A charity which provides a place for people with Severe Mental Illness (SMI) to express themselves has won a big grant.
South East London Arts Network in Lewisham is just one of the many local groups that has stepped up to tackle mental health challenges in their community during the pandemic.
Arts Network is an arts and mental health charity that provides an inspirational and understanding environment for people with mental health support needs, and challenges the stigma of mental health.
It has been awarded £200,000 of National Lottery funding to run the Arts Network project, which provides a supportive, welcoming space for members to explore their creativity, develop confidence and build friendships.
The project is primarily aimed at people who have Severe Mental Illness, with all members being referred to the group through mental health providers.
Matthew Couper, development director at Arts Network, said: “This funding from The National Lottery Community Fund is essential, it has really allowed us to grow and develop as a charity.
“It was a very emotional moment when I got the call to say we’d got funding, it was a real moment of change for us and a real validation of our work.
“We are a non-clinical provision so when someone is here, they’re not a patient but a member and an artist, and that is so important to us.
“The last 18 months have been a real challenge for us all, but for people who are already trying to manage their mental ill-health, this has been a particularly challenging time.
“With support from our funders, we have managed to adapt our service to make sure our members still feel connected and know that we are there to offer support when needed.”
Kate (main picture) joined Arts Network as a member, later training as a facilitator, and now runs her own craft business.
She said: “Attending Arts Network has been life-changing and has led on to so many other opportunities, all coming back to this place I love.
“It would be amazing to see more people open to this kind of process. It shouldn’t just be prescribed to people experiencing mental ill-health.
It’s the kind of thing that can be as important as clinical interventions are to recovery.”
Jaydeane, an Arts Network member, said: “Arts Network has given me structure, and something to get up for – a sense of belonging and motivation to achieve something.”
Research carried out by mental health charity Mind earlier this year shows that 80 per cent of adults aged over 25 experienced mental distress during or before the Covid-19 pandemic, while as much as 88 per cent of young people experienced the same feelings.
To find out more visit www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk
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