JUST ASK

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Just Ask is a collaboration between Torbay Culture and Public Health Torbay designed to change the way that people think about emotional wellbeing and to remove the stigma around depression and suicide.  We want to help men in Torbay improve their mental health and wellbeing through creativity and talking to each other – not only for their own benefit but for their family, friends and wider community.

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The main motivation for the project is Torbay’s male suicide rate, which is the highest in the South West. Many local men suffering from anxiety, stress and depression have never asked for help and despite the best effort of GPs, mental health and other services, the suicide rate isn’t reducing. The majority of people, particularly men, who take their own life have never used mental health services and may not have talked to their GP – or anyone else – about their problems.

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We want to provide a creative way to tackle this problem. We will commission creative practitioners to work with groups of local men to develop stories about their lives and to illustrate them through film and print-making. As well as providing an artistic focus for those taking part, the sessions aim to create an environment in which men could talk about emotional and health issues.

The artists will run creative workshops and visit groups of men in a range of Torbay locations, including a men’s shelter, a boxing club, a number of fire stations, a community garden, a carpentry workshop, a barber’s and a pub.

 
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Using creativity and conversation to benefit participants, their family, friends and wider community, the project aims to:

  • find out why men find it so difficult to ask for help when they need support for their emotional health and
  • help men in Torbay to improve their mental health and wellbeing, and to raise their self-esteem so that they could ask for help.

An important factor of Just Ask is meaningful evaluation of the work. Working with a dynamic university academic develops a creative collaboration which adds to the overall energy for this work and our understanding of the challenges too.

The project was delivered in 2016. The outputs of the workshops include a series of short films capturing the men’s experiences and a set of wood-cut print beer mats, designed by participants to encourage other men to ‘Just Ask’ for help if they need it.

Watch the film and extracts on this page to hear the stories and reflections of men who have experienced emotional difficulties and suicidal thoughts, and how they have supported themselves and others to survive their experiences. You can watch the full 10-­minute film, or listen to their individual stories by clicking on each of the shorter film extracts (1-­2 minutes each).

The full evaluation report is available below. This is Torbay’s first of many collaborations between artists and the statutory agencies. What we have learned has informed our wider programme of arts, health and wellbeing activities, designed by artists, commissioners and local people.

REPORT

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The project was delivered in 2016.

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This project has been a collaboration between Torbay Culture and Torbay Council's Public Health team. The lead artists were Simon Ripley (printmaker and director of Double Elephant Print Workshop) and Joshua Gaunt (film, animation and combined arts) and evaluation was led by Professor Christabel Owens of Exeter University.