Supported compassion…….

One of the biggest strengths of S2C, I always feel, is that there is a real community within those that attend. Well maybe community is not strong enough, some have called it the S2C “Family”. That comes from the knowledge that everyone is the same at S2C regardless of what role they play or the problems they have. It also comes from the knowledge that when you do have a problem there are those around you who will support you and try to help you.

The thing you need to be aware of is to avoid it becoming a closed community. New people should always feel welcome into it and not feel excluded because of the simple fact of unfamiliarity. A big part of this too is trust. It takes time to trust when you are fragile, as many of those are who attend S2C. Clearly there are roles and there are those who need to make decisions and take responsibility but even though they have that role that does not mean they need to be in any way less supportive or part of the family.

Working together as equals is important to the aim of rebuilding the confidence of those who attend. Not just the vulnerable service users recovering from issues, but also the volunteers who deal with all sorts of problems and issues in supporting those service users. In order for an organisation to create the feeling that everyone is valued and supported everyone is treated equally and everyone should know that when they need it the team is behind them.

When you know you have that support and community with you then as a service user you can begin to build your recovery and as a volunteer you can build your confidence and skills. The result is that everyone grows together, at different speeds, at different rate and in different directions but the net gains are everyone’s.

We face things together and move things forward together.

It’s a shame that more of the world we live in does not work this way, it could only be a better place for it.

 

Some of the artwork from our community this week:

Treasured Volunteers….Wanted Treasurer!

Not a normal post today. S2C is short of volunteers in certain key areas so over the coming weeks we will be advertising those roles. S2C started off very small and has been steadily growing over the last five years in what it does and the number of people it helps. We are now at that stage where growing more may well include some volunteer roles in the near future becoming paid roles as we source funding and develop our practice. So here we go with a really important position, that of Treasurer.

We are looking for a suitably experienced individual to join our Trustees as Treasurer. This role comes with some challenges as we look to develop. We would like the new Treasurer to help develop our accounting. Our banking and financial procedures need to be developed to take account of online access, credit card use, online shopping and sales, generation of accounts through appropriate software, invoicing, use of electronic payment such as Paypal.

The Treasurer will also take a hand in helping budget to ensure appropriate use of funds and look to help raise funds through grants, events and sponsorship with various funders and business partners.

In terms of the individual themselves we feel that it is very important they understand the ethos and ways S2C runs a Service User led organisation. We would like them to be part of the community at S2C and be willing to engage with our Service Users and groups from time to time. They should be suitably qualified and experienced to undertake the Treasurer role and be able to demonstrate some experience or appreciation of mental health. Experience of working with third sector organisations also useful.

As this is such an important role for us we are going to treat it more formally  and ask those interested to apply by sending a CV with contact details for two references by email to mat@space2create.co.uk or by post to Mat Butler, Space2Create, Unit 31, The Factory, Aynam Road, Kendal, LA9 7DE by end of Friday 20th February.

I will be putting out details of a number of roles for volunteers in the coming weeks and updating the volunteer section on our web page to reflect this. S2C is looking to greatly expand its activity to support as many vulnerable people in our unique way as we can. We know it helps from our own experience and from those with us. The last year has shown an increasing and varied need in our local community and many opportunities to make their lives better through collaboration and creative partnerships. In a world where our government and is withdrawing from it’s social responsibilities and passing them on to those seeking profit from misfortune we need to do more for our communities in our communities.

This weeks art highlights

The difficulty of taking that risk…………..

I think one of the biggest difficulties in life we all face is taking that first step into something new. In a New Year I can perfectly understand that people look ahead with anxiety given the difficult conditions that exist at the moment in terms of healthcare, economic and employment opportunities. Imagine then how those anxieties are for a person with a mental health condition.

As I often do I draw on my own experience and the experience of working and being with people going through a mental illness. I think back to the first day I attended the mental Health Charity Workbase (Now sadly closed). During my illness I had started painting and here was a place with a supportive team helping people get back into a social and working environment. So on my first day I arrived in a hoody, hood up, sat in a corner ignoring everyone and not speaking with head down working on a painting I had brought. The fact that I was there at all was a major achievement and took a lot of coaxing from my CPN at the time.

So I was reminded of this in the last few days with a flurry of enquiries from people being brave enough to make that initial contact by email to ask if they would be able to come or being anxious about taking that first step. I hope that Space2Create offers as non threatening an experience for the first time attendee as possible but it had me thinking what was it actually like?

So having established that it is a place they might want to come they then have to get to us. Quite a daunting prospect. If you have a social worker or CPN to support you in that initial visit then great it helps. Maybe a friend come along for the first session. It is hugely daunting though by yourself, to find the building, to walk through the door, to ask. Then to suddenly find yourself in the middle of a strange group of people doing some crazy art thing that they all seem to understand but maybe you don’t with your anxiety blocking your ability to participate and communicate well.

So we have thought on this and looked at how we can make it easier. We try to anyway. We try not to overface people, keep that first contact as simple and easy going as possible. Avoiding loads of facts and rules and names and forms and all the other things newness implies. It is an area we need to look at carefully I think because that first contact can be the difference between somebody getting help and improving their life or disappearing again into isolation.

Please don’t be afraid to come to S2C under any circumstances. Everybody is welcome regardless of their condition, age, gender, ethnicity or any classification society wishes to impose. You are, to us, simply somebody who needs us.

 

Some of the artwork this last week.

New Year Necessities…….

Another year draws to a close. As usual at S2C we have seen new faces appear needing our help or offering support, old ones continuing or moving on to better things. There are also those we have tragically lost through illness during which we had the privilege of supporting them. I always take time to think back over the year, both at Space2Create and it’s people and also at the wider community.

I think that this last year has seen two main sweeps in our society. Firstly the polarizing of views on a number of issues that has opened up deep wounds of  culture, race and equality. The freedom now felt by some to express their prejudice against minorities or differences they perceive as a threat through increased verbal and sadly physical violence. The degrading of our society eroding core values which has left many struggling to make ends meet or afford the basic needs to support their families. This has been counterbalanced, locally at least, by a counter move to make social responsibility a shared responsibility of the whole community where those who can support those less fortunate. It should not have to be like this, the state should take that responsibility but it gives hope that some are not willing to sit by and watch people in their community go homeless or hungry or have no support for their illness or be isolated.

So what is S2C looking to in the coming year. We have been slowly getting bigger and doing more each year so there is no reason to suppose that would change. I think the coming year is a very important one for us. We need to ensure we get maximum value from the space we have and the funding we get. We need to explore how we can support a wider range of society either by the sessions we run or by making closer and beneficial links with other groups. We also look to the space we have and opportunities to improve on that space either through development, expansion or even new premises. We also look to our provision of support and our personnel. We need to get the right people on board to help our service users the best we can and make sure that all is delivered very professionally to a high standard. Having said that we also need to keep that close community we have created where everyone at Space2Create has ownership and input into the organisation.

We only ever have one real thought and that is to support the vulnerable people we have who are part of our small community at S2C and spreading that out into the wider community.

On behalf of all who are part of S2C we wish everyone a better, more tolerant, supportive, caring and peaceful 2018.

 

Dickensian Christmas in all the wrong ways………

I am a great fan of Dickens. If you have never read one of his novels then I suggest you do. It might just open your eyes. If you look past the comedic larger than life characters and note the detail of life in Victorian England, not to mention the sometimes heartbreak stories that thread their way through each novel, then you might just begin to look around nervously.

Not all his stories have happy endings. In the grim reality of Victorian Life, abject poverty, high infant mortality and child poverty, a broken and over crowded prison service, limited access to health care, poor living conditions, a vast gap between the poor and rich, a ruling elite blind to the needs of the poor, no social care, then you might read his novels with an air of deja vu.

Dickens was one of those great illuminators and communicators, throwing light into the dark places and telling it to the world in a manner which the masses read and discovered. Oh we could so do with a Dickens for our modern times. But all we have is the Penny Dreadfuls of sensationalist news telling us how great the Empire will be again……for those who can pay.

One of those in charge, member of our government representing the people and with responsibility for their and their countries wellbeing reportedly said that the less well off should work harder like they did. In equality gives those in power the luxury of believing they are right.

This week I have witnessed the doctors and nurses in a local A&E working damned hard. With a corridor full of trolleys with ill people lined up its entire length waiting to be seen. I witnessed individuals with debilitating mental health problems fighting to get out and cope with life. I have witnessed the people on the streets with nowhere to go and no food. I have witnessed families relying on food banks to put food on the table. I have witnessed people holding down three jobs to keep their families with the basic needs. I have witnessed people being scared to walk the streets because ignorance about their ethnicity brings.

At some point in my life I reached the conclusion that stuff is all very well. The most important thing in all our lives are the people around us. If we can’t treat them with respect, have our basic needs met and care for them regardless of who or what or where, then I think maybe this country needs a Dickensian reality check.

 

Artwork of the week:

Aspirational failure and a perfect storm……

I came across a report  this week done by a number of organisations involved with children’s psychotherapy asking NHS staff involved in delivering children’s psychological services about the state of the services. The survey report that 84% responded that children needed to show more severe symptoms of illness in order to be seen than previously, that waiting times for treatment have increased, a third of children’s psychological services face downsizing or closure and three quarters responded there were not enough staff to meet demand.

This seems pretty standard now across the NHS so in itself not surprising. However this sits alongside the reporting of a rise in Children’s mental health issues. I find this extremely concerning. I think, from my own experience, that issues in childhood profoundly affect an individual into their adult life so if those issues are not effectively tackled early those problems are going to stack up in the future putting increased pressure on adult services which cannot cope with the current levels of mental health problems.

S2C, at the moment, works with over 18’s. We do what we do to support a whole range of individuals coping with their problems, a small cog in their support but one that helps. In the last 12 months on a number of occasions it has become clear to me that there is need for a service such as ours for the under 18’s. This comes from the direction of NHS services, family support services, schools, County Council Services all under pressure and reducing.

We seem to be now in a perfect storm. We are running an education system that, in my opinion, is racking up children’s mental health issues while at the same time running down the services to support children in crisis. Somewhere in the last twenty years we have gone from a system which encouraged children to achieve the best they could to one where they are told you are a failure if you don’t achieve A**. There is no room for elitism in education results. The plain truth is that there are always those who will not achieve the top grades. The pressure being applied to children to achieve those grades from a ridiculously young age is appalling.

More than ever young people are aware of the expectations of society. Along with pressure from education there is enormous pressure from social media and advertising to attain a certain look, lifestyle, career or fame where to not do so means you are a failure.

Maybe its time we had a think about what we are doing.

Some S2C artwork from this week:

The Season of good understanding…….

For many of the people who attend Space2Create the Christmas period is extremely tough. It brings with it a whole host of added pressure at a time in people lives when their ability to cope with such things is very low. In the current climate of poor support by the state it also means that more people and families will be getting more distressed as Christmas approaches than for a long while.

If you are coping with a long term illness, mental or physical, then the Christmas season can be very difficult. It’s the pressure of being more sociable, expectations of being with family or that you are happy (or should be). You should, apparently, be off to a Christmas party with your mates and off doing your Christmas shopping and above all the pressure of all that advertising with lots of happy people having a good time. This is so difficult for those who are struggling. It adds an extra burden of expectation on them and it can literally drive some into more despair.

So when you encounter somebody who doesn’t respond to your Christmas cheer maybe stop and think why. It often is not because they are miserable buggers. They may well be really struggling. Maybe just a smile is enough. Maybe they might want to chat and for you to listen. Things like that can, in some cases, make the difference between a person slipping quietly and unnoticed into suicide or having somebody listen enough for them to keep going. We make assumptions at Christmas.

The individual in desperate need of help can slip by unnoticed. The thing with Christmas is everything shuts down. Services get reduced and people who are vulnerable very easily slip through the underfunded system. It is not just health related. Of course there are increasing numbers of families struggling and those being driven onto the streets by housing, benefit and social care systems now designed to victimize the people it was supposed to help.

So please. over the festive season, think how you treat others. If everyone in a good position for Christmas can do one small kindness for someone who is not then the whole Christmas can be better for everyone. S2C is opening more this year over Christmas where in the past we have closed. It’s a little, means that people who are lonely or struggling can be with supportive and caring people for some of the time. Manna House always support the homeless amazingly at this time of year with the Winter Night Shelter and Christmas away days. The Kendal’s Peoples Volunteer Café are open and serving Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day this year. It is there for those who maybe can’t afford to have a special dinner or why not just go and support it even if you don’t. They need your support financially, in food donations, presents and just to be there for those who are less fortunate.

Make that extra Christmas present of time, money, donations or just empathy or listening. It will be the best Christmas present you give this year.

 

This weeks S2C artwork…..

The art of achieving something……

I often think that one of the reasons art works so well in helping people recover from illness is the way that it can replicate real life situations in a seemingly inconspicuous creative activity. Twice this week sessions at S2C have done this very clearly done this and it has been very interesting to observe how people have dealt with it and the real life skills it develops.

One of the things about mental health issues, or indeed many kinds of illness, is the way it drains your ability to cope with new situations or decision making. I can speak from experience when I refer to the fear and inability to function that literally feels like you are being boxed into an ever decreasing and limiting space. This is where you can end up spiralling inwards and becoming very isolated. Breaking out of this is very difficult and trying to do it in the “real world” can seem almost impossible.

That is where S2C and many services like it come into play. We can create an environment that feels non threatening, is supportive and welcome. Most importantly, a place where everyone is in the same boat and feeling in very similar ways to differing degrees. This means that we are all able to support each other. So, back to the art.

How is painting a picture like real life? Well it’s not but it does recreate some of the same feelings a person needs to deal with in order to get out of that downward spiral but in a microscopic way. For a start it may well be something new, a new technique, a new style and new ways of working.  Having a go at something new is a terrible ordeal for some people and these art new things are not threatening.  It’s safe because if it goes wrong the only issue is a messed up bit of paper.

In attempting this new thing, at S2C, you have others around you. Some of them will know how to do it and can help you, others are in the same boat as you and you can help each other. The point is though, that in taking these small risks you build up resilience and reduce that fear of failing, fear of the new. With others around you, you can take on new challenges. Over time this resilience builds and suddenly some of those things that felt big scary barriers in the real world are not quite so threatening and you can begin to face them.

We have amazing people at S2C. Some are amazing because of what they have been through and survived, some are amazing because they are surviving and some are amazing because they are willing to give their time and support others. achievements don’t need to be big. Getting up in the morning, getting outside, getting to S2C, joining in and having a go, creating something new and unique, smiling and laughing. These are all great achievements for some of the people the come to S2C.

Some of this weeks achievements…….

Stats, approval and a pre-announcement announcement……..

My mind has been on stats recently. We collect stats where we can because funders and those who monitor our activities are always wanting evidence. What we do is very hard to evidence because lets face it a lot of people we deal with are in very ill health. We are not the cure but we are part of it. In some cases the people we deal with have degenerative illness which means they are only going to get worse. We aim to make the time they are with us happy and a relief from that. How do you measure that. Anyway, we try as unobtrusively as possible. Some stats are great. I posted earlier last week how, in a moment of idleness, I calculated that 96% of all Fridays for the last eight years had  a WellArt session running. That’s both as S2C and at Workbase where we started WellArt many moons ago.

We ask people to drop a bead in one of three pots as they leave session at S2C. One says they feel the same, one says they feel worse, on says they feel better (their mood, not expecting to cure and diseases or illness). Very crude and simple but it works if people are honest. Overwhelmingly the response is that they feel better. It works out at something like 98.8% of responses over the year are that they feel happier, in a better mood or place and more positive on leaving S2C after a session than when they arrived.

What is interesting is that the stat is across the board as it were. Not just those attending sessions register their mood. We get professionals who are bringing their service users to our sessions who join in the session and end up leaving feeling better, more relaxed and in a better mood. Our volunteers get that too. If everyone involved is happy, in a good place and participating then everyone benefits.

Enough of statistics  I hear you cry, what about that pre-announcement announcement? Well just a small thing. From the very start we have asked for a £3 donation for attending a session. We have been chatting about changing this and so next week we will formally announce that from thereon in we will operate on a pay what you think/want/can basis. We feel we want to remove as many barriers as possible to people attending sessions and know that those who need to occupy their time and be in company in a safe and secure place cannot always afford it especially if they come to more than one session.

So from this week we will be asking people to pay what they can or what they think. They can consider their own situation and can think about the costs we incur in terms of resources, refreshments, running costs, how much they enjoyed the sessions. Whatever. So it’s not an issue. One day we may be in a position that everything is free but not there yet!

Some fab artwork from the last week:

 

Remembering………

As it is the 11th of November we of course turn our thoughts to those who have given their lives in conflicts across history and the world. From the World Wars to more recent conflicts fighting to preserve the security and principles we all hold dear and sometimes take for granted.

Being involved with mental health and the benefits of creativity I also look to those who have served in our armed forces who have struggled to integrate back into society. It is understandable that the traumas, stress and horrors they witness in active service stay with those when the move into life outside the arm forces. It must be a terribly difficult experience to go from being with comrades and friends in the close knit community of regiment and unit to then being alone with only yourself to rely on and cope with such traumatic illness as Post Traumatic Stress. We see reports of so many people from the armed forces ending up on the streets or in dire mental health need as they attempt to reintegrate with society. It is also notable that there is a long history of service personnel returning from conflict to little real support.

The number of times people recall grandfathers and fathers who served in the two World Wars recounting stories of their struggles which they tried to keep to themselves or away from their families.

Some clearly cope but others are left very isolated and vulnerable. As we celebrate the memory of those who have fallen, as we thank those who have served, let us also ensure that those same people are supported. Supported to deal with the traumas they may have witnessed. Supported to enter back into society and find meaningful and useful purpose. Supported to build and lead their lives without stigma and suspicion.

So maybe we should remember today. And also remember throughout the year as we help those from the services and all our society who are struggling with issues in their lives.

 

Some artwork from S2C people this week:

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