Arts and mental health
Adults with mental health issues are being given a platform to express their creativity through a digital magazine project, thanks to funding from generous donors.
The publication CoolFruit is produced by arts and mental health charity CoolTan Arts based in Southwark, and is put together by a team of ten talented contributors. It features content from participants, volunteers and staff of CoolTan, most of whom have long term mental health needs.
Four issues have been published so far, receiving enormously positive feedback from both its readers and contributors. The pilot issue, which was published in summer 2013, has been read by almost 6,000 people across ten countries.
Working on the magazine provides contributors with an opportunity to improve their writing, research or design skills, as well as develop a portfolio of work for those who are preparing for college or employment.
‘It gives them confidence and they get to meet new people within a supportive environment,’ says Annie Spinster, Coordinator of CoolFruit. ‘Our volunteers have told us that it’s a lot easier to share their experiences than it has been in other settings – and we’re good at going at people’s own paces.
‘Over half the volunteers who have worked on and since moved on from the project have actually gone on to work or college, so that is something we’re doing quite well.’
The online format with unrestricted space encourages a wide range of content, so CoolFruit run an open submissions policy for anyone within CoolTan Arts who wishes to participate.
CoolFruit gives people with mental health issues a voice
The magazine is full of engaging articles on topics around self-help and self-advocacy, benefits and services, CoolTan projects, wellbeing and recipes. It also has sections dedicated to showcasing the art and creative work produced in CoolTan’s workshops, such as poetry, artwork and promotion of their latest exhibitions.
‘CoolFruit gives people with mental health issues a voice; they need to be heard a lot more about what’s happening to them,’ says Annie. ‘There’s an amazing amount of talent in the group and it’s lovely watching people’s skills develop and seeing how excited everybody is when their work is featured. Contributors feel proud to be able to show their family and friends what they’re doing and be treated seriously as artists.’
Hattie is a volunteer at CoolTan Arts and has been working on the CoolFruit team as a writer since early 2014. She says there are a number of elements she enjoys, such as the supportive group environment.
‘It’s a good thing to have structure in my week and allows me to meet up with people that have a common goal: producing the magazine. I try and write about things that I wish I had known and would have found helpful. It feels like we’re doing something that not only helps us, but helps other people.’
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Below: The CoolFruit team