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Suffolk artists paint a picture of mental illness to tackle stigma

PUBLISHED: 15:28 14 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:34 14 May 2018

Julie Flatman (MSDC), Tony Goldson (SCC), Arthur Charvonia and Sue Cook with volunteers who were involved with the display. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Julie Flatman (MSDC), Tony Goldson (SCC), Arthur Charvonia and Sue Cook with volunteers who were involved with the display. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Suffolk County Council

A number of artists from across Suffolk have illustrated their experiences of emotional trauma as part of an exhibition designed to put a spotlight on mental ill health.

Charlotte Kearsley with her artwork, which is featured in the exhibition.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNCharlotte Kearsley with her artwork, which is featured in the exhibition. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Yellow Lemon Tree Project, made up of artists from the community along with Suffolk County Council (SCC) staff members, are showcasing their work in Ipswich’s Endeavour House in aid of Mental Health Awareness Week – which is running from May 14 until May 20. The exhibition, called ‘Out of My Mind’, is hosted by Suffolk County Council, and Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils.

One artist, Charlotte Kearsley, created a sculpture of a lion to represent the bravery shown by both those who suffer from mental health conditions, and those who care for them.

She said: “Being a huge Harry Potter fan, it’s designed to represent the lion of Gryffindor, which is one of the houses in Harry Potter that represents bravery.

“I think that handling mental health requires a lot of bravery on behalf of the people who suffer from it, and also the people who care for [them].

“So it’s about representing that struggle – fighting back, and also knowing that you have to value that process of dealing with it.”

She added: “People are coming here to stand up and say: ‘Yes I’ve cared for somebody with mental health issues, or I’ve had mental health issues, and here is the creative output that I’ve produced in response to this.’ That’s something that’s really encouraging and it shows the positive side of mental health as well.

“It’s absolutely inspiring. I think the quality of work here is very strong. It’s just a really positive event.”

Catherine Farr, EDS team leader for SCC, said: “The aim of the art exhibition is to start conversations around mental health.

Delly Newson next to her artwork, which is featured in the exhibition.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNDelly Newson next to her artwork, which is featured in the exhibition. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“The artists were given a brief – it was to be a snapshot into their mental health, so when they were suffering a period of depression or anxiety it was an image of what was going on inside their head at that time. It was an expression of how they were feeling.

“It was really powerful – some of the art. Some of the imagery that people have and the distress that they feel at certain times of their life is quite difficult to look at – but that makes it more powerful and makes the conversations more important because they can talk about these things, rather than them not being able to express themselves.

“As an organisation, and as people and individuals, we do find it very difficult to talk about mental health. It’s one of those difficult subjects to broach. We don’t know how to approach people about it, we don’t want to upset or offend anybody, so having the art here – having a bridge to enable those conversations to take place, was really important.”

The event was opened this morning by Sue Cook, SCC executive officer, and Tony Goldson, SCC cabinet member for health.

Stuart Peacock with his poetry, which is featured in the exhibition.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNStuart Peacock with his poetry, which is featured in the exhibition. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Mr Goldson said: “Mental ill health is one of the primary causes of sickness absence to Suffolk organisations in every sector. This is why it is so important for people to make time to consider their mental wellbeing.”

Julie Flatman, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for communities, added: “Even though the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming, there are people struggling to cope with daily life. Everyone deserves the support they need, and today is a chance to take the first step and start talking about it.”

Local schools have also contributed art work for the exhibition – which will be on display for the rest of the week.

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