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Liverpool Mental Health Festival

Liverpool Mental Health Festival

Over the last six years, the Liverpool Mental Health Consortium (LMHC) has helped Liverpool to celebrate World Mental Health Day on 10th October.

For the seventh year, to truly mark and incorporate World Mental Health Day, LMHC presented and founded its first Liverpool Mental Health Festival.

The festival ran from October 1st to 16th and featured a variety of free events and activities dotted around Liverpool – ranging from live music, comedy nights and art exhibitions to talks, pet walks, training courses and workshops.

Claire Stevens, Development Manager of LMHC, said:

“The festival is particularly important to Liverpool because statistics show that Liverpool has a higher than an average number of people who experience mental distress in one way or another and a higher number who contact their GPs about common mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety.”

While nationally in the UK around one in four appointments with a GP is to do with mental health, in Liverpool this rate is slightly higher seeing every third appointment centred around mental health issues.
Unemployment, low income, poor housing, cuts to benefits and services, and loneliness are along some of the factors that impact mental wellbeing – and, as outlined by LMHC, it is estimated that 26% of the Liverpool population experience such difficulties in any given year.

It was, therefore, especially important for LMHC to present the 16-day festival to achieve their aim of raising awareness of mental distress, promoting positive wellbeing and challenging stigma within Liverpool.

One of the festival’s main events took place on Saturday 8th October, when a stage, marquee and stalls were set up in Williamson Square for a full day of celebrations.

There were numerous opportunities to take part, including drumming, roller-skating, dancing and watching performances from the likes of musical duo Lyons and La Zel, the young talent of 20 Stories High and the festival’s very own choir ‘Mad for It’.

During these celebrations, organisations from around Merseyside gathered to provide advice and share information about achieving good emotional wellbeing.

Members of the Liverpool CAMHS Partnership were there to raise awareness of the importance of young people looking after their mental health. This event also worked to highlight children’s rights (UN Convention on the Rights of a Child) and educate individuals on when they could be exercised.

Roz Gladden, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, presented a speech to the gathered crowd and stressed:

“It is important that lots of people speak out against stigma” before noting the need for people to make mental health problems known “so we can all support each other in those areas.”

In collaboration with Writing on the Wall, an awards ceremony for the ‘Mental Health and Me Awards – Faces, Places and Spaces’ writing competition returned to Liverpool for its third year and was held at the Central Library.

Bill Ryder-Jones, a Wirral songwriter who was named festival Patron this year, presented winners with their prizes – including overall winner Marian Carey who received a trophy for her piece ‘The Thousand Natural Shocks.’
During an insightful interview with Claire Stevens as part of the evening, Bill shared his own work and its relationship with his depression and dissociative disorder.

Everton in the Community, alongside Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and Mental Health Football Association, also raised awareness of World Mental Health Day by hosting the National Mental Health Football Championships at the Goals Soccer Centre, Netherton, on the 10th.

The event, in which former Everton midfielder Graham Stuart was in attendance, involved 20 teams from across the UK and worked to promote the benefits that football and physical activity can have on mental wellbeing.

The art exhibition for this year’s World Mental Health Day celebrations was entitled ‘Respect’ and was hosted by Unit 51 (Jamaica Street, Baltic Triangle) for the second year running.

This exhibition was initially opened by the Singh Twins on the 7th October at Unit 51 before it was extended to the Constellations, Greenland Street, on 10th October. This was the first time Constellations has held a World Mental Health Day event.

In the months leading up to the festival, LMHC asked local artists to submit pieces relating to the theme of mental health, wellbeing and respect.

After more than 70 submissions, 27 artists were selected by curator Jazamin Sinclair, with each piece showcasing a range of styles and working to raise awareness of various issues; from personality disorder to medication misuse all the way to Asperger’s and dealing with the impact of sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, despite the positivity elicited by celebrations and the overall success of the festival, Liverpool-based artist Alison Little’s sculpture ‘Dead from the Waist Down’ was stolen from the exhibition at Unit 51 midweek.

Ruthie Adamson, an exhibition invigilator, explained: “The artist has been informed, but it is a shame as this piece, much like all the pieces included in the exhibition, was very personal.”

A series of interesting talks raising awareness of schizophrenia titled ‘A Little Voice Told Me’ took place at the Brink, Parr Street on the evening of 13th October. The night saw inspirational speaker Dr Eleanor Longden talk about overcoming her own experience with schizophrenia and Sarah Mottram discuss the issues caused when mental healthcare systems ignore physical health.

The Art for Wellbeing project was held at Constellations on the final day of the festival with the aid and support of Liverpool John Moores University art students Laura Chafer, aged 21, and Victoria Birch, 20.
During this event, Cass Art provided creative materials (such as paints and stencils) for members of the public to come down and take advantage of the ‘Creative Space’.

Telling us the idea behind the project, Nikki Gregg, the events manager at Constellations, said:

“It’s the idea that when you’re doing something creative, you will open your mind to thinking differently.”

Discussing the success of the first of many festivals with us, LMHC’s Claire Stevens said: “The feedback from the public and from our festival partners has been overwhelmingly positive and people have enjoyed the range and variety of events which the festival has brought together.

“We’ve reached thousands of people, challenged stigma, provided information, advice and support and offered opportunities to have fun, socialise, be creative and learn about other people’s experiences and achievements.”
Although this year’s festival has ended, there are still chances to get involved as Liverpool Community Development Service Road Show continues on 24th October.

Additionally, the Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre on Princes Road will be host to the ‘Learn and Get Pampered Day’ on 27th. This is an opportunity for women from diverse communities to come together to learn and share stories about culture all while experiencing great music, relaxing and having massages – so why not come down and check it out?

About Russell Gannon

Marketing Director for Baltic Triangle Area CIC and Entrepreneur with businesses located in the Liverpool City Region