Stephen volunteers on the Growing Voices Project. This is a Time to Change grant-funded project, which attracts the attention of members of the public and starts conversations about mental health with a giant tree-themed shelter. The giant tree has been created by volunteers alongside local artists and craftsmen. The project visits country shows, festivals, and other outdoor gatherings and the tree acts as a canopy under which volunteers chat with the public.
I first became aware of the Growing Voices Project through the Time to Change Campaign. I felt that after 32 years as a service user/volunteer in my town, that I was feeling well enough to become involved with what sounded like a great opportunity to utilise my personal experience. I was correct in thinking this as this project, ably led by Zoe McIntosh, was just what I and my community needed!
The tree looked magnificent
When Zoe brought the Growing Voices Event to my Town, I was lucky enough to be well enough to join in. The Tree was magnificent standing there in all its glory at the entrance of the Civic Hall. No one could miss it, the colours stood out as well as all the artwork and posters. So many children came up to have a closer look, bringing lots of eager parents with them.
I was bowled over by the interest drawn to the event
My town is or was, a very hard working industrial town, and as per usual the 'Men Don't Talk' rule applies. I was bowled over by the interest drawn to the event and the public's willingness to talk about the issues that surround mental health. I feel this is indicative of the times we're living in. Most large towns struggle with so many hidden pressures like unemployment, marital breakdown and the stress of everyday living. People contain themselves to staying indoors with the TV on, or even making conversations via the internet. We are beginning to loose those personal skills of chatting to others in our communities!
This project has enabled people to share their own experiences
Whilst engaging with the public, several men used the opportunity of bringing their children to come and look at the tree to come and talk. I would begin to chat to them about the display and my experiences of mental health and then quietly they started to tell me about certain incidents that had occurred in their lives. This project has enabled these lovely people to share their own experiences! This in itself is such a wonderful thing to witness. I was able to signpost to several charities and services to these people and handed out so many leaflets about Growing Voices and Time to Change.
The project has certainly helped me grow
This campaign has helped me not only by highlighting my own self worth but has helped my confidence no end. I personally would love to thank Zoe and everybody involved in bringing this project about, not just to be but to my town and community.
The Growing Voices Project has helped reach out to people that usually don't talk to each other. It helped me re-engage with my community and has certainly helped me grow. This project has helped me find a voice and be able to own what I say with confidence!