment of the wheel. 

Projects included:

Adamson Collection (Mind)

The Adamson Collection is a collection of art used for art therapy by British artist Edward Adamson, during his 35 years of working in a long-stay mental hospital. The Adamson Collection has recently been recognised as one of UK's most important collections of asylum art.

As well as aiding recovery, the collection also promotes the creativity of those living with mental health problems to the wider public - and challenges stigma in the process.

Angelus Foundation (Mind and Body)

The Angelus Foundation aims to educate, encourage and assist individuals in becoming more knowledgeable about the risks legal highs (harmful drugs that escape prohibition due to being research chemicals or used for purposes such as plant feed) pose to their health and well-being. Donations funded their ‘Why Not Find Out?’ campaign, which is a project aimed at creating awareness of new psychoactive substances and ultimately helping young people to stay safe.

Bethlem Fresh and Healthy Food Project (Planet)

With the tagline 'inspired by nature, harnessing her wealth, looking after ourselves, looking after the planet’, Bethlem Fresh and Healthy Food Project is an initiative that encourages service users to grow, pick and cook food produced in their walled kitchen, garden or orchard.

Museum of the Mind (Place)

With its distinctive art-deco staircase, the new gallery and learning spaces at Bethlem Royal Hospital secure its unique collections of archival material, historic objects and works of art for future generations. The collection offers a rich resource for study of the history of mental healthcare and treatment.

Recovery College (Mind)

The SLaM Recovery College offers a range of workshops and courses including aimed at helping people understand and live with anxiety. Every course and workshop on offer is co-developed and co-run by trainers who have experienced mental health difficulties themselves, working alongside trainers who are mental health professionals. It's a chance to learn together as well as share experience and knowledge.

Tree of Life (People)

The Tree of Life workshops are run for small groups of staff and in-patients at the Psychiatric Intensive Care Units at SLaM. They use narrative therapy to encourage participants to share and reflect. This involves talking about the positive aspects of their life through the metaphor of a tree to work through issues. The Tree of Life represents different aspects of a person’s life. 

We heard from Julie Fraser, Clinical Psychologist, and three service users: Ubong Akpan, Maggie Hayes, and Ursular Joy, who all talked about their personal trees.

Volunteering (Spirit)

SLaM’s volunteer programme encourages people to use their free time in an enjoyable and positive way. It's aimed at opening up new networks and career opportunities for volunteers, and also supporting service users with their own recovery by helping them gain new experience and increased confidence.

We heard from Alex, Georgios and Jackie, who told us what their experiences as volunteers meant to them. Alex is looking for more experience in the mental health field, Georgios is using volunteering to aid his recovery from anxiety, which was brought on by his busy marketing career, and Jackie is using it to help increase her confidence.

An evening of activities

Following the presentations, we held an interactive marketplace in the Connect room of the ORTUS, which was led by the Wheel of Well-being group. 

Guests were invited to take part in a game where they rolled a dice which sent them off on a journey around the Wheel to visit the different segments of positive change, each represented by a Maudsley Charity supported project.

Each stall included an interactive element. The Angelus Foundation had a boardgame that highlighted the pitfalls of legal highs, Bethlem Fresh and Healthy Food Project showcased their fresh produce,and the Tree of Life encouraged guests to join in with a group therapy session, and to create their own tree of life. 

On top of all this, Maintaining Health Partners held meditation and interactive therapy sessions in order to bring calm and mindfulness to the busy marketplace throughout the day.

Paul Mitchell, host of the event and Chief Executive of Maudsley Charity, said, 'It's always heartening to hear firsthand the added value that the charity can make.'

The work of these amazing projects would not be possible without your generosity and support. To find out more about how you can get involved, please contact supportslam@togetherwecan.org.uk or call 0207 848 4701.

Running the Bupa 10,000 for SLaM http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/running-the-bupa-10000-for-slam http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/running-the-bupa-10000-for-slam#When:15:21:00Z Alan Downey from London joined the board of South London and Maudsley as a non-executive director a year ago, around the time he retired from his career as a financial adviser. He is running the Bupa London 10,000 on bank holiday Monday 25 May to raise vital funds, as well as awareness about the local and national work SLaM provides in mental health.

‘Since joining the SLaM board I've been very impressed by the achievements of the Maudsley charity, including for example the building of the Learning Centre and the redevelopment of the Bethlem Gallery & Museum. I am also keen to do what I can to draw attention to the great work that SLaM does in the local community and nationally and the contribution that it makes, together with Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), to research and development in mental health.

I took part in the Bupa 10,000 in 2006 but I haven't taken part in any runs since then. My time back in 2006 was around 47 minutes and 50 seconds, and I'm aiming to beat that time if I can. I'd ideally like to finish in under 45 minutes, but I fear that may be over-optimistic.

I have been training once or twice a week in Richmond Park and along the Thames between Kew and Hammersmith.

I am looking forward to joining in with lots of other people in what I am sure will be a fun event.'

You can support Alan’s efforts by visiting his fundraising page.

Find out more about the events you can take part in to fundraise for SLaM, like Alan.

Francesca’s hope http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/francescas-hope http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/francescas-hope#When:08:20:00Z Kevin and Lesley Hicks have been fundraising in the most glamorous of ways to say thank you to South London and Maudsley for the ongoing treatment their daughter receives for anorexia.

Francesca's story

In June 2014, 14-year-old daughter Francesca - daughter of Kevin and Lesley Hicks - was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Following some frantic phone calls to their local Clinical Commissioning Group in Essex, she was referred to Maudsley Hospital.

Treatment for anorexia is a long and intense process. Francesca was immediately put on to an inpatient feeding programme. Since she didn’t stay overnight, she had to be driven to the Maudsley four days per week for treatment. The aim is to help the patient return to a healthier weight by encouraging them to stick to a strict eating regime, and slowly reducing time spent at the hospital each week with the longterm goal of reintegrating them back into their normal life. 

Other elements include the Intensive Treatment Programme (ITP) Step Down, which incorporates the gradual reintegration back into school, and Multi Family Therapy (MFT) which involves entire families attending group sessions to share experiences.

Francesca's mum Lesley, who is a nurse practitioner at a GP surgery, says that what she calls the ‘Maudsley approach’ has helped her understand how horrible it is to suffer from anorexia, and how to start looking forward to the future.

‘As a family, we sing from the same hymn sheet now because we’ve been really well-trained,’ she says. ‘The Maudsley offers support so that when our daughter finally gets discharged, we’ll have the tools to be able to continue to look after her, and hopefully help her beat this disease so she can grow into a healthy adult, without continuing to have bad feelings about eating or self-harm.’

An eye-opening experience

Although the whole experience has been very distressing for the family, they realise that they have actually been quite lucky in a number of ways.

‘We were in a really tough place,’ recalls Lesley. ‘We were going to the Maudsley every day for ten weeks, driving a round trip from Southend, which took three hours there and three hours back, to get Francesca refed. At the time, we were fortunate enough to be working, able to stick to the meal plan and put the petrol in the car - although it has cost us a lot of money - but some people can’t afford that, and desperately need help.’

It was this, along with their experience of the ‘fabulous’ staff at the Maudsley, that inspired them to fundraise for SLaM. Kevin’s son and daughter-in-law, Robbie and Amy, kick-started it all by running the Brighton Marathon - both achieving fantastic times and raising over £1,000 in the process. Then, together with the help of Kevin’s workplace, The Rendezvous Casino, in Southend, the family put on a Charity Gala Black Tie and Diamonds Dinner on Sunday 3 May, raising an incredible £17,900.

All the casino’s big players were invited personally by Kevin and supported SLaM by purchasing tickets for £50 each. Attendees were treated to a meal, as well as an auction and raffle which both consisted of huge prizes that had been donated by local, national and international businesses. There was also a charity carwash that took place the day before.

‘We’d like some of the funds raised to be used as a discretionary payment to somebody who hasn’t got the money to get their child to the hospital easily, or to stick to the meal plan for 10-12 weeks,’ says Lesley. ‘We want to be able to take that pressure off when they’re trying to cope with the diagnosis and support their child, while the situation is already really difficult.’

Family-focused treatment

After receiving Francesca’s diagnosis, Kevin struggled to come to terms with it and took time off work to deal with his own depression. Through going to family therapy - alongside the support he’s received from his colleagues - he says he’s gotten through the worst.

‘Having pretty much cracked up with the initial diagnosis, going through MFT before I went back to work enabled me to speak to everybody and be open about Francesca. I felt at ease talking about my daughter’s illness,' explains Kevin.

‘I’m looking forward to spending the evening with all these people who have supported me,' he said before the event. 'I’m going to stand up and make a speech to say thank you to everybody who’s there and for their kind donations.’

Francesca’s hope

Francesca is now in recovery, thanks to ongoing treatment from Maudsley Hospital and the support of her family and friends. In a brave move, having initially told her friends that she was off school due to glandular fever, she made a video confessing the real reason for her ongoing absence and posted it on Facebook.

‘It dawned on her that having been off for so long that the glandular fever excuse wasn’t ringing true, so she made the video,’ says Kevin. ‘A lot of people have said what a brave girl she is to be so honest and found inspiration from that; some have even been encouraged to speak up about their own mental health issues. It’s all been positive for her.’

You can donate to the Hicks’s fundraising page or follow their story on their Facebook page, ‘Francesca’s hope’.

There are lots of ways you can fundraise for SLaM like the Hicks family.


Angelus Foundation: tackling legal highs http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/angelus-foundation-tackling-legal-highs http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/angelus-foundation-tackling-legal-highs#When:13:57:00Z Image: Angelus at Brownstock Festival, Essex speaking to festival goers about legal drugs

The number of deaths linked to legal highs rose from 10 in 2009 to 68 in 2012, according to the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths, and drug misuse deaths also rose sharply last year. The Angelus Foundation, supported by Maudsley Charity, campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of these drugs.

Legal but still harmful

'Legal highs' are defined as experimental research chemicals, or ones sold as plant feed, which are available on the high street because they escape classification under the Misuse of Drugs Act. One popular such drug was mephedrone or 'meow-meow' which was successfully banned in 2010.

Just this month ministers announced that five legal highs - including one popular alternative to cocaine - have been banned. This news came based on recommendations from the government’s official drug advisers that these substances should face a temporary ban of 12 months while a full assessment of the harm they posed was undertaken.

This is a new strategy to deal with the fact that, under existing drug law, banning one substance only results in chemists tweaking the molecular compound slightly to produce a 'new' drug.

Bringing together expertise

The Angelus Foundation seeks to raise awareness in young people of the dangers of taking legal recreational drugs. These substances usually emerge as alternatives to illegal drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy but can be equally as harmful

It is comprised of a group of experts which make up the Angelus Advisory Board, who bring together their expertise from chemical, medical and behavioural sciences, and the areas of enforcement and misuse of substances.

It was founded in 2009 by Maryon Stewart, the health practitioner, author and broadcaster, as a result of personal tragedy. Her 21-year-old daughter, Hester, who was a medical student and athlete, passed away after consuming what was (at the time) a legal high called GBL in April 2009.

‘We’ve been very grateful for the support we’ve had from Maudsley,’ says Jeremy Sare, Director for Policy and Communications at Angelus Foundation. ‘It’s been absolutely critical to our campaign and pivotal in our ability to deliver to our target groups.’

Find out more about the Angelus Foundation and the funding it has received from Maudsley Charity.

Showcase of Mindfulness and Well-being http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/showcasing-the-projects-we-support http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/showcasing-the-projects-we-support#When:11:20:00Z Join us on Tuesday 12 May for a day showcasing the mental health projects we're able to support thanks to donations from people like you: Showcase of Mindfulness and Well-being.

There are so many amazing projects that Maudsley Charity is proud to support, made possible by the generosity of our donors. One of these is the Wheel of Well-being which aims to improve personal well-being and mindfulness through positive changes to six specific life elements (Body, Mind, Spirit, People, Place and Planet).

It is based on research that has shown us how certain actions, activities and practices can improve mood, reduce the risk of depression, strengthen relationships, keep us healthy and even add seven years to our lives.   

On Tuesday 12 May, we'll be showcasing Maudsley Charity-funded projects in an open marketplace event focused around the Wheel of Well-being’s six areas of positive change. The event takes place at the ORTUS in Camberwell from 10am - 3pm, and there's no need to book. Just pop along on the day and find out more about these projects!

The projects being showcased are:


  • Adamson Collection
  • Angelus Foundation
  • Bethlem Fresh and Healthy Food Project
  • Maintaining Health Partners
  • Museum of the Mind
  • Recovery College
  • Tree of Life
  • Volunteering

There will also be the opportunity to find out how you can get involved with fundraising for SLaM.

Find out more about these projects, or contact us at supportslam@togetherwecan.org.uk or 0207 848 7915 to find out more about the event.  We hope to see you there!

How to keep your brain amazing! http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/how-to-keep-your-brain-amazing http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/how-to-keep-your-brain-amazing#When:12:01:00Z A new programme to improve the emotional wellbeing and resilience of primary school children has been designed by psychologists and cognitive behavioural therapists at South London and Maudsley. CUES-Ed is taught in schools to help children recognise how they feel, think and behave, and to learn how to talk about this with others. It encourages them to recognise when things aren’t right – such as an increase in worrying or difficulties in friendship groups – and teaches them simple coping strategies to deal with these challenges.

Inspired by children

CUES-Ed was inspired by feedback from children experiencing mental health difficulties. The CAMHS team at SLaM (along with colleagues from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience) wanted to see if cognitive behavioural therapy could help children experiencing distressing and unusual experiences (such as hearing a voice that other people can’t hear). The therapy was designed to help children develop coping strategies that would reduce their distress and build their resilience.

Those who took part in the Coping with Unusual Experiences Study (CUES) found the therapy helpful, but felt that all children should be taught it at an earlier age. They also suggested that there is a silence around mental wellbeing and emotional vulnerability at school, and that there is still stigma surrounding mental health issues.

So the team decided to devise a programme that would educate children about maintaining their mental health and help build resilience from a young age. Its delivery has been designed as a whole class approach, with the aim of normalising discussions about mental health.

Fun and interactive sessions
drawings from programme

The 'Who I Am and What I Can: How to Keep Your Brain Amazing' package consists of six sessions run by SLaM psychologists and CBT therapists, with teachers actively involved in each session.

‘The six sessions are delivered to whole classes of 7 to 10-year-olds in an active and engaging way,’ explains Debbie Plant, Clinical Psychologist and team lead who also takes a lead on delivery of the sessions.

‘The cognitive behavioural therapy approach enables children to learn that their thoughts, feelings and behaviour are interconnected and that there are practical things they can do to manage life’s ups and downs, both at home and at school.’

The children are taught a range of cognitive and behavioural coping strategies like relaxation, problem solving and positive self-talk. The sessions are fun and interactive, making use of a variety of materials and media including animations, video clips, music, quizzes and fun hands-on activities.

The colourful branding has been made specifically with children in mind, with direction taken from kids who took part in the pilot programme.

‘The designs help the abstract ideas become more concrete and make learning more memorable.  The aim is to engage children in a positive, creative, fun manner whilst developing a strong understanding of mental health and wellbeing,’ says Karen Bracegirdle (CBT Therapist involved in the creation and development of CUES-Ed).

The children receive Ed’s Survival Pack (Ed is the mascot of the programme) to reinforce and encourage learning between the sessions, and teachers are encouraged to set the children home tasks so they can practice what they’ve learnt in their day-to-day lives.

An ongoing project

Since finishing a successful pilot study which had positive feedback, the team have worked with over 350 children across six schools in Southwark. There is great potential for the programme to benefit even more children from different age groups. The team are frequently asked by head teachers whether the package is available for both older and younger primary school children, and in future the team hope to expand and adapt the materials to meet local needs.

Help us continue our work supporting children, young people and adults with mental health issues. Please make a donation to SLaM today.

Spotlight on… Richard Corrigall http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/spotlight-on...-richard-corrigall http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/spotlight-on...-richard-corrigall#When:11:24:00Z Image: Richard with one of the paintings created by service users featured in the recent exhibition at the Long Gallery. 


This is the first in our series of staff profiles which will highlight some of the amazing people who work at South London and Maudsley. Richard Corrigall has worked in the Snowsfields Adolescent Unit since it opened in 1998 in its original location of Guy’s Hospital. Now located at Maudsley Hospital, the inpatient and day unit helps young people between the ages of 12 to 18 who have a serious mental illness, supporting them in their recovery and transition back to the community.

What is the name of your role?

Consultant Adolescent Psychiatrist.

Which part of South London and Maudsley do you work in?

Snowsfields Adolescent Unit, which is based in Mapother House at the Maudsley Hospital.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I do ward rounds for team-based care planning, and have face-to-face meetings with young people to catch up on their progress. We hold Care Programme Approach meetings to get young people, carers and professionals together and map out discharge plans. I help with the art therapy group on Thursdays. I also have lots of emails to respond to, unfortunately!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Helping a young person to recover from a major mental health crisis. Nothing feels more rewarding than seeing a teenager get back to the life that they want and deserve.

Which part of your job is most challenging?

I have to deal with a lot of form-filling and box-ticking, which I don’t really enjoy. 

What is your favourite thing about South London and Maudsley?

Working alongside top-quality clinicians and inspiring researchers.

What’s your proudest achievement in your career to date?

Starting up Snowsfields Adolescent Unit from scratch in 1998. We were the first adolescent psychiatric unit in the UK to make all of our beds available at all hours for emergency admissions.

What do you like to do outside of work in your free time?

Cycling and photography; I’m obsessed with both!

Name one thing that the service users might not know about you.

I suffered from a severe episode of depression, but made a good recovery.

If you could only take one thing to a desert island, what would it be?

An off-road bike to explore the island with.

Read about the Long Gallery at South London and Maudsley, which recently featured an exhibition by service users that was coordinated by Richard. If you were inspired by this story, perhaps you'd consider fundraising for SLaM

A new home for art and history at Bethlem Royal Hospital http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/a-new-home-for-art-and-history-at-bethlem-royal-hospital http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/a-new-home-for-art-and-history-at-bethlem-royal-hospital#When:16:22:00Z Thanks to the generosity of donors, an impressive historical archive and gallery have moved to a new space that will allow a much larger range of works to be displayed to the public for free. Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery, formerly housed in small, non-descript buildings, officially opened in the spacious deco administration building at Bethlem Royal Hospital on 19 February.

No longer a ‘hidden gem’

Bethlem Archives and Museum began in 1969 and has been managed by registered charity Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust since 1992. The museum houses over 1,000 fascinating artworks and historical artefacts relating to mental illness, and the archives hold the key to the hospital’s history in documents including staff records, correspondence, maps and photographs. 

Victoria Northwood, Head of Archives and Museum, explains why the move to the new building is so important.

‘The Archives and Museum at Bethlem have always been rather a ”hidden gem”, she says. ‘The move to new facilities will be transformative, enabling us to publicise our collections more widely and welcome an increased number of visitors.’

The museum will feature permanent and temporary exhibitions, events and a learning space that will be used to deliver an education programme and for SLaM’s Recovery College to run courses and talks on mental health and well-being. 

Illuminating artworks

Alongside artworks by contemporary services users, visitors can see pieces by former patients of Bethlem. These include works by Victorian painter Richard Dadd, famous for his depictions of fairies and the supernatural; drawings by 20th century artist Louis Wain that feature psychedelic depictions of cats (see painting below); and the intricate painting The Maze created by Canadian artist William Kurelek while he was a patient at the Maudsley in 1953. 

The art deco staircase in the administration building is now flanked by two of the museum’s most famous and striking pieces: the life-size statues of ‘Raving and Melancholy Madness’ that were displayed at the entrance to Bethlem Hospital (then known as Bedlam) from 1676 to 1815.

Bethlem Gallery will also be provided with a new gallery and studio space. Established in 1997, the gallery highlights the importance of art as therapy and features the work of SLaM service users. Both the museum and gallery have gained an international reputation for excellence in the field of arts in health.  Now, with the organisations under one roof, visitors will be able to experience artwork from the historic collection that spans centuries alongside that of current artists involved with SLaM’s services today. All this has been made possible thanks to generous donors.

Thank you to all our supporters

‘We’re thrilled to have opened this pioneering and unique space which brings together a rich collection of history and art,’ says Paul Mitchell, CEO of Maudsley Charity. ‘The museum and gallery project is a perfect example of how charitable donations can help to support and preserve our history and enable us to provide a space that is open and accessible to everyone. 

‘We work hard to break down barriers and challenge stigma in mental health and this project will enable us to work even closer with our local communities and the wider public. The project would not have been possible without the help of a number of large donors and we are especially grateful to South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund who made substantial donations on top of the investment made by the Maudsley Charity.’

Your support enables us to fund projects like this that help people with mental health issues and challenge stigma. Please make a donation today so we can continue our work.

Below: painting by Louis Wain from the collection

cat painting by Louis Wain

Thank you for your support http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/thank-you-for-your-support http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/thank-you-for-your-support#When:11:56:00Z Now the new year has begun, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on 2014 and everything you helped us achieve last year.

Our supporters did amazing things to fundraise for SLaM in 2014. There was an abseil down a 100ft building, a swim in the Thames, a miniature art exhibition, a pub quiz and our dedicated runners took part in the Bupa 10,000, Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon and Virgin Money London Marathon. We’re so grateful to all of our fundraisers, donors, volunteers and advocates who help us to make a difference to people with mental health issues.

Thanks to generous donations, these are some of the projects that have been funded this year:

  • A new Recovery College which provides a range of free educational courses and resources for people with experience of mental illness, from service users to their family, friends and staff, to improve understanding of mental health.
  • The Four in Ten peer support group which provides a safe place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with mental health problems can socialise, share experiences and support one another.
  • The SHARE Project which prepares people to speak about their mental health experiences in public, empowering them to help themselves and others.
  • CoolFruit, a digital magazine run by CoolTan Arts, that enables adults with mental health issues to express their creativity and learn new transferable skills.
  • The Dementia Monologues, a series of films about dementia that address some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the disease, as well as serve as an educational tool.

We couldn’t do it without you – thank you.

Let’s make 2015 even better. Why not take on a new challenge this year and raise money for SLaM?

​CoolFruit magazine: a channel for creativity http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/coolfruit-magazine-a-channel-for-creativity http://www.togetherwecan.org.uk/maudsley/news/coolfruit-magazine-a-channel-for-creativity#When:11:29:00Z The online publication CoolFruit is produced by Southwark-based arts and mental health charity CoolTan Arts, and is put together by a team of ten talented contributors. It features content from participants, volunteers and CoolTan staff, most of whom have long-term mental health needs.

Giving people a voice

The magazine provides adults with mental health issues a platform to express their creativity through writing, art and design, and is supported by generous donations.

‘CoolFruit gives people with mental health issues a voice; they need to be heard a lot more about what’s happening to them,’ says Annie Spinster, Coordinator of CoolFruit.

‘There’s an amazing amount of talent in the group and it’s lovely watching people’s skills develop and seeing how excited everybody is when their work is featured. Contributors feel proud to be able to show their family and friends what they’re doing and be treated seriously as artists.’

The fourth issue of the magazine is now available to read online. The December issue reflects the themes of the festive season together with items about important social issues. It features poetry, recipes and artwork, as well as articles on diverse subjects such as self-advocacy, Seasonal Affective Disorder and the history of the umbrella.

Building confidence

Working on the magazine provides contributors with an opportunity to improve their writing, research or design skills, as well as develop a portfolio of work for those who are preparing for college or employment.

‘It gives them confidence and they get to meet new people within a supportive environment,’ says Annie. ‘Our volunteers have told us that it’s a lot easier to share their experiences than it has been in other settings – and we’re good at going at people’s own paces.

‘Over half the volunteers who have worked on and since moved on from the project have actually gone on to work or college, so that is something we’re doing quite well.’
The online format with unrestricted space encourages a wide range of content, so CoolFruit run an open submissions policy for anyone within CoolTan Arts who wishes to participate.

Hattie is a volunteer at CoolTan Arts and has been working on the CoolFruit team as a writer since early 2014. She says there are a number of elements she enjoys, such as the supportive group environment.

‘It’s a good thing to have structure in my week and allows me to meet up with people that have a common goal: producing the magazine. I try and write about things that I wish I had known and would have found helpful. It feels like we’re doing something that not only helps us, but helps other people.’

Read the December issue of CoolFruit.

You can help support projects like this - make a donation to SLaM today.