World Mental Health Day was on Saturday 10th October.

A bitter-sweet day of anger, sadness, hope and gratitude to remind ourselves that mental health issues affect all of us in some way, that quality, holistic mental health services are a right for all, that stigma and discrimination must be fought… and also to celebrate what we all do to support and encourage positive mental health in ourselves and each other.

A woman who recently attended a My Heart Sings workshop posted these words on Facebook:

‘This year’s theme is #dignityinmentalhealth. To me, this means revolutionising systems based on oppression, coercion, human rights violations, and ineffective and unsafe treatment. We need an all-systems change to really achieve dignity in mental health. This includes the education, criminal justice and political systems, as well as the health system. It means campaigning against saneism, racism, sexism, homophobia, neo-colonialism, transphobia, classism, ableism and other oppressive systems.

Mental health is a social justice and human rights issue. #WMHD2015′

Women from the My Heart Sings Tuesday Circle marked the day in two ways.

In our regular sing, we discussed what helps us have positive mental health. From eating well and getting enough sleep to spending time with other women (particularly others with shared experiences, such as other women of colour or other LGBTQ women). From expressing feelings through creative arts to raising our voices against injustice through protest. We reminded ourselves about how singing together helps build community and how it can support mental health.

A number of us also attended the World Mental Health Day festival at St Lukes, the community centre which hosts our regular singing circle. The brilliant organsation Key Changes, who ‘promote positive mental health through music’, had organised an afternoon of uplifting and thought-provoking activities, finishing with an Open Mic night showcasing the clients they work with.

The My Heart Sings contribution was a LOUD pop-up group sing to kick off the Open Mic night. We were thrilled at how many people were willing to overcome nerves and have a go. Sixty people, from 2 years to 80 years old, singing and moving in unison creates a hard-to-beat energy and feeling of satisfaction.

And then we watched the Open Mic night – members of Key Changes performing songs and spoken word pieces, full of courage, truthfulness, love and playfulness. Some of the pieces were politically charged, as the artists drew connections between mental health and the consumerism, isloation, poverty and disempowerment experienced by many.

One singer said ‘the connection to others that we all seek seemed really present. The way people supported each other, connected to the poems, songs, the hugs of comfort and solidarity. I really love stuff like that because it reminds me that despite billions of £ spent on marketing and monetarising our lives, it is these connections that we can’t let go of and perhaps need more than ever now.’

20151019_210105Messages handed out to attendees at the World Mental Health Day event organised by Key Changes

IMG-20151010-WA0007Two of our youngest singers won the art competition and were thrilled with their prizes.