Wednesday 25 April 2018

OPENM;NDED Mental Health Event

This is bigger than us, than you, than this organisation or that service. Let’s park our petty differences, our proprietary selfishness, and be OPENM;NDED. — Alisdair Cameron, Recovery College Collective

On Wednesday April 18 I had the pleasure of attending the OPENM;NDED mental health event at The Hancock pub in Newcastle.

An evening of meaningful and local music, poetry and performance centred around shared experiences and common stories of mental ill-health.

By creatively exploring the topic through music and poetry, we can begin to open up the conversation on mental health, de-stigmatise the topic and encourage recovery and resilience for those experiencing trauma and distress in our community.

The event was organised by OPENM;NDED in support of ReCoCo (Recovery College Collective). OPENM;NDED is a group of cross-disciplinary cultural managers, practitioners and researchers brought together through study at Northumbria University. ReCoCo is a joint venture between various organisations in the north east, “by and for service users and carers. ... a place where service users are able to make connections and develop their knowledge and skills in relation to recovery.” ReCoCo runs a wide range of courses and services. You can download their current prospectus.

So what’s the semicolon all about? OPENM;NDED’s Facebook page includes the statement: “By being open minded, we can make it a semi-colon and not a full stop.” The reference is to Project Semicolon, an American mental health nonprofit organization founded in 2013 by Amy Bleuel and dedicated to the prevention of suicide.

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

The semicolon has become a potent emblem for suicide awareness. Everyone who attended the event had their hand stamped with a semicolon. I wore mine with pride for several days until it eventually faded. (Yes, I did wash!)

I hadn’t visited the Hancock in many years. I remembered the place as quiet but that was a lunchtime maybe twenty years ago. Suffice to say, it was busier at 6 p.m! The outdoor seating area and bar were packed but the venue upstairs was much quieter and cooler. I arrived early which gave me plenty of opportunity to choose a good seat and learn more about the event.

I chatted with Laura and a couple of the other organisers while the performers were doing their sound checks. Everyone I spoke to was passionate about the work they are doing and their collaboration with ReCoCo.

I met up with several people I knew including Alisdair Cameron, Steve O'Driscoll, and my dear friend Carol Robinson who I first met several years ago via the Mentally Sound radio show. I had brought a couple of copies of High Tide, Low Tide and was happy to sign one for Carol. This led to a great conversation with one of the attendees (Hi, Martyn!) about how Fran and I met, about mental health awareness in general, and about our respective experiences of ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training).

The evening opened with a great piece of rap poetry by Dylan Holkar. Singer Lisa Bonetti introduced her set with a moving description of how important relationships and music have been for her.

Lee Symons was up next. I especially loved his cover of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.” After the interval Alisdair and Angela took the mic and spoke passionately about the work of ReCoCo.

The final act I saw was BEING. Their website describes them as “two best friends from the UK who create ambient and atmospheric songs and sounds.” Having heard them I can only agree. A very powerful and moving set.

After the event I contacted BEING to say how much I had enjoyed their set. They were happy to answer a few questions about their involvement in the evening.

What motivated you to be involved?
Mental health is such a relevant dialogue at the moment, and so it should be. We both have family and friends who are affected in different ways, and it plays a massive part in everyone’s day to day life, so we jumped at the chance to be part of something that is shining the spotlight even more on how we look after ourselves.

What did you get from the event?
We got further assurance that there’s loads and loads of people out there who are hungry to talk about mental health, and it’s a conversation that needs to be had over and over. It’s fantastic that Newcastle has so many people who are compassionate and committed to putting together these kind of events.

What does OPENM;NDED mean to you?
It means so much, from the openness of conversation and sharing, to the practicality of how we deal with our issues on an individual basis and as a society of people.

i had to leave at that point and missed the performances by Joshua Eckert and Annie Griffiths, but you can catch all the sets on the OPEN;MINDED Facebook page.

But enough about me! What did everyone else think of it? I asked some of those who attended for their thoughts on the evening.

Last night was the first event that we’ve organised under the OPENM;NDED umbrella, and I think the general consensus amongst the team is that it was a success! We raised nearly £300 for a local charity and brought together people from various different backgrounds and parts of the community. Everyone in the room shared an experience that, we hope, moved people to reflect and introspect on the social issue of mental health awareness and stigmatisation, and could form part of a complex system of a motivations that leads individuals to seek help, talk about their problems, share their burden, and feel they’re not alone. And, beyond that, we hope people had a good time, and we hope to do more!
— Jack, for OPENM;NDED
It was wonderfully heartening to see the passion, commitment and talent of students and younger people, all put to the cause of encouraging discussion and talking about mental health. We are grateful and humbled that they picked ReCoCo as their charity of choice and had a wonderful evening, and we hope to develop things further with such a lovely group of talented people.
— Alisdair, for ReCoCo
In regards to the evening it was just lovely to showcase talented artists for a meaningful cause. Releasing the stigma around mental health, and allowing people to express themselves musically and artistically, OPENM;NDED was an event with a heart and a cause that is close to everyone involved. Hopefully this is something we can carry on working on well into the future.
— Laura
It was very inspiring and thoughtful that the students felt supporting the work done at RE-COCO was worthy of their time and efforts. As a service user and volunteer at the Recovery College via Launchpad I know it is a lively communal space that is bound by the ethics of community, well-being and trust. The volunteers give 100% of their time and resources to help others. We have our ups and downs, but more ups than downs. It’s a happy and welcoming space. I can only say a big thank you to all who laid on the event last night. Thank you to Alisdair and Angela who spoke, and work so tirelessly behind the scenes. A big thank you to you, Marty, you support so many events relating to mental health. And thanks to Steven for inviting me to this really cool event.
— Carol
The event with wonderful live music was just what was needed after a day at work and all the Northumbria university involved in organising the event obviously had a passion for making a difference for local people suffering with poor mental health. The proceeds were donated to enrich the lives for people who use ReCoCo to improve their mental health and form new friendships. I also think the event proves to me that Students who use our Universities do have empathy towards local people. The students I have to say did a sterling job of raising the profile of issues around mental health.
— Steve
The cause is something that is very dear to my heart and I was happy enough to just be there, but to also be able to be involved and play music was an honour. I had an amazing time at openm;nded, the audience was awesome as were the rest of the acts.
— Lee
I thought the event really connected musicians with mental health. It was quite an emotional introduction to being openminded and speaking about our problems (all of us). I was really pleased to see Recoco there and learning about what they do.
— Martyn

As Jack mentioned, this was the first such event that OPENM;NDED have put on. I sincerely hope it won’t be the last!

If you would like to know more about OPENM;NDED you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Find ReCoCo (Recovery College Collective) on their website and on Twitter.


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