Our Connect & Do Space in Railton Road, near Brixton Market in South London, has long been a place for people we support with mental health needs to pop in, have a chat, get some coffee or join in with some creative events and activities. However, one of our main aims - to help people connect with their local community - has been hampered by local people feeling excluded from using the space.
"We recognise that just because you need support with your mental health it doesn’t mean you only want to spend time with people who face similar challenges. In fact, for many people, this is the last thing they want."
This has encouraged us to think differently about how we manage the Connect & Do Space. Starting with a major photographic exhibition - SELF – Portraits in Social Care - we are now opening up the space, and what happens in it, to the general public. Self ran earlier this summer. It was a bold show which revealed the human face of social care as colourful, bright and engaging - a sharp contrast with the negative narrative of budget cuts and negligence so often portrayed in the media.
Portrait exhibition launch blurred the lines
Featured in the exhibition were people supported by Certitude or their friends, family and staff but each individual’s role in the social care system is not identified. Instead we asked them a number of questions about themselves and their self-image and we used this personal perspective to inform captions for their images. The exhibition proved popular and we enjoyed good media support. It’s certainly succeeded in getting new people through our doors which is a great start.
From here on in, we want Connect & Do to be about health, well-being and mutual recovery as well as mental health support. We want to challenge stereotypes of mental health and encourage people to come together to enjoy everything from life drawing and drop-in art days to horticulture, book clubs and a mix of alternative therapies. Some of the activities are managed by Certitude, some are being run by people we support and some are community events.
We recognise that just because you need support with your mental health it doesn’t mean you only want to spend time with people who face similar challenges. In fact, for many people, this is the last thing they want.
This idea of mutual recovery – bringing people with different needs and backgrounds together to share a space and their experiences – is well supported. Having something to do which is relaxing and absorbing as well as creative and interesting gives everyone a sense of well-being.
Having somewhere to go where you will always find a warm welcome and encouragement is great for people with mental health support needs, but it’s good for everyone else too. We are looking forward to managing a lively, dynamic, busy and effective community hub. All we ask of anyone using the space is that any session they provide is also open to the people we support.