Creativity Helping Mental Health in Oxfordshire

The annual client-led event within the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership (OMHP) is a chance for clients to showcase their creative talents, skills, and journeys, whilst also breaking down the stigma around mental health. It was not possible to hold the event at a local venue this year due to COVID-19, but that did not stop them from displaying their creative work and sharing their journeys with each other.

As before, clients took the lead in the direction the project went in. For the first time the planning meetings were held via Zoom. How to share their creative work in this virtual COVID world? They decided on a booklet to ‘exhibit’ their artwork, using seasons as the theme. My Life Fest booklet was born and is a virtual art exhibition. Each client has their work represented and an opportunity to share their story in how their art has helped their wellbeing.

My Life Fest booklet

The partner organisation facilitating this year is Connection Support, Cate de Buriatte from their Mental Health Support team, said: “The service users steered the theme and agreed on using seasonal illustrations to accompany their creative works from all genres – writing, photography, painting, poetry, craft and music. A perfect way to tie into the general brief of seasons.”

Susie Royse, who took part in My Life Fest, said: “I heard about My Life Fest during the wellbeing sessions and mentioned that writing poetry can help me calm my mind.  I was asked if I would be interested in putting my poems forward for the booklet.  I said yes and then got a bit more involved in the creation process. It is so inspiring seeing the things that other people have produced.  I’m honoured to be a part of it and hope that others find it as great as I have.”

My Life Fest Live

The OMHP clients wanted to have some form of ‘event’ to celebrate and share their creative work. They were enjoying seeing each other in the planning meetings over Zoom. Cate explained: “The clients decided on a Zoom live event which we recorded so others struggling with their mental health or considering using creativity can hopefully be inspired.”

Watch the recording of My Life Fest Live. There’s depth to each client’s story behind the artwork and their mental health journey.

Tanveer shared her experiences of how art supports her mental health: “Whatever emotion I am feeling at the time I start my art, I finish feeling very calm and rested. I sometimes find that the colours I choose echo my state of mind and what’s so exciting is that every piece of work is unique and can be added to and improved. I’ve learnt that there is no right or wrong way to create. It’s a release and inspiring. There is no need for perfection, it’s ‘Perfectly Imperfect’.

She expressed her thanks to the team working behind the scenes: “Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to My Life Fest and for all the hard work, enthusiasm and support provided by Cate, Emmy and Rachel at Connection Support. It was a real achievement. I think we were all a great team! I look forward to the next one!”

Good mental health is more important than ever, given the current climate. The clients hope that this year’s My Life Fest gives you the inspiration to investigate your creative side with the aim to help your wellbeing. So, pick up that pen, paintbrush, or camera!

In My Life Fest style, Susie has written a poem to celebrate this client-led event –

Just One Step

Your mind is chaotic,
Your life is a mess.
You couldn’t feel worse
Or more useless.

Take my advice
It’s one little step
To artistic outlets
To bring back your pep!

Be it painting or photos,
Poems or prose,
Modelling or sketching,
Describing a rose!

Your thoughts become ordered.
Your spirits will lift
By giving yourself and
Others this gift

Cate concluded, “so beautifully said, Susie. Thank you to everyone who helped organise My Life Fest and for sharing your stories and gifts with us. You have pulled together and demonstrated great teamwork – even in the strangest of times.