Art and creativity for the mind #FindYourStrength

Arts coordinator, Joanne Burke spoke to SOS about ‘Heads and Tales mental health heritage’ and the work they do for vulnerable people in Ouseburn, Newcastle.

Chilli Studios, a mental health art studio and charity in Ouseburn, support mental health by focusing on improving the mind through creative art projects. They offer a social and inclusive space and have 700 members of which 180 people visit on a regular basis. Members join in various activities such as: creative writing, choir, music jam sessions, poetry, ceramics, painting and animation.

Arts coordinator, Joanne, believes that unlike other services, this project connects on a more specific, individual level rather than looking at a persons clinical diagnosis. The charity provides safety and support and offers alternative services that are often lacking within the NHS.

Members at Chilli Studios | Photo credit: Joanne Burke

Currently, the charity regularly receives a national lottery community fund and other grants but they still struggle to survive. The charity have recently had to rebrand and make their mission statement more coherent in order to continue receiving funding.

Joanne believes that current mental health care is ‘under resourced’, due to decisions made by central government and states:

“There is more pressure and cuts to services in the health system. As arts coordinator, I have found that there is too much emphasis on crisis point intervention. Services are waiting until people are suicidal and are not being reactive in order to support people at earlier opportunities.”

Chilli Studios tries to give support to members whenever it is needed. Joanne told SOS that they support financial and welfare appeals, as members have waited over 18 months for support and diagnosis. Chilli Studios, although predominately an Art service, has had to develop their service in order to deal with the rising pressures of today’s society.

The charity focuses on vulnerable adults on a referral or self-refer basis who have mental health issues, such as: depression, schizophrenia and substance abuse.

“A mental health diagnosis can be useful, however many feel confined and stigmatised by being labelled.”

Joanne Burke, arts coordinator for Heads and Tales.
Heads and Tales offer a range of activities for members | Photo credit: Joanne Burke

Chilli Studios members and session artists have also been involved in a new alternative tabloid paper called “The Eclipse” created by We Are Our Media collective.

Joanne stresses that a lived experience rather than a clinical portrayal of mental health is more important and believes there is a lack of real stories being talked about in today’s society.

Joanne adds:

“Campaigns are helping to identify the damaging effects of work place stress. Our members think that cultural stigma is still common and believe that ‘unusual’ behaviours associated with mental health conditions is also stigmatised.

“This art studio focuses on ‘developing the self’. Without this, there can be a lack of ownership and self-esteem. We believe acceptance is key in finding one’s own mental health journey.”

Joanne Burke.
Members enjoy creative art projects on a regular basis | Photo credit: Joanne Burke

Pete, a frequent member of Heads and Tales told SOS:

“After losing my mother and sister in the same year, Heads and Tales helped me to find my passion for art and painting.

“I describe this charity as a human bamboo – you can hear and see us grow every single day. I see Heads and Tales as an extension of my flat; it teaches you things that you can’t learn from life outside of your own front door.

“Heads and Tales enables you to become comfortable in your own skin, which is so hard to do for many people.”

Pete, a frequent member of Heads and Tales mental health heritage.

You can hear more from Joanne and Pete on SOS’ Soundcloud page:

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