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Leeds celebrates mental wellbeing with art festival

Krystyna Spink and her son by her painting (bottom) at The Light, Leeds.

By Mellissa Dzinzi

THE ORGANISERS of a mental wellbeing festival say we still need to break the taboo about mental health problems.

Increased willingness among celebrities to speak out about their problems has helped to lead to greater openness but there is still pressure on people to appear as if they are coping, say experts.

October marks the seventh year since Love Arts launched the mental wellbeing festival in Leeds.

The artists involved range from 18 to 70 years old, and many of them have experienced mental health difficulties in the past.

Krystyna Spink, 53, a self-taught artist who has several paintings in the festival, had mental health problems over a decade ago alongside physical health problems.

“I suffered a lot from depression and arthritis in the past. It’s different now from when I used to go to the doctors for the depression. They used to just put you on pills like a zombie.

“I began to use art as a form of escapism and my head has never been clearer than it is now,” she said.

With 25 events and 15 exhibitions located around Leeds City Centre, the festival is running throughout October.

The event organiser, Linda Boyle, 53, said: “Anyone can be affected by mental health problems, one in four people experience mental health issues.

“If we can get people talking about mental health in a positive way then we are making progress.”

The festival aims to counter the negative stereotypes in society about mental health sufferers and to show the public they are still ‘normal’.

Krystyna added: “When you see your work on the wall, it builds your confidence. It gives you value and it makes you feel good.”

Lynn Chibage, a mental health and psychological wellbeing practitioner, said: “Anything that brings awareness of mental health to the public eye is a good thing, it helps everyone – even those who don’t have mental health issues.”

The festival has received grants and sponsorships from mental health trusts including Leeds and York Partnership Trust, and they have also received support from Leeds Inspired.

Ms Chibage added: “Mental health has become more publicised, celebrities are openly speaking about their own experiences, and the stigma is going. People should use the services that are available if they are finding it hard to cope.”

Love Arts Festival has also been incorporated into the campaign for Leeds’ bid to win the European Capital of Culture 2023 competition.

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