Hello – I’m Lisa, Chief Executive of Tanio (formerly Valley and Vale Community Arts) and this is my first ever blog… please bear with me.
At Tanio we work with many people who have mental health issues (the reality being who doesn’t have a mental health issue at some point?) Depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, grief, isolation … we believe that engaging in an arts project can help recovery or sometimes prevent a person reaching crisis point. We work to encourage everyone to express themselves creatively – this can be through visual art, creative writing, crafts, music, drama – however they like and by doing that create a safe and non-judgemental place that isn’t focussed on what is ’wrong’ (hate that word!) with you. It’s a space to connect, maybe learning some coping strategies along the way but mostly to be present and have fun. Just because a person has a mental health issue doesn’t mean they can’t have fun and laugh… and I should know.
I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2009. Since then I have been on medication and off medication. I was also lucky enough to be able to get some CBT sessions with a great therapist. Now I use the techniques learned as well as some of my own I have found along the way to manage my mental health (the main one is I got a dog and I have to look after her as she can’t do it herself!) I don’t know about any of you but in the depths of my illness reading is a big no-no. My brain just can’t compute the words, but free writing or creative writing really helps. Just getting those feelings written down and then being able to close the notebook helps me get on with the day. I also do my best to be around the people I love and laugh (see, I said we can still have fun and laugh). It isn’t always easy, and I know I’m not always a ray of sunshine to be around, but the space to have a giggle, sometimes at my expense at the silly things my anxiety won’t allow me to do, is so cathartic. It doesn’t make me better, but it reminds me that I can get better.
Whether the arts are used in a passive (listening to music, watching TV – I watch a lot of quiz shows when I’m unwell!) or active way (attending workshops, creating art) for you and your situation I believe they can have a huge impact on our mental health. At Tanio we will continue to deliver workshop and projects to engage with those who need us most. If you would like to know more about our work, get involved in a project or work with us please do get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org.