Southdown acting 180Two Sussex-based organisations have joined forces to allow people with mental health challenges to realise their acting dreams as part of their recovery.

Care and support provider Southdown has been working with the Dome Theatre in Brighton for nearly a year to run regular ‘theatre days’ for people who attend its Mental Health Recovery Centre, also in Brighton.

Clients of the Recovery Centre have the opportunity to take to the stage to perform in a play, do a reading and explore the process of creating something theatrical in whatever way they’d like. Co-led by professional actors, Karen Spicer and Maria McAteer, the sessions are informal, flexible and open to all.

Spicer, who is also a relief recovery support worker, said: “It‘s great to be able to use such an iconic and atmospheric place to host our sessions. The idea is to bring people together to have a shared experience that they can take part in whatever way they’d like to. Everybody has the opportunity to explore their own creativity and interact and relate to one another as individuals not defined by their condition.”

Recovery Centre client Mary came up with the ‘theatre days’ idea, as an "uplifting, enriching and a positive thing to do" and they have grown to bring in many of her fellow clients.

Lynne Thomas, Mental Health Recovery Services manager at Southdown, added: “We provide a wide range of services for people with mental health challenges so they can choose support that is right for them, whether that’s attending a recovery college course, speaking to their peers or doing something they’ve never tried before. From our experience of providing support for 2,000 people with mental health needs in Sussex each year, we’ve seen the difference trying something new can have. It can improve a person’s confidence, self-esteem and independence.

“All our mental health services are based on the concept of recovery. We don’t try to ‘cure’ people. Instead we work with people to support them to develop the skills they need to stay in control of their life despite their mental health challenges.”

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