FEATURE: Helping youg people with mental illness

Image supplied
Image supplied

Using music to help people cope with mental health issues

Mental illness is so internal, it’s not something people can see. It’s something you wake up with and have to deal with everyday. You can be quite socially isolated,” says Mark Flood, 60, director and founder of Orb.

He believed there was not enough early prevention for young people with severe mental illnesses, and he wanted change.

Mental health is a growing issue in the UK: one in four people will experience it in their lifetime.

“We’re living in stressful times, and more and more people aren’t coping with that,” Mr Flood said.

From a seed of an idea in 2000, Orb has grown to serve a wide range of people, including those with autism, learning and physical disabilities.

“It doesn’t really feel like a place for mental health, it’s just a funky place to go. It’s small, we know everyone. It doesn’t feel like you’re just processing people all the time,” Mr Flood added.

Orb offers music and art services, instrument lessons, studio experience, performance opportunities, lighting, and DJing.

Next to the studio is an art space for people to learn new techniques, or create their own work.

There is also a computer suite for people to work on IT skills.

Each person who goes in to Orb chooses what they want do. They can learn new skills, or build on existing ones. Mr Flood commented on how so many people grow in confidence from their sessions.

Alongside Orb’s music, and art space is its garden. Here you can find Mick Robinson.

The 59-year-old started using Orb’s services 10 years ago and now works as the gardener. He had both of his hips replaced, and suffers from depression. He said: “I like it here, it’s good for me. There’s a sense of well being and worth. There’s other people you can talk to. You meet nice, interesting people.”

Mr Robinson uses Orb as an outlet for his creativity: “Time flies when I’m painting or drawing,” he said.

Offering help for vulnerable people through art in Knaresborough is Henshaws Arts and Crafts centre.

It opened 15 years ago, and helps people with both physical and/or mental health problems. Classes are also open for the public.

Workshops include pottery, jewellery and textiles. It also offers fitness, IT, cooking, music, and employability skills classes.

There are over 160 people who use their services weekly.

Centre Manager Maria Dawbarn said: “There’s so much they can gain from being here - confidence, independence, empowerment and self-belief.”

Despite independence being a key aspect of the centre, the social side is important, too.

“There are collaborations, friendships, and blooming relationships,” Ms Dawbarn said.

Shirley Hudson, art studio leader said: “Over the years, I’ve had to work with different needs, some of which are significant. I try to help them achieve realistic goals. I don’t restrict their ideas.”

Katheryn Hick, 48, jewellery workshop leader said: “We celebrate naïve art. It couldn’t be recreated by people who don’t have a disability, it shines in their work. It’s inspiring to us.”

Ms Dawbarn explained how some who attend Henshaws use art as communication.

John Cove is deaf, almost blind, and non-verbal. He builds castles and walls from paper mache.

Ms Dawbarn said: “The pieces he builds are huge. He immerses himself in to it. Sometimes we have to step in if it gets too big to move out of the room. At home, his bedroom is his studio. Art is his life.”

Both Henshaws and Orb strive to welcome people to help them reach their full potential. But both open themselves up to the community and get involved in various public projects and events throughout the year.