A 19-year-old from the Black Country who struggles with her mental health is using her artistic talents to help young people recognise their emotions and inspire them to speak out about how they are feeling.
Becky Lawley has created a series of postcards which demonstrate the feelings people experience when coping with mental health issues.
The postcards will be placed in GP surgeries, schools, youth centres, mental health services and social care facilities across the area to encourage young people to create conversations and help others understand the struggles faced by those who are suffering.
Becky has been helped by support worker Rachel Evans from Just Straight Talk, based in Dudley, which works with those looking for employment, training, education, housing and health opportunities.
The organisation has received financial support from Heart of England Community Foundation with funding from the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Fund.
The funding was made available as part of the Building Better Opportunities Community Matters project which helps people across the Black Country move into employment or training through support.
Becky’s struggle with mental health started at the age of 12 when she began being targeted by bullies both in school and online, even receiving death threats.
She became anxious about her appearance, started skipping meals to lose weight and began self-harming, and the bullying continued despite moving both house and school at the age of 14.
She suffered with anxiety, depression and became trapped in an abusive relationship – all of which ultimately led to her being diagnosed with anorexia and making attempts on her own life.
With support from Just Straight Talk, Becky is learning to cope with her feelings and continues is now looking towards a positive future.
She hopes her postcards will help others who are also experiencing similar issues, and she has already received feedback about the difference they are making.
“I created the postcards after being encouraged to start an art project. That week I painted my emotions, and before I knew it I had 11 different pieces of work all depicting different feelings.
“The idea behind the postcards is simply to help young people express themselves and can be used when someone can’t put their emotions into words.
“Professionals don’t always understand someone who is unable to speak in an appointment. I have previously been discharged from services because my anxiety made it near impossible to talk about how I was feeling, and this shouldn’t be happening.
“I’ve already received some excellent feedback about how the postcards are raising awareness of mental health by demonstrating the struggles that people can endure and I hope they go on to help even more people.”
“Just Straight Talk referred Becky to the Dudley Young Health Champions project in June 2017. The project provides youth-led opportunities for young people aged 11-25 around issues of health.
“At first, Becky struggled to engage but through one-to-one support from the project, Becky started to open up.
“It became apparent what a talented artist Becky is and through utilising this gift she developed the postcard project.
“The Dudley Young Health Champions project is unique to Dudley and has provided a platform for Becky to share her experiences with other young people and decision-makers to support the positive mental health of other young people who struggle.
“Becky is an inspiration – all young people have a talent and contribution to make and the project’s aim is to enable young people like Becky to develop and thrive.
“She has selflessly worked to help others, despite struggling herself. This partnership is a shining example of the power of working together.”
Tina Costello, CEO of Heart of England Community Foundation, added:
“Becky’s story is truly inspiring, and it is wonderful to hear how she is using her personal experiences to help others, with the support of Just Straight Talk and we are proud to have supported such a wonderful project.”
The Big Lottery Fund uses money raised by National Lottery players to help communities achieve their ambitions. From small, local projects to UK-wide initiatives, its funding brings people together to make a difference to their health, wellbeing and environment. Since June 2004 it has awarded £8.5 billion to projects that improve the lives of millions of people.
The BBO project has received £107,250 of funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England. The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme. Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.