Slow Art

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The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery at Leeds University is well worth a look. It’s very easy to find – just go up the steps of the Parkinson Building at Leeds University, the big white building that’s visible from just about anywhere in Leeds, go through the revolving doors and the gallery is just to your left. They have a permanent collection there which is interesting, including a painting of Whitelocks bar which was used by the BBC for a recent programme about poetry in Leeds, (which you have just two days to listen to on iPlayer!!). There is always also a temporary collection – at the moment it’s Jewish Artists in Yorkshire. There’s lots of Jacob Kramer, who gave his name to our local art college, and some paintings by Joash Woodrow, who caused something of a sensation after his death in 2006 when a thousand art works were found at his home in Chapeltown, where he’d lived as a recluse after having a breakdown in the 1950s. My favourite from this exhibition was a large piece by Gillian Singer – 49 panels of photographs and other images of Jewish family life – it takes a whole wall so you don’t really get the effect from my photograph of the postcard!

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This Saturday there’s a special event at the Gallery. I’ll let the gallery publicity explain in its own words: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. This month’s motto is borrowed from Henry David Thoreau and the Slow Art Movement who put it on their banner. What is ‘Slow Art’? The movement believes that when people look at art slowly, they make discoveries. By looking closely, you won’t require an expert to explain things to you. Slow Art unlocks your own creativity and passion for art!
Slow Art Day this Saturday, 27 April 2013, asks everyone to visit an art gallery to look at art slowly. Look at just 5 artworks for 10 minutes each, and see what happens. Get some friends together, and discuss your findings over lunch! Or join us for ‘Linger Longer’ – the only official Slow Art Day activity in Leeds!
Just in time for these contemplative exercises, the Gallery has plenty for you to feast your eyes upon. Our new exhibition ‘Jewish Artists in Yorkshire’ reveals and celebrates treasures by artists of Jewish heritage, in honour of the Leeds Jewish community’s 150th anniversary celebrations. We’ve got lovely artists’ books from Herbert Read’s collection still on display until this weekend. And of course, all kinds of events, exploring topics as diverse as ‘The Paradox of the Modern Jewish Artist’ to making puppets!”

Beating myself up, stress and self compassion..

Beating myself up.

This act of beating myself up, doesn’t always consist of a round of negative thoughts, although sometimes it does.  Often it’s a feeling. It’s a self-critical and harsh feeling. It   feels like a ferocious participant in an inner fight, it’s got the boxing gloves on while the other opponent trembles.

My Inner Critic sounds like a psychological cliché but it feels like a fitting phrase.  Through therapy, Mindfulness practice and reading a lot,  I’ve learnt to become more aware of this critic.  I am sometimes able to question it (me) with gentleness and compassion. Sometimes I can feel my inner world soften and respond, which is quite a beautiful feeling.

Of course I still beat myself up! I’m not always aware, especially when things are difficult. I still struggle with stressful situations. When I should be bathing in self compassion and eating healthy foods to counteract the stress, I still find myself gorging on doughnuts, beating myself up and doing the opposite of what helps,  Ironic! But I think I am getting a little bit better.

I read the book ‘Stop Beating Yourself up and leave insecurity behind’ by Kristin Neff – It’s about Self Compassion. It’s one of the most helpful books I have ever read.

Thank you for reading x

A Mental Health Information telephone line for Leeds? A recent focus group.

A few weeks ago I attended a Research Focus Group which had the aim of establishing  whether a Mental Health Information telephone line could benefit the people of Leeds.

We met in the head office of Age UK which is in a fantastic listed building.  It also houses the lovely Arch Cafe which is described as a ‘Cafe with a Conscience. ‘  All profits go to support Age UK’s work with older people. It is a great place to go for coffee and cake!

The research room had a positive feel and was fresh and bright.  I couldn’t help but compare this favorably to institutional or clinical environments, which are often the type used for mental health services.  But this is just an aside.

Back to the Focus Group….

It was a stimulating experience and I felt valued to be part of this research.  Members included Health Professionals, members of the public and those (including myself) who had personal experience of using mental health services within Leeds.

The group took the format of a discussion.  It was friendly and insightful.  We shared many of the same views.    A consensus soon emerged that we all thought an Information Line would be an asset and a worthwhile investment in Leeds.   However many questions and concerns followed this.

The information line would not be a Support Line, would it naturally turn into one? This then led to a discussion about the lack of places to go or call when in crisis. Who would run such a line?  We thought that the person should be empathetic and have either personal experience of mental health issues, or experience through caring for a  relative or have worked in this area.  It was important to the group that the telephone line must not be harmful to the person in any way, as all intervention counts and can impact the well-being of a vulnerable person. We expressed  the desire that the person must have an appropriate sensitivity when dealing with callers, that they are aware and that they ‘get it.’

Who would run this line? The NHS? The Local Authority?  A Third Sector organisation?  Most people seemed to think the latter!

Would the telephone line be backed up by social media, text, a website?  …

And the discussion went on…

It will be interesting to find out the outcome. Will Leeds eventually have an info line for Mental Health and if so what information will this provide?

Watch this space…

The research was conducted on behalf of Volition by StopHateUK.

Thanks for reading,

Vicky 🙂

Guest Blogs

We’re always interested in guest bloggers – if you’ve something to say about staying well in Leeds please get in touch. Here’s an example of how it works from Ewan Povey, guest blogging for Leeds Mind.


The first has been written by Ewan Povey

The nation seems gripped with the belief that the unemployed are the fortunate ones. There was a time when people would have gone beserk with joy at £20,000 a year whatever they had to do to earn it. Personally I’d just like to be well enough to work, to not to have to live my life in a paranoid, anxious, mood destablised state, for women not to constantly cross the metaphorical road to get away from the too intense love of the manic man stigmatised by the press as a ‘ psycho’, to not be mocked by children on buses, to be respected by my neighbours for someone who is ‘striving’ to be well and build a useful meaningful existence rather than constantly watching my back lest one of them reports me for some perceived petty benefits infringement, to have an income that…

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Misdiagnosis? Schizophrenia? Emperor’s new clothes?

Choosing words carefully to describe MH experiences help people stay well

Jean Davison

Is talking about being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia like trying to sew sequins on the Emperor’s new clothes?

As regular readers of my blog might know, in my teens I was diagnosed and treated for ‘chronic schizophrenia’ on the basis of so-called negative symptoms, such as social withdrawal, flattened emotions and lack of interest in things. The situational reasons for these were not taken into account during five years of treatment; neither life events nor the greatly worsening of these so-called ‘symptoms’ by medication. I’ve been fine since I managed to get myself off the neuroleptic drugs and out of the psychiatric system many years ago.

Nowadays people (including my publishers, psychiatrists and others who have read my memoir and those who know me) say that I was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.  Although I sometimes say this, too, I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the way it seems to imply that there is…

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Connecting, informing and sharing

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photo: Pat Geary



SPRING HAS SPRUNG! (except for weather) ….14degrees C. forecast for Sunday

Musings, blogging and keeping well

Since taking the LWW Community Reporter and blog training last year, I’ve enjoyed contributing not only personal reflective posts, but also those about activities and events that have helped me remain well. The act of writing the articles themselves has been therapeutic. Other commitments and the long winter have prevented me from using or developing some of the ‘field’ reporting skills we learned. My faithful Bloggie ‘snap’ (camcorder) however, remains my constant companion.

During the eight week course we learned to use, which is  a ‘hosting platform’, or blog template tool which offers people the opportunity to set up a free blog. Learning these techniques fired my imagination sufficiently to also attempt designing my own blog,  I’ve tried several themes for it’s appearance. I like the freedom that creating my own blog allows me; choosing the theme and colourways has been satisfying, but time to publicize or develop them further is restricted, they are a hobby. I’m not expecting their topics to have wide appeal.

On the training course we discussed the use of Twitter or Facebook for widening the LWW audience. In addition I was was surprised to see on a module I take, Current Issues, that we were encouraged to start a Twitter account and use it in class! So now I am a little addicted twit..ter!

Report writing because of its more clinical format I find easier than creative or analytic, academic pieces. In my forties I was assessed with a disparity between my intellect and academic ability, an SplD akin to Dyslexia but with an affect on my aural comprehension.  The residual affects of ECT and  age related memory changes may also have  impacted on my composition skills, they are not always consistent.  It makes me frustrated, but oh the sense of achievement when the piece is  near to what I want to express.

Most of us probably know that remaining well is cyclic, like the seasons, …not linear. I don’t think promoting well-being is simply about putting a positive spin on what we might do to keep well. Having lived experience of mental distress undoubtedly makes life hard, my resilience has been affected by it. I find getting a balance between ‘doing’ things, ‘being’ and reflecting on past and present experiences all help me. ‘Being’ for me involves wrestling with some of the often disquieting thoughts and feelings that occur, allowing the healing water of time to wash over them. A good night’s sleep helps me but it’s something I am often chasing.

There were underlying causes which led up to my breakdowns and while diminishing, at times of stress they resurface. I try not to worry about any accumulative negative effect they, or their treatment may have caused me.

I believe one of the biggest factors in remaining reasonably well is, where possible, to have rejected the diagnosis I’ve been given and negotiate the treatment that remains. As much as I would like to be medication free, fear of another acute episode of being overwhelmed by thoughts of past events, prevent me from making a complete withdrawal, I have the freedom and professional support to do this at my own pace.

Being open, sharing experiences about mental health issues can be risky but I usually chance it even with strangers, doing so on a blog though is still an unknown. Feedback from friends, fellow contributors and comments from readers has proved a boost to my continued sharing. Sometimes my inspiration to write is low, I hope the summer months will improve my scope for community reporting. It was the spark of anger on this occasion, which intriguingly, roused my muse. Additionally my remembrance of the 18th century poet, John Clare’s commitment to share his truth despite his long struggle with mental distress, which spurred me on.

‘O Clare your poetry so translucent and clear, I salute you with tears’ Charles Causley.


Shared Reading Practitioner Day: Relating Research to Reading

Language, reading can help improve memory, good mental health and well being

The Reader Online

The Reader Organisation’s research partner, the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool, seeks to set the world agenda in:

  • Reading, health and well-being
  • New digital technologies and the future of meaning
  • The role of literature in modelling creative thinking about human existence

Their work is already making significant links between reading and cutting-edge research, discovering how reading challenging literature such as Shakespeare and Wordsworth can shift mental pathways and prompt new thoughts in readers, as well as highlighting the ways in which reading can help aid memory, good mental health and wellbeing, and you can discover more about the relationship between reading and research at Speaking Our Own Language’: our Shared Reading Practitioner Day 2013.

Professor Phil Davis and Dr Josie Billington from CRILS will be speaking at the special event, designed for Read to Lead graduates…

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Wellbeing Web workshop at Inkwell next Tuesday

Social Media surgeries have been getting very popular in the last couple of years, as places where people who have some information and knowledge about social media give their time to help people who want to learn. For people involved in mental health, either as workers or people with direct experience, there’s now a free regular social media surgery every second Tuesday of the month at Inkwell Community Arts Centre in Chapel Allerton, 3.30 to 5 p.m. And next Tuesday Leeds Wellbeing Web will be running a workshop there!

I first went to a social media surgery about a year ago, knowing virtually nothing about blogging, tweeting etc. but wanting to learn because of a growing interest in Leeds Wellbeing Web. It was actually a really nice experience. An experienced blogger took me aside and worked with me one to one for about an hour, answering my naive questions, and generally being extremely kind and patient. The surgery next Tuesday at the Inkwell is being run by Leeds Mind and Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and their blurb says ‘our surgeries are a safe space to learn about how to use the web and social media to communicate, campaign or collaborate. It is relaxed and informal, offering a friendly helping hand and no jargon’. Whatever you want to learn about – WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, or any of the millions of other things out there, chances are someone will be able to help you work it out, or at least point you in the right direction. If you want to know more about the event as a whole go to:

Tuesday would also be a great time to come along and meet members of Leeds Wellbeing Web (see above planning what we’ll be doing on Tuesday). We are cheerful amateurs, learning all the time about this, but we do jointly have a vision for a living online space where people with experience of mental health issues (as we all are) can talk to each other about what it is about this city that helps us to survive. We’ll be there from 3.30 to 5 to talk about how we came to set the Wellbeing Web up, what we’ve been doing, and what we plan to do next. You can sign up for the workshop at:

If you want to know more, or want to volunteer as a ‘surgeon’, contact Sarah on 0113 3055989 or e-mail

DSC00234I was tired after watching Christian and Vicky work so hard