Torbay Culture Board and Public Health Torbay set out to change the way that people think about emotional wellbeing and to remove the stigma around depression and suicide. They wanted to help men in Torbay improve their mental health and wellbeing through creativity and just talking – not only for their own benefit but for their family, friends and wider community.
The main impetus for the project was Torbay’s male suicide rate, which is the highest in the South West. Many local men suffering from anxiety, stress and depression have never asked for help.
Creative practitioners Simon Ripley and Josh Gaunt were commissioned to work with groups of local men to develop stories about their lives and to illustrate them through film and print-making. As well as providing an artistic focus for those taking part, the sessions aimed to create an environment in which men could talk about emotional and health issues.
In the spring and summer of 2016, Simon and Josh ran creative workshops and visited groups of men in a range of Torbay locations, including a men’s shelter, a boxing club, a number of fire stations, a community garden, a carpentry workshop, a barber’s and a pub. Their outputs include a series of short films capturing the men’s experiences and a set of wood-cut print beer mats, designed by participants to encourage other men to ‘Just Ask’ for help if they need it.
Gerry Cadogan, Public Health Principal at Torbay Council, said: “Despite the best effort of GPs, mental health and other services, we haven’t been able to reduce the suicide rate in Torbay. The majority of people, particularly men, who take their own life have never used mental health services and may not have talked to their GP – or anyone else – about their problems. We have to look at alternative methods and this project is an innovative and creative way to tackle the problem.”
Kate Farmery, Director of Torbay Culture Board, added: “There is significant evidence of the benefits of creativity for emotional wellbeing. This Arts Council England supported project is the first of several we are developing in partnership with health colleagues in Torbay, using participation in arts and culture to help improve people’s mental health.”
These films are now being shared on social media to get the wider Torbay community talking. Together let’s make it ok for you, your sons, daughters and grandkids to talk about anxiety, depression and suicide.