Helix Arts: Better Connect – from attendee to volunteer

Debbie Reed started her journey with Helix Arts around 2 years ago, slap bang in the middle of a pandemic. – and she is now an amazingly committed Helix Arts Volunteer for our social prescribing programme Better Connect supported through Thriving Communities.

Better Connect is the Helix Arts led social prescribing programme working with a network of Community Voluntary Sector organisations who share values and ambitions for the role of arts and health. Better Connect involves a mixed cultural programme which prioritises and supports carers across North Tyneside.

Helix Arts developed a relationship with First Contact Clinical (FCC) and their link workers in North Tyneside as part of a pilot project You: Your Art (YYA). YYA is predominantly a live online programme which supports people at risk of deteriorating mental health and potentially at risk of suicide. It is online with occasional in person socials and a WhatsApp support group. This was in response to participant feedback around barriers and social anxiety when using physical spaces.

YYA was expanded and developed to feature within Better Connect. FCC originally referred Debs Reed to Helix Arts for her poor mental health. Deb cares for her Dad and needs to be at home to take care of his needs on a regular basis.

Debs initially worked with artist Claire Ford online for 12 weeks. She developed friendships, creative techniques and most importantly confidence and improved mental health. Debs describes herself as introverted, but took the leap to continue her journey with Helix Arts getting involved in wider opportunities. Debs co-delivered a session with our Director at the North East Culture Health and Wellbeing conference. She also volunteered to take part in our impact review as part of organisational development with PilotLight.

Now she is volunteering on the current You: Your Art programme with artist Jess Kinnersley where while joining in with sessions she supports other participants. Her confidence has soared and seen a great improvement in her mental health.

Debs shares:

“You might not believe this but I’m actually really introverted and shy, much happier on my own than in a crowd of people and the confident, chatty persona is just a front I wear!

Through the volunteering [with Helix Arts] I’ve realised I really don’t have to stress about meeting people and my social anxiety has lessened loads.

I really want to continue volunteering with Helix Arts on projects like this especially around mental health as it’s really good for me and I enjoy sharing my ideas and creativity.

The junk journaling aspect has been great as I’m not pressuring myself into producing perfect work, if it goes wrong, paint over it and start again.

This is also slowly filtering through my brain so I’m not having anxious thoughts about things that happened years ago!

I just mentally paint over it and start again! I feel so proud to have been asked to be a volunteer as You:Your Art had such a profound effect on my mental well being last year and to be able to share it with others and see them get so much out of it is wonderful.”

 

Cheryl Gavin, Director, Helix Arts comments:

“Debs’ experience and transformation has been quite remarkable. It felt great being able to co-deliver alongside Debs and also get her insights on Helix Arts work in what was one of the most challenging times for the organisation. We worried about our quality and impact whilst trying to digitally co-produce with our participants during the pandemic. Debs told us otherwise, it was great to hear how we helped make that difference to her life. She says it herself,  but her confidence really has soared as well as her resilience.”

 

Helix Arts very much appreciates the support Debs brings our organisation as a highly skilled, confident arts volunteer. She makes a real difference to our work and is a   fantastic role model for others who are facing complex mental health issues. We are so pleased we met her and look forward to working with her for many years to come.

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Published 4 October 2021