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‘Mental Elf’ and other stories kick off Mental Health Awareness Week

Animated short films created by mental health service users from Cardiff had their premiere in the city today (Monday May 15) at a special event to kick off Mental Health Awareness Week.

Chapter Arts Centre in Canton was the venue for the screening of a series of honest, funny and sometimes irreverent animated films. Service users from the Council’s Ty Canna Mental Health Outreach Services have created the films with Breathe Creative, a local Creativity for Wellbeing organisation, documenting their experience of living with mental health problems.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 15 – 21) is based on the theme of ‘anxiety’, a normal emotion in us all that sometimes can get out of control and become a mental health problem.

Today’s viewing is the culmination of 10 months of collaboration between Breathe Creative and the Ty Canna group, who have a diverse mix of talents but no previous experience in animation. The project was funded by the National Lottery and The Arts Council of Wales and facilitated by Therapeutic Arts facilitator Katja Stiller, animator Jane Hubbard and composer Jacob Meadowcroft, with support from Elliot HS and Imogen Fallon from Ty Canna.

The films explore the reality of living with mental health problems and aim to raise awareness, dispel myths and challenge the discomfort many people feel around talking about such an important issue, which will directly affect 1 in 4 people during their lifetime.

The group has met weekly since July last year to write their scripts, learn animation techniques and create the final films – a selection of insightful and emotive individual stories, and ‘Mental Elf’, a playful group piece about a misbehaving elf which challenges the audience to think about their own mental health.

One participant commented: “With the help of groups and creative workshops like this one, we can take a tentative step back into socialising, having fun and being part of a supportive community!”

Today’s event was attended by Cabinet Member for Social Services (Adults), Cllr Norma Mackie. Following the films, guests were treated to the unveiling of a new garden mural at Ty Canna, created by service users working with Emma Jones from Breathe Creative.

Cllr Mackie said: “This morning was a wonderful way to start Mental Health Awareness Week with staff and service users from Ty Canna. The animations are emotive and a real eye-opener into the experiences and challenges faced by people with mental health issues.  This is the second time the animation project has run with Breathe Creative and I’m delighted that once again it’s been such a success.”

Cllr Ash Lister, Cabinet Member for Social Services (Children), said: “Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportune time for us all to think about mental health and tackle the stigma that surrounds the issue. We need to talk about this, openly and often, and focus on protecting the mental wellbeing of us all, young and old.”

The Ty Canna service has recently started working with Brawd, a men’s mental health support group for Cardiff that offers help for men aged 18 and over.

The group recognises that menare often taught to be strong and tough, to never show emotions or vulnerability but, that sometimes, life can be overwhelming, and we all need someone to talk to.

Men struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue are offered a safe and confidential space to share their feelings, thoughts, and experiences with other men who understand what they are going through.

The group meets at Ty Canna, Market Road, Canton on Thursdays, 6pm – 7.30pm. No referral or diagnosis is needed. Those looking for support are encouraged to pop in for a chat and a coffee.

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, community hubs will be hosting a selection of activities  including mindful colouring sessions, craft sessions, gentle exercise classes, wellbeing mornings, a walking for health group dedicated to improving anxiety and depression, and Men’s Sheds ‘The Den’ @Rhiwbina Hub, to name a few.