It always makes us so proud when our students go above and beyond. ACC Birmingham vocal artist students, Ruthie and Lavinia, did exactly that. They worked together to create a mental health awareness campaign they called ‘Inside Out’. We chatted to them both to find out what they did and why they did it.
The project was incredibly visual with two white t-shirts. One was plain and the other was inside out with words on the outside expressing different emotions that they had asked their peers to write.This was to represent that someone may be feeling okay on the outside, but this isn’t mirrored by the emotions they are feeling on the outside. The campaign was also in black and white to highlight the irony that visually, things may seem black and white, but in reality it’s much more complicated than that.
The project started in their employability class, where their tutor presented the idea of making a project that incorporated mental health. The project began by writing poems. For Ruthie, the inspiration for her poem came from personal experiences. ‘Having had personal experience with homelessness last year and ongoing mental health issues, I started to get carried away. The poem I wrote spoke about how I felt on the inside and I started to draw faces with tape over the mouths with words like afraid, scared, anxious etc. All the things I didn’t say out loud, but were on the inside. I then thought maybe that was a bit out there, and so I brainstormed and the t-shirt idea came. I told Tim [tutor], I’d written a poem – he came over to read it with me. I started to tell him the ideas about the t-shirt and with his encouragement that I spoke out about it. Lavinia kindly offered to help me deliver the project and offer support – we chatted openly about our mental health struggles because of it’.
After chatting with Ruthie. Lavinia loved it and immediately wanted to be part of it. ‘We discussed how mental health is so powerful yet so unseeable and how bad it can damage you inside, but physically you look good and normal. We wanted to express that and it came to life. When you look at the t-shirts, the impact of seeing all the negative words is so despondent’.
Ruthie told the access team that their fellow students were curious and all gladly offered to help. ‘We were worried about asking people but that soon faded. Originally we planned to offer pieces of paper anonymously but everyone was happy to write their words open and freely. The freedom of writing down anything painful or worrying to them was really therapeutic and people were open to talk’.
When asked what they hope the campaign achieved they both highlighted how they hoped it would raise awareness about mental health and its seriousness. For Lavinia, ‘ I hope it will help someone to not feel alone. Maybe people will look at it and realise that every single word represents a person and when they see the whole t-shirt covered in words, they will realise how many people feel so many different things but we are all the same body. I hope they will gain the courage and talk to someone about it. Going and asking for help is the best thing you can do and there is nothing wrong with that’.
‘I hope it achieves a sense of release and freedom that it’s ok to feel these things, but then it’s ok to go and talk to someone too’ explains Ruthie. ‘Some words were repeated several times which potentially highlights what’s most prominent with ‘suicidal’ appearing twice. When someone is in a dark place mentally, suicide is actually quite common and we need to talk more about it more so people don’t think they have to go through with it. Feelings are temporary and can be healed and expressing how you feel is so powerful, which came across in this project. Music and the arts play a huge part in mental health well being and I think it could be recognised more’.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, there are plenty of people you can talk to if you don’t feel comfortable talking to family and friends.
Samaritans: Call them free on 116 123. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org
Papyrus is a dedicated service for people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling or anyone concerned about a young person. You can call the HOPElineUK number on 0800 068 4141, text 07786 209697 or email email@example.com
NHS Choices: Call them free on 111.
C.A.L.M.: National helpline for men to talk about any troubles they are feeling. Call 0800 58 58 58.