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A Magazine for Sheffield

Sheffield Flourish “We want people to feel connected”

With mental health difficulties on the rise, Sheffield Flourish provides a space to build support networks and learn new skills. Deputy MD Robyn Fletcher tells us about the vital work of the local charity.

Two women with microphones

Sheffield Flourish Music Group

Sheffield Flourish are a mental health charity based in Sheffield who provide a huge variety of services aimed at supporting people with mental health difficulties.

As well as running vital signposting websites such as the Sheffield Mental Health Guide and Sheffield Suicide Support, they help a number of community groups that offer a mental health friendly space to explore hobbies and interests whilst connecting with the community.

Groups like these mean a great deal to people, helping them forge important bonds when they need community the most. One attendee of Flourish’s art group CAST said of their experience:

It has helped me to get out of the house and meet people, to gain confidence and to keep writing, the latter of which is quite important to me. Also they have nice biscuits!

A person wearing a face mask painting

Sheffield Flourish's art group, CAST

With this in mind, I chatted with Deputy Managing Director Robyn Fletcher to find out more about Sheffield Flourish’s philosophy around mental health and why community is so important to what they do.

First of all, would you mind telling us a little bit about the groups that Sheffield Flourish supports?

We’ve got eight different groups, so we've got a real variety of things that you can get involved with. There's gardening, there’s football for both men and women. We've got art groups, writing groups, music… And under the umbrella of Open Door Music, we've now got five different groups going on. There's music production, there's a jamming session, there’s singing, music improvisation, and a music appreciation group!

We've got drama groups, and at the moment they're doing an advanced group for people that have been quite a few times, so people can develop skills throughout. Anyone can get involved in any of the groups. People don't need to have a [mental health] diagnosis to join.

Six people sitting around tables

Sheffield Flourish's art group, CAST

Why do you think community is so important for supporting people’s mental health?

Even though [mental health difficulties are] so widespread, people often report social isolation or loneliness. So one of the things that we want to try and do is build that connectedness, and allow people to flourish in the skills that they've got, and also find an environment that allows them to meet people.

Two people crouching behind lots of green plants

Sheffield Flourish's gardening group

Do you find that people often end up supporting each other because they're going through mutual experiences?

Yeah, I've noticed that quite a bit! You can see the relationships blossoming and forming. Some of the groups actually go out for coffee or dinner afterwards, which is really nice.

I think when people are going through something similar, they navigate naturally towards each other and support each other.

What is Flourish’s relationship to the more ‘traditional’ mental health services?

One of the main things we want is for people to feel connected, and to enable people to build a support network. You can come along and speak to other people about what you’re going through, even if that means venting about the fact that you're on a waiting list for other services!

We do a big community survey each year and the feedback that we get is that peoples’ mental health has benefited from being in creative spaces and learning new skills.

I think it's important to acknowledge that some people definitely will need more traditional interventions, or support, or medication at certain times, depending on what works for them. But social prescribing is becoming a lot more common now, because it should be about quality of life, and actually who are you as a human being? What do you like? What do you enjoy? And how can we enable you to do that?

There’s also an emphasis on storytelling and giving a voice to people with lived experiences of mental health issues. Why is that important?

Again, there's the connection side to it, so people can connect to the stories. But I think they are really, really important to break down stigma as well. For some people – they might be friends, or family, or carers – to be able to read that and actually understand where someone might be coming from with their mental health is really helpful.

Two people drawing

Sheffield Flourish's art group, CAST

But then the flipside is what people get out of writing stories as well. The feedback that we get from allowing people to have a platform is amazing. I think we've got over 400 stories on the website now.

If people want to share photos or art they’re also able to do that, and it can be a really nice way to express things.

Finally, are there any exciting events coming up that people can get involved in if they want to support the work you do?

We hold an annual art exhibition in partnership with Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Trust, which this year will run from 22 November to 2 December in The Circle.

The art itself will be a real variety. Some of it's from our art group, CAST, and some of it is from Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Trust staff and the people who use services there. And anyone with experience of mental health difficulties, or who is a friend or carer of someone with mental health difficulties, or who works in mental health services can submit their art.

It's always really nice because it feels really collaborative. We're holding a launch party for all the artists, and there will be free art workshops, as well as food and tea and coffee. The theme this year is ‘This is Me’, and people have interpreted that in so many different ways. It’s nice to see how creative people can be with the theme.

We're also doing a fundraiser event on 8 December. Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to hold a big event for a while, so we just thought why not see the year out with a bang and do something big now we can?

Neighbourhood Voices will be performing, and we've got hip hop Afro fusion artist Franz Von playing as well. There’ll be a DJ set from Smee and Lonan, who will be playing a vinyl underground hip hop set. And there will be loads of other things going on – a quiz, a raffle, and pizza from Sunshine Pizza Oven. And we’ll also have some merch for sale, including hoodies, t-shirts and Christmas cards.

We're hoping people will come along and have a bit of a dance!

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