In response to lack of access to services and valuable support we formed our collective in a way that works for us. We hope sharing our tips and experiences help others form their community too
Bold, Resourceful, Expressive, Imaginative, Empowered, Lived-Experience Service Users, Brave, Mental Health Survivors, Empathic, Vulnerable, Resilient, Revolutionary, Unconventional, Inspiring, Inclusive, Reflective, Innovative, Nurturing, Problem Solvers, Fearless, Strong, Creative, Authentic, Progressive, Tenacious, Advocates, Intersectional, Multifaceted, Informed, Determined, Inquisitive, Courageous, Sisters, Brothers, Aunts, Uncles, Friends.
Some important things about our collective:
We are a grassroots activism art collective who have come together to challenge the status quo about mental health as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2023.
The festival theme is 'revolution' and we're redirecting the conversation away from pathologising individuals and towards improving society and care standards so that mental wellbeing is achievable for all. We're doing this by creating art that speaks volumes and collecting the experiences of others to raise their voices too.
We don't want anyone to feel alone when they are let down or harmed by support services. As individuals we remain anonymous due to the immense stigma and and discrimination in our society around mental health and disabilities. Including against anyone who steps out of line with the status quo! But we can share how we formed our collective in the hopes that others will be able to do the same in their community.
Our 'values first' approach helps to define boundaries so that we can all agree on what we believe and want to achieve. We automatically included the trauma-informed values of collaboration, choice, safety, empowerment and trust and for the rest used a deck of cards with many different values and their meanings on them (if you would like a set please contact us). Sorting through and discussing them together meant we could select those that were most meaningful to us. We drew up a contract to sign as a promise to remember our shared values.
Because we are a diverse group with different support needs we need to be able to understand each person and their context. Each member completed a one page profile of things that are important to them, communication and health needs. When we moved on to noting down our strengths we all exchanged worksheets because hearing about these from each others' perspective really helped - These can be a struggle to see in ourselves!
We are also completing training so that we can advocate for ourselves and others in a way that protects our human rights.
Establishing a community of safety is essential. Our values and needs create a blueprint for how to achieve this and as survivors of various forms of adversity we treat each other in a trauma-informed way, based on our own lived-experiences. We all have dips in our wellbeing sometimes so we use crisis planning resources to make sure we are all aware of what we do when we are overwhelmed and who to reach out to when things feel too much.
The most important part of our collective is peership. We have many shared but also many different experiences and expertise that we can use to support each other. Although we are creating art, doing research, making zines, passing out flyers and doing admin, most of our time is spent listening, sharing and supporting. This is not wasted time - it is valuable and necessary. We reject the notion that work and productivity are the only things that create value in life. We are already valuable and being in community reminds us of that.
We are all too aware of the damage that power imbalances do to our wellbeing because of how silencing, shaming and oppressive they are within the systems and society we have to navigate already. Our collective does not operate any hierarchy for this reason. Although some people might be better at organising or making materials, everyone has a say. This goes for everything from our colour scheme, logo and messaging, to the spaces where we meet.
Striving for equality means that we use various ways to communicate and get things done. Some people need written information and some prefer verbal. Some struggle with processing lots of information at once so we have breaks or present things differently. Some like task lists and others can't stand them! We also make use of AI (such as ChatGPT) to help with some tasks because its like having an extra member to help out and its really useful for anyone who has difficulty with writing or spelling.
We use art to creatively channel, process and communicate our experiences and knowledge. This is therapeutic for us as individuals but by making this central to our collective purpose we achieve empowerment through activism too. Knowing that we can let others know they are not alone through our work and inviting them to contribute too fills us with purpose and encourages us to continue.
Find out more on our Why Art? page
Challenge norms and rewrite mental health narratives with your own your art, poetry, photography and more!
Deadline: 22nd October 2023
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