Mental health takes centre stage at prize-giving event

  |  Published: May 13th 2015
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Bucks County Council yesterday (Monday 11 May) marked this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week with a special reception hosted by Council Chairman Zahir Mohammed at which the three winners of the county's This Moment art competition were announced.

The competition - a joint project between the County Council and its partner organisations working to improve mental health in Buckinghamshire - was open to anyone over 11 who had been touched by mental health issues, either directly or indirectly through a friend or family member or at work. There was an excellent response, with over 60 entries submitted across a wide range of ages and abilities.

The title of the competition, This Moment: Connecting with the Present refers to mindfulness, the national theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mindfulness is a training approach that has received much attention in recent years. It helps people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, they’re better able to manage them. It also about focusing attention on the present moment, rather than dwelling on past worries or the challenges of the future.  Being actively mindful can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels, as well as depression.

Jane O'Grady, Buckinghamshire's Director of Public Health said: "art is an excellent way of being mindful and focusing on the present moment – in producing a piece of art  you have to focus on the creative act which absorbs your concentration and gives you time and space to step back from the concerns  of everyday life. That's why it made sense to have an art competition as a way of highlighting how mindfulness can help promote mental wellbeing.

"I have a particular interest in promoting mental health, and consider it pivotal to our overall health and wellbeing. This competition has been an inventive and fresh way of highlighting the importance of mental health to ordinary people in their day-to-day lives, and I thank the staff and partner organisations that have made it all happen, but particular thanks to everyone who has put their time and talent into taking part and entering a piece of art.

"I must say that I'm amazed at the sheer variety of people's work – both in terms of the approach and the way the subject has been interpreted. The judges too were impressed with the overall quality of the work submitted, and had quite a challenge in picking the winner in each of the three age categories."

The winners

Hannah Twyning won in the 11-15 age group. The judges felt this piece "fully understood and presented the central theme of mindfulness and represented that theme in an inventive and engaging way". 

Haajira Tanveer won in the 16-24 age group. The judges felt this piece "depicted the essence of mindfulness perfectly.  They particularly liked the abstract colour and shape combinations which have a strong emotive quality".

Steve Wassell won in the 25+ age group. The judges thought this was "a stunning piece which filled all the criteria.  A technically brilliantly made piece of work which was complex and thought provoking with a strong sense of mindfulness".

Why we need Mental Health Awareness Week

Good mental health is as essential to our wellbeing as our physical health, and it's estimated that one in four people will experience mental health problems in the course of any year.

And as with physical illness, mental health problems not only affect the sufferer, but also their friends and especially their family - which means that a large part of the population has experience of the difficulties caused by poor mental health.

Mental health is therefore an issue in every community, though its profile remains smaller compared with the national and local discussion surrounding health services for physical ailments. Many of us find it quite difficult to be open and frank about our own mental health problems.  We know that early treatment leads to a faster and  better recovery,  but still 75% of those with mental health problems do receive treatment l, partly because of a reluctance to seek help early.

That's why Mental Health Awareness Week seeks to shine a light on mental health – to get it discussed as openly as physical health, and to encourage people of all ages to access services, should they need them. 

Background information

Partner organisations running the This Moment art initiative are Buckinghamshire County Council, Bucks Mind, Carers Bucks, the school nursing service, Connexions, CAMHS, Healthy Minds and the Oxford Health NHS Trust.

National Mental Health Awareness Week, which has been running as an annual event since 2000, is organised by the Mental Health Foundation, a UK charity working for an end to mental ill-health and the inequalities that face people experiencing mental distress, living with learning disabilities or reduced mental capacity.

Go to our web page http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/mentalhealth for information on getting help with mental health issues.

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