Helping beat mental illness through music session in Doncaster

They're discussing the state of people on their way home from the St Leger at the Yorkshire Main Community Centre, in Edlington.

Friday, 27th September 2019, 3:18 pm
Violinist Dyzelle Sutherland at the Creative Directions session at the Yorkshire Main Community Centre in Edlington

There is talk of how smart everyone is on their way in to the races, compared to how they are when they come out again after a days racing, high heels in hand after a tiring day.

Then the Ukeleles come out, and music fills the hall of the Edlington Lane venue.

This is Creative Directions. Set up by the Doncaster community arts group Darts, it is using music to help adults who have been experiencing mental health issues.

Jamie Rosser and Dyzelle Sutherland (back) and Jacqueline Massie and Claire Kendell (front) taking part in the Creative Directions session at Edlington Yorkshire Main Community Centre

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Rupert Suckling, director of public health in Doncaster, recently told a Doncaster Free Press round table discussion that Doncaster was no different from the rest of the country, so it was known that mental health problems are among its biggest health problems and are more common than cancer and heart disease.

One in four people in their lifetime will have a mental health problem, and at any one time one in six people will have a mental health problem, he said.The same event saw calls for more help in our communities.

Originally running in Doncaster town centre, the Creative Directions scheme has now extended into those communities in the borough, running in Edlington and at Alexander House in Askern.

Organisers say that life can be a confusing and stressful place if you have mental health problems, and Creative Directions is a group for adults that uses arts workshops to help people experiencing mental health difficulties get back on track.

Jamie Rosser with signs that inspired poet Ian McMilland at the Creative Directions session at the Yorkshire Main Community Centre in Edlington

Activities are run to help people express themselves and develop new friendships and learn new skills and ignite new passions.

The sessions are free and you don't have to be having mental health issues to join in.

With the musical instruments out, the group attending at Yorkshire Main are writing a song. They're using the ideas they have discussed about the St Leger to put together a folk song.

Sessions are led by Jamie Rosser, a former builder, a former miner, and a man who changed his careers after encountering mental health issues himself.

Jamie had suffered from learning difficulties, epilepsy and a mood disorder, leading to him leaving his previous job due to his illness.

As part of his recovery he took part in Darts schemes. That led to him joining the group as a volunteer, joining the staff team in 2008. He is also a part time wellbeing worker with the mental health charity MIND

He said: "Darts was like therapy. It was an environment that helped me focus, and distance myself from personal issues."

When Creative Directions started, he was among those involved. The sessions involve professional artists, with Jamie the constant presence.

The artists vary.

Gary Hammond, the former percussionist from The Beautiful South has been involved with sessions. So has the composer Luke Carver Goss.

And the famous Barnsley poet Ian McMillan has taken groups, creating words to go with the music that the groups produces.

"It is not just for people with mental health issues," said Jamie. "It is for everyone who wants to come, and the theme is folk music, which means getting a group of people together, talking about the community past, present, and future, their dreams and desires, and putting it into music and poetry.

"If people want to avoid social isolation, we're here for them.

"A lot of people find it is really helpful. It's a place where they can come and talk where there is not a strict structure, and most of it is based around conversation.

"When Ian McMillan came he was inspired by some damaged furniture in the hall. There was a notice saying not to use it, That led to a song about pit ponies!"

Group member Jacqueline Massie, who has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, was having a go at learning to play a ukelele. She discovered Create Directions through MIND, and finds the sessions at Edlington convenient for her.

"I like music, but I've never done anything like this before," she said. "We're being taught how to play a few chords on the ukelele, and coming here gets us out of the house and mixing with people. It gives you more confidence and distracts you from everyday life."

Claire Kendell, who has suffered from stress and anxiety, has also been attending the groups.

Music is nothing new to her.

She used to be the drummer in a band called Inclusion, which played a number of shows in Doncaster, playing their own music and well known hits.

"I've never played Ukelele before," she said. "You do whatever you want to do here. "I like the people, I have a laugh, and I get to be creative. I need to keep myself busy, and it helps coming here.

"Mental health issues can happen to anyone. Coming here you can talk about you feelings, and talk about anything."

Musician Dyzelle Sutherland is among those who lead the sessions for the group.

A classically trained violinist from Scotland, she has a masters degree in community music and is now working for Darts four days a week.

This was her first session in Edlington.

"It is led by the participants," she said. "I've come here and we've done what develops, by playing instruments and putting a song together.

"Some of those who take part have a musical background, and they often keep it hidden at first. It is about building people's confidence.

"I've been working for Darts for six years, but Jamie is the regular thread at these groups. It is lovely to help people make music. It is a language that can seem daunting until show shows you how to access it. I think this is a great asset for Edlington."