Stockport is stamping out stigma in mental health

Last weekend, local mental health charity Beacon Counselling brought together residents from across the borough at their showcase of mental health and visual arts.

Stockport is stamping out stigma in mental health

Taking place at Stockport Central Library, Beacon held their first pop-up Exhibition, ‘Expressions’, which showcased an inspiring collection of visual reflections from the pandemic and how members of the community have been looking after their mental health since.

Attended by The Deputy Mayor of Stockport, Linda Holt, the event showcased visual art, poetry and photography from adults, young people and children within the community, welcomed from Beacon's latest campaigns, 'Stamp Out Stigma' and 'Community Champions'. Artists as young as 8 years old shared their inspirational journey with those in attendance.

Joanne Watson, who coordinated the event at Beacon, said: “It was important for us to showcase this work and get the voices of Stockport heard. There’s still a stigma to mental health and we want to challenge that. One of the young artists at the event, Ruby, sums the campaign up perfectly with the title of their work: ‘It’s OK not to be OK’.”

Prizes were also given out to the winners of the Stamp Out Stigma competition, a competition where under 18s created artistic responses to the question, ‘how do you look after your mental health and wellbeing?’.

In partnership with Stockport Council, the artwork of the first place winners has been developed into posters, directing young people to free mental health support available in Stockport. These posters will be shared with schools and available for any organization to order for free.

First place winner Cerys, age 14, showcased a piece, ‘Happy...on the outside’, which expresses the worries, stresses and sadness that can often be present behind a smile.

Cerys said: “I created this when I was in a very dark place in my life. I had a medical condition that was limiting my ability to do things that I loved and I needed an operation. After a year of waiting, I had my operation and I’m okay now, but art was definitely a way to express my emotions without directly telling someone (I don’t like talking to people).

“When I was at my lowest, I was invited to be part of Beacon Counselling’s art therapy on a Wednesday night. I really enjoyed it and met other people my age who had their own struggles. It helped to know I wasn’t alone. I don’t need to go to art therapy now as I know that if I’m having a bad day, I have the tools I need and can draw my feelings on paper.

“I want my experience to help others, and this led me to drawing this little cartoon character who I’ve named Fran. I hope to do several more drawings with messages for people to know to ask for help if they need it.”

Another artist, Jessie, showcased a piece that expressed losing yourself. Jessie said: “Trauma was already hard, the feeling of being constrained, losing your own control, trapped. But real life made it easier to remember you still had a life to live and you weren’t still existing in a memory. COVID took that away. Being stuck in the house, not being able to go outside, being controlled by rules you had to live by.

“My PTSD symptoms and flashbacks dramatically increased, I was completely stuck in the past traumatic memory and I had no way out. Any control I felt was completely gone, and I fell to my lowest and found myself in ICU after trying to take my own life. But deep inside my brain, I felt that fun, happy, confident girl still dying to be found again. She didn’t want to be taken over by something else.

“Six months into EMDR therapy, my fun yellow dungarees are being worn again, I am back doing the job I love and the world has started to seem a little brighter again. This illustration reflects the feelings of during the COVID restrictions and having so many rules to follow, feeling lost with no control, stuck in a traumatic memory.”

A limited selection of the Community Champion ‘Zines’ will also be available to take away at the Stockport Hub, Merseyway.

Attending the event on Saturday 1 October, Councillor Wendy Meikle, Deputy Leader of Stockport Council said: “I’m so impressed by the quality of the work – it’s absolutely outstanding. We have some amazing creative people across our borough, and using the winners’ artwork for the posters will help more young people know where to get support if they’re feeling worried, sad, or stressed.”

Beacon Counselling exists to improve the lives of children, young people and adults experiencing poor mental health. To support Beacon Counselling with their work you can donate on the website.

For more information about mental health and wellbeing support available for all residents in Stockport, please visit the Healthy Stockport website.