Young people with long-term mental health problems are being encouraged to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of music by a Wandsworth mental health charity.
Since 1992, mental health charity Sound Minds has been using the arts to improve the lives of people with mental health problems.
Now it has launched Breathe Music, a project aimed solely at young people aged between 18 to 24.
Sound Minds CEO Paul Brewer, a guitarist and former occupational therapy manager, said: “The style of mental health service changes dramatically for those who graduate from child mental health services to adult services at 18.
“For some, it’s a bit of a cliff edge in terms of support.”
The project focuses on young people with severe mental-health problems, including psychotic and personality disorders, who are not in work or further education.
Long-term mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and bipolar, often present themselves for the first time between the ages of 18 and 24.
According to mental health charity Mind, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
Breathe Music runs workshops which aim to build the confidence of mentally ill young people by providing a social space where they can express themselves through music, learn new instruments from trained musicians, and produce their own songs.
The project has been granted a year of funding by the Wimbledon Foundation and Mr Brewer hopes that it will help to break down stigmas surrounding mental illness.
He said: “The nice thing about using the arts is it’s very public and so there’s always opportunities to talk about mental health around our events and to explain things because, sadly, the stigma still remains.”
The sessions run on Wednesday afternoons and are free of charge to mentally ill people living in Wandsworth and Merton of all musical abilities.
Searahlaine St James is a vocal coach with a music degree and teaching qualifications who runs the workshops’ vocal sessions.
She said that she is often amazed by the transformation she sees in people who attend the groups.
Ms St James described one young lady who would tremble in fear when she began attending the sessions.
She now nominates herself to perform solo in front of the group.
“It’s really, really lovely to see that she managed to break that barrier,” she said.
“Everyone who comes in is trying to break their own personal barriers and enjoy themselves and to move forward to do the things that they want to do.”
Access to the service is gained through referral, you can find more information here.