Day four in the Big Brother house

And I’m sat in Survival Corner as a living exhibit while I do some work. It’s a very strange experience. A few speak to me or give me an uncertain smile, some pretend I’m not here, some just walk right past. I think in some small way it’s a little like the whole experience of having a mental illness. People don’t quite know what the ‘right’ reaction is so perhaps it’s better to try not to have one at all for fear of causing offence or maybe making things worse.

Actually it’s a bit lonely down here by myself and the best thing people could do would be to ask me about it. I’d be happy to talk about my own experiences. Right now I feel like I’m in a tv programme – I could have a Geordie voiceover describing my interactions with people or David Attenborough talking through my battle for survival in sympathetic but practical tones.

What I do have is coffee and a muffin brought by my fellow exhibiters once again demonstrating how fab peer support is 🙂 Photo on 11-05-2017 at 13.05.jpg


What an experience!

IMG_3089.jpgSo here we are, halfway through the week and we’ve had all manner of visitors to our exhibition so far: old friends, potential group members, people who work for other related organisations, people who have experienced difficulties with their mental health and have recovery stories to tell, people still having troubles and people concerned for others as well as some staff from the council building who have shown a real interest in what we do.

Everyone has been very complimentary, some leaving lovely notes in our visitors’ book, some dropping donations in the pots and some leaving us with their thanks for what we do. Apart from the odd one or two people, most have been hopeful, even if not exactly thriving and the whole experience has been really positive. We hope the next couple of days will be just as good.

Making a right exhibition of ourselves!

Photo on 08-05-2017 at 13.02 #2.jpgBristol buddies do come and visit us at the Park St Vestibule at City Hall. We’re here until Friday with our exhibition to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. The sun is shining, people are starting to take an interest and we are happy to talk about Changes and Mental Health.

We set up in good time this morning and opened on the dot of 12.30. We’re still finding things to tweak though – but I suspect we’ll be doing that all week!


Are you surviving or are you thriving?

SoT poster

The Mental Health Foundation has hosted Mental Health Awareness Week in the second week of May since 2000. In previous years the week has focused on how mindfulness, anxiety, sleep deprivation and relationships can impact our mental health. In 2017 the theme is ‘surviving or thriving’.

Good mental health is more than the absence of a mental health problem. The theme of ‘Surviving or Thriving’ looks at mental health from a new angle. Rather than ask why so many people are living with mental health problems, it seeks to uncover why too few of us are thriving with good mental health. With people struggling to cope with the demands of life and stuck on getting through the day, it will explore:

  • how many of us are surviving or thriving, and the difference between the two
  • why some communities are under strain and what government can do to support them to thrive
  • what steps we can take to look after our mental health, building resilience to cope with the demands of life.

During the week of 8-14 May, the Mental Health Foundation will be producing a new report to highlight the numbers of us who feel stuck on ‘survive’. They will be providing advice and insight into how we can build good mental health in the context of our work, our digital world, our parenting approach and in our communities. The Mental Health Foundation will also be calling on the Government to do more to promote better mental health.

At Changes Bristol we are going to be part of Mental Health Awareness Week by holding an exhibition of work produced by our own members on the theme of Surviving or Thriving. We are really excited that the exhibition will be held in the Park Street Vestibule of City Hall.

Our exhibition will include a wide range of pieces from our members; some of them will be interactive! As you enter, you will be immersed in a collection of work depicting the struggle to survive with a mental illness in today’s world. This isn’t always a nice place to be, and you may feel uncomfortable as you take in some of the experiences of our members. As you move round, there is a transition from surviving to thriving; you will see the many, really positive achievements of our members despite their difficulties and challenges. We really hope you will leave feeling uplifted and better informed about the impact mental illness can have.



Making a change

This afterneve we’re having another another crafting session in the office. We’re preparing for our exhibition next month for Mental Health Awareness Week.

I have ideas. I have lots of ideas. What I don’t have is time to take them out of my brain and into reality. That’s often the way with creative pursuits. So  many other things make demands on our time. Important things, time bound things and things that I know I really ought to do before embarking on any kind of craft.

Making things feels sort of indulgent, a wasteful use of my time. It feels like it isn’t important and I should find something more worthy to be doing. After all, what are the consequences if I don’t produce a set of cards or a wall hanging or a display interpreting the stigma of mental illness? Nothing of importance, right?

Actually there’s one big one. Stress. I’ve promised an exhibition and there WILL be an exhibition. The act of making things usually reduces my stress. Making things when up against a deadline is a whole different kettle of fish. Every minute spent not making things is another point on my stress graph.


Craft for me is usually one of my coping resources. It helps me feel calm, to reconnect with the real world, to touch things and find peace in the textures and colours. Now I need to craft in order to reduce the stress of not crafting. That hurts my brain.

Expect something whimsical and ridiculous tonight! I need to do something fun.


The mending was good!


Massive well done to the team of volunteers who set up their pop up sewing workshop to raise money for Changes. They mended, replaced and adjusted a whole load of garments and raised nearly £400 for us. Huge thank you to them for giving us their time and skills (I could never have done it!) and to e3 for hosting us. We hope we’ll get to do it again on an even bigger scale now we know it’s a winning idea.

It’s all go!

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We’re very excited for our Mend For Good event which is starting tomorrow (see our last post for details). We’ll be getting everything set up tonight so that we’re ready to go first thing tomorrow. Our lovely office volunteer is on a treasure hunt around the office, putting together all the items we need to take with us into a large pile on the boss’ desk (good job he’s not here today!)

I’m hoping the rain stops before I have to load up the car! Nobody wants a soggy bottom, do they? (I feel like Mary Berry now!)

Wish us luck! This is the first time we’re running this event and we’re hoping for a great result. All the proceeds go not towards my personal coffee fund (although donations there are welcome too :D) but to making sure our support groups keep running to help the people of Bristol with their mental wellbeing.



Sew, what are we up to next week?

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Watch this blog from Monday for progress. We’re expecting measuring and chat with friendly volunteers, machines whirring and cotton flying as they get to work on some treasured garments and some very happy faces when the refurbished kit is collected.

We do need to borrow a few items so if anyone can help us out with a clothes rail, a stack of coat hangers or a kitchen step (for people to perch on to be measured) then we’d be very grateful. Could you get in touch with us please at the office on 0117 941 1123 or and we’ll arrange to collect? We’ll take good care of them and return them to you once finished at the end of next week. Thanks!