Freedom Of Mind, Author at Freedom of Mind

Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Day three featured (fittingly!) three different events across all sorts of genres. We started with an Afternoon Tea Party Against Loneliness, where we worked with Link Age Network and Marmalade Trust to deliver an afternoon of fun and games. We followed that with a film screening and Q&A of “I made this for you”. Finally, we wrapped up the evening with Spoken Word with Raise the Bar.

Missed the events?

Check out our thoughts on how they went…


Cai’s Experience at Afternoon Tea Against Loneliness

I had no idea who would come along to this event. You never do at these things, but especially so at this one. When we began programming it, we wanted to create an event that would be inclusive for everyone, but particularly welcome some of the older members of our community.

As the event began, Mark was on the doors welcoming people as myself and others fetched tea. Watching the room fill up was exciting – it really was filled with everyone from the under 5s, to the over 70s! At first, there was an air of nervousness around everyone – what to say, how to act.

That atmosphere was quickly dispelled by a little thing we like to call Human Bingo!

We moved through the room starting conversations with people we’d never met before, which really set the tone for the whole event. I found myself engaged in discussion with a couple of elderly women about reducing plastic use, but only after playing jenga with some toddlers.

What was particularly engaging was some of the talks from the people at Link Age Network, Marmalade Trust and a couple of the other partners. They talked of supporting others and looking out for the people within our community. You could see people across the room opening up throughout – sharing their experiences of Loneliness and the support they received (or wish they’d received!)

That was the most powerful moment in this event – listening to others.

Mark – who was hosting the event – left us with two challenges. These were designed to encourage us to reduce loneliness within our community. And I urge you to take on these challenges too.

  1. To trade e-mails/social media/phone numbers someone new.
  2. To reach out to someone you already know who might be feeling lonely.

Between everyone at the event, I hope that this triggers a knock on effect that makes a real difference. For me – I took the details of someone who runs creative workshops at the event, and I’m going to message a friend that’s been going through a hard time.

All in – we had a great time challenging loneliness as a group.


Katie’s Experience at the Film Screening and Q&A

TW: Discussion of Suicide.

I Made This For You is a beautifully artistic film about a young man who, after attempting suicide, receives a DVD from his friend containing a series of interviews with people from throughout his life. It was really exciting to be able to share this moving and raw film with a wider audience, and the Director Cristian Solimeno joined us for a Q+A after the screening.

The documentary style to the film, and the true stories behind many of the interviews shown, makes this a realistic piece and we discussed the way Cristian moulded the actors sessions in order to achieve this. Confusion from the audience demonstrated how effective this was, and Cristian explained how much he wanted to “break the rules of filmmaking” and create something full of improvisation.

It was moving to hear Cristian speak of his friend Billy, one of the actors in the film, who did take his own life before the film was complete.

He had one of the most profound lines about how when you are contemplating suicide you have pictured how everyone will react at your funeral, how your death will impact their lives. As someone who has been in that dark place, this really resonated with me and highlights how mental illness can affect any of us.

One of our content creators – Liam – created a sketchnote of the Q&A with Christian. This is the result of the discussion

An important and powerful film I Made This For You shows a realistic interpretation of how suicide can influence people’s lives whilst still managing to maintain the positives of the impact of friendship, family and love.

If you would like to speak to someone about suicide or any emotional difficulties, the Samaritans is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can contact them by phone for free on 116 123, email or visit your local branch (in Bristol this is 37 St Nicholas Street, BS1 1TP).


HJ’s Experience at Spoken Word with Raise The Bar

There is something about Spoken Word that aims a gun straight to my heart and shoots words that pierce me to my core. But it feels more like a lesson, a strength in its softness. A therapy of some kind.

As I walked into a row of chairs and a host of fairy lights at Prince Street Social, I knew this was going to be a good one. One by one, audience members grew into a pack of 60+ people, all watching two companies with one common reason; mental health.

A host of poets blurted their deepest secrets out on to the microphone.

You could hear a pin drop as honest accounts of what it is to feel, fell between us. Every year I’m excited about this event, and every year I’m left more inspired.

If I could introduce this artform to someone who doesn’t know it, it would be this; these artists have chewed up an entire dictionary, understood exactly how they work, and eloquently spat out the words in a rhythmic concoction of genius that unlocks something inside you that you didn’t know exists. They make human pain the most beautiful song I’ve heard. They make memories last forever. Some artists stand quietly behind the mic stand, spitting every silent syllable, and some bodies become enraged with their words, the whole performance turning into a visceral dance – their words their song.

For this ‘mental health special’, they spoke of domestic abuse, eating disorders, religion, suicide and love. They twisted their hard times into a live audio book that no one could put down.

They united a group of strangers and made situations you haven’t been through completely understandable.

It was a pleasure to watch every truth unravel, to watch these artists modestly accept their applause and cheers, and to speak to the general public about their mental health. As a mental health campaigner, the most important thing to see is Mental Health as a subject lose its stigma entirely, and come alive in its own right – to find its place in everyday conversation. Freedom of Mind execute this effortlessly at every event.

And not only are these poets painfully talented and intelligent, they are the bravest souls around.

They are able to voice the times most vulnerable to them, put them on a plate and serve it to you, and make you realise you are most definitely not alone.

To become vulnerable and to allow your softness?

That’s the greatest strength I’ve ever seen a human perform.


And so wraps up day 3! For day 4, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel our Book Signing with Jonny Benjamin as he’s come down with a virus, but join us on World Mental Health Day for an Early Morning Silent Disco and a Body Image Panel Discussion

See you next time!

Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Our second main event was a wellbeing walk at Leigh Woods! And we were hoping some dogs would come along too. Missed the event?

Check out Anna and Cai’s thoughts on how it went…

Cai’s Experience

I love dogs. And so when the idea of a dog walk was floated in the team, I was instantly on board! Cut ahead several months to Leigh Woods on the morning the walk. Opening my blinds in the morning revealed a perfect day for it – the sun was out, it was crisp and I was ready.

After we’d all arrived at the meeting point, we began our walk.

Making our way through the trees felt peaceful and relaxing. Being around nature makes you feel good, so whether we were talking about mindfulness or just playing with dogs, it helped.

The route was enjoyable. It remained easy throughout and never got too tricky. Making my way through the group of people that had gathered was fun to listen to the different conversations that were being had.

With a huge range of people from all sorts of backgrounds (and a variety of dogs to boot!) it was a great community event with loads of fun.

Anna’s Experience

Yesterday morning a group of intrepid dogs took their two legged friends for an adventure through Leigh Woods for Freedom of Mind’s Wellbeing Walk! Excited barks could be heard echoing through the trees as dogs big and small, scruffy and smooth greeted new friends and strained to get going.

We followed the purple trail winding through the woods, each at our own pace, as dogs bounded and plodded around us, and a young boxer sprinted at full pelt looking for the best stick. Many conversations naturally moved to the importance of being outdoors, among plants and wildlife, and of course the healing power of our waggy tailed companions.

One quote that really struck a chord with me was from a lovely woman with a gentle border terrier:

‘We measure progress by how far we have moved away from nature’.

We both agreed that getting back in touch with nature was part of what made us feel truly alive.

Overall, the event encouraged people to see new faces, get some fresh morning air with their furry friends and remember how good it feels to wander through a green landscape and just BE.

And so wraps up day 2! For day 3, we’ve got a trio of events – an afternoon tea party against loneliness, a film screening and a spoken word night

See you next time!


Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! We started this week long adventure with, well, exactly that! An afternoon on adventure! We collaborated with the Women’s Adventure Expo to put on the Adventure and Wellbeing event at Watershed. Missed the event?

Check out Katie’s thoughts on how it went…

We kicked off with an afternoon long event discussing wellbeing and adventure. Working again with WAE lots of different organisations and individuals shared the great projects happening across Bristol and the country. From cycling projects like Two’s company with life cycle to adventure expeditions for women escaping domestic violence from My Great Escape we heard about some incredible things.

An interesting talk followed from Dr Nathan Smith about his work with professor Emma Barratt at Manchester University on the links between adventure and wellbeing. A quick overview of their work demonstrated how much adventures (however big or small!) Can have a positive impact on our wellbeing.

Following this was a series of workshops, we joined Mark and Cat in discussing the barriers you might face to have an adventure, and the ways we can overcome these.

Together we came up with Top Tips to Mini Adventure Wellbeing:

• Stretch your stretch zone

• Know yourself and trust your instincts

• Give thanks to the universe

• It’s okay to be selfish and it’s okay to need people

• Trust the process

• Remember to enjoy the journey

And so wraps up day 1! For day 2, we’ve got an exciting photo-walk with Colin Moody through the streets of Stokes Croft and Montpellier. 

See you next time!


Mel is a YouTuber who talks often about body positivity. In this video, she shares about how her mental health has affected her body image.

I’m Mel Ciavucco and I make body image and self-esteem YouTube videos. I totally support body positivity and think that we should all love our bodies, but sometimes I feel like the biggest hypocrite ever. I’ve struggled with body image and self-esteem issues, and anxiety, all my life. But I’m on a journey to try to be kinder to myself. I’d love you to join me!


In this video I talk about how body image issues and anxious thoughts have impacted my life, and I share some of my tips and coping strategies too.



If you have something you want to say about mental health send us a pitch to

Keep your pitches to less than 150 words and tell us what content you want to make and why you want to make it. It can be anything, from a poem, to an article, to a video, to a piece of artwork – we’re just after stories to tell. We can keep things anonymous if you’d like and we’ll help you to edit your piece then get it up on the blog.


In this Guest Blog Post by Taya Bryant, they write about their own experience with recovering from mental ill health, and how it has impacted their relationships.

It all started for my second year of university, Doctors classified me with depression. However, my mental health didn’t just affect me, but it affected my relationship with families and friends. I kept having arguments with my mother because she didn’t understand. It broke up my love interest relationship because he felt I was ‘too insecure’ with myself and I became distant. I closed off my friends, family and even strangers. My friends noticed how distant I became and even though they would offer to listen, I found it hard to approach them for help.

When I started medicine for my depression, I felt like I was the most distant from everyone. I didn’t speak to anyone for months, not even a text throughout the day as it caused me to go inwards on myself. I didn’t see anyone or go out of the house for weeks. I even lost some friendships because they thought I was ignoring them. This all spiralled and made me feel even worse.

Every individual had different methods to help them keep their mental health stable. Whilst medication didn’t work for me, one service that helped was OTR Bristol (Off the Record). OTR is an organisation that supports young people (ages 11-25) living in Bristol and South Gloucestershire to improve their mental health. They have a wide range of services, from expressing your emotions through art, going on walks, workshops, book clubs and discussions for parents who want to understand their child’s struggle, but I settled on their free one-to-one counselling and “Mind Aid” course

The six weeks counselling helped me process my feelings and actually made me realise methods I already had when I felt an anxiety attack coming on. The counselling sessions helped me talk to my closest of friends; as if talking to stranger was a mini-step for me to talk to people whom I care for. It is always feels like a struggle talk to friends, but once you start and you realise they are there for you, you know there is nothing to be scared about.

Mind Aid was similar to a group therapy; it helped me see that I wasn’t alone in my time of need, and that others were going through a similar situation with me. It was good opportunity to hear other people’s stories and their methods. There were two good techniques Mind Aid taught me that I will forever keep.

One was the breathing and listening technique.

If you felt like your mind is overflowing with thoughts, you would stop what you’re doing, take a deep breathe, just listen to your surroundings, and focus on sounds instead of the thoughts racing through your mind. This was difficult at first, as my mind would get distracted after 2 seconds and go back to the thoughts. But my mentor told me this was normal and all I had to do is take another breath and try again. It’s a short technique but whenever I was in crowded places and felt a bit overwhelmed this technique saved me.

Another technique I have is timetabling a routine (only small one).

For example, I would start by planning a 15 minute walk every Tuesday. As the weeks went on I added more and more to the weekly routine and whenever I completed a week without going off rota I would treat myself. To help you make your own routine, start by making a list of what makes you happy. Let’s say baking pies makes you happy, so once a week you would add bake a pie in one of your weekly rotas. It gave me a sense of goal and purpose for my week, which in result helped me feel more like me.

My self-esteem started to build; I actually started to think more positive thoughts and overall just started to feel more like myself. I am not saying I am “all confidence” now – I’m not, and I still have moments of anxiety taking over. But I can now take small risks without over thinking or feeling overwhelmed (Example- going to a job interview or presentation coming up). I focus more on my skills and likes compared to my dislikes and that’s a big step for me personally.

Most importantly, I’ve started to gain a relationship with myself again.

I’m more able to start trying to build up the relationships around me. My relationships still have a long way to go, as everything always does, however I have a group of friends who I feel supported by every second. It’s even beginning to improve my relationships with my family, and time will tell how that improves.

One of my close friends has helped me the most, even now. I ring him whenever I am feeling even a little bit of sadness and he helps me process my emotions, supports me and understands how I think. He has such a kind and calm matter, it’s like I absorb it when I feel a panic attack coming along. I will always appreciate the timing of when we become close and can’t think of it in any other way now.

It was hard and it took over 6 months to even have a tiny bit of positivity within me again. But with patience, anyone can overcome any situation and help others be aware about mental health and the struggles and stigma that come with it. Just don’t give up.

For more of Taya’s work, check out her blog.

If you have something you want to say about mental health send us a pitch to

Keep your pitches to less than 150 words and tell us what content you want to make and why you want to make it. It can be anything, from a poem, to an article, to a video, to a piece of artwork – we’re just after stories to tell. We can keep things anonymous if you’d like and we’ll help you to edit your piece then get it up on the blog.

In this three part series, we wanted to examine Coping Strategies and how you can use them to become a more resilient and mentally healthy person.

Read the first part here, and the second part here.

Anna, Bex and Emily have spent 30 days creating Gratitude Journals to see the effect on their mental health. Find out what they learnt!

We are often asked what job we have, what we like to do, or what we did at the weekend, but we’re rarely asked if we’re happy. It can throw us off and make us really have to think. We are told throughout our lives that happiness can be found through achievement, material wealth, and finding true love, but in reality there is no magic key to happiness that will work for everyone. We need to get to know ourselves as an individual, understand what makes us get out of bed in the morning and what truly matters in our lives.

A good place to start is by writing in a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is a diary in which you write the things that you are grateful for in your life, often on a daily on weekly basis. Your ‘gratitudes’ can be anything you want, from having a cosy bed to sleep in or a supportive partner to running a marathon! They can help us to notice the positives in our life, learn more about ourselves and help us to understand what truly matters to us.

Research has suggested that gratitude may help improve various aspects of happiness and wellbeing such as self esteem, optimism, general life satisfaction and lower stress levels. It may even help to fight depression.  


We decided to investigate the effects of daily gratitude journaling for 30 days, using the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire once a week to see if our happiness improved. We wrote about our experiences and any changes that gratitude had made in our lives.



I started by writing short gratitudes, but soon discovered that elaborating and writing WHY I was grateful for each item made it more meaningful and helped me to explore my emotions around it, which was much more fulfilling. I began by writing about the most interesting or successful parts of my day, but it started to feel like I was just trying to impress myself. I realised that the things that made the most difference to my happiness were the relationships I share with loved ones, personal growth and my understanding of myself and the little unexpected moments, like watching a bird couple preen each other or a stimulating conversation with someone I don’t know too well.

Many of these small moments would have otherwise been forgotten, so I think the most important difference that the journaling made for me was to preserve them, so that I could look back and relive them. In difficult times I think a gratitude journal could help me to be resilient.  

My happiness score went from 3.41 at the beginning of the challenge, up to 3.75 and by the end of the challenge was back down to 3.55.  Although my score increased overall, I stayed firmly in the ‘neutral’ happiness zone the whole experiment, which surprised me, because although my mood can fluctuate, I think of myself as a reasonably happy person.  In that respect the experience helped me learn more about myself, and I will now try to work on strategies to increase my overall happiness.

I admit it was slightly tiring writing three items every day- I’ve read that writing once a week can actually be more beneficial!  But the journal did help me to notice and truly appreciate things I may otherwise have missed or taken for granted, and it enriched each day and made my memories more colourful.



I wanted to make sure I could stick to my gratitude challenge, so I used an app called HappyFeed and set a reminder on my phone. This meant I could journal digitally throughout the 30 days, and I could do it on the move.  

I really enjoyed the gratitude challenge and for me, it felt like a small meditation at the end of the day, which really helped during those times I could not get in the headspace to actually meditate, or roll out my yoga mat.  

Interestingly, I found that I couldn’t just write three things that were great that day and ended up thinking of more things to be grateful for, the more I wrote about them because I was better able to notice the nice little things had happened. I also noticed themes. I was most grateful for the people around me, and the things they had said to me. I would often talk about a change in perspective, for example a realisation I had had during the day – and how I was grateful for life’s ebbs and flows. I also found that I was extremely grateful for my current opportunities, and my desire to accept, learn and grow.

I chose to reflect at night, before bed. Each week my happiness score increased very slightly, as I began to engage with these happy and thankful thoughts. One morning I even woke to thoughts of how lucky I am to be able to sleep in a warm and comfy bed, and to have shelter. I could feel the positive effects.  



I found recording what I am thankful for every day was very beneficial. For me, it highlighted the good I have in my life and made me more aware of what I can do to encourage these feelings of happiness. It has taught me to be more thankful for what I do have and to make sure I invest time in those that make me happy, no matter how busy life gets.

Even on the days where things weren’t so great, when I looked back at my day I was still able to find three things that made me laugh or smile every day for thirty days. I found those ‘not so great’ days, which were the hardest to recognise the good, the most beneficial to use the gratitude journal as it stopped me focusing on the negative and made me reflect.

Looking at my results from the initial happiness test to the last snapshot captured after thirty days of the gratitude journal, there is an increase in my happiness levels. I began the investigation ‘not particularly happy or unhappy’ ending on ‘rather happy, pretty happy.’  

My weekly review of happiness saw its ups and downs across the month, but I was really pleased to see no score was as low as the first time I took the happiness test once starting the journal. This has led me to the conclusion that recording things to be thankful for is beneficial. It is no cure, but it is a lovely way to source the good in every day and be thankful for the things that make us happy. It has highlighted what I can do to pick myself up when I’m feeling not so great and that no matter how rubbish my day may be, I am pretty lucky.

Going forward I plan to continue recognising the things I am thankful for in my life but not daily. I hope using this method on a less frequent scale or when I haven’t had the best day will still have a positive effect on my overall happiness without the feeling of it becoming a chore.



Each of us had a unique experience completing thirty days of a gratitude journal but there were positive effects common across us all. Recording what we are thankful for made us all recognise what we are lucky to experience during our days and a big part of that is who we surround ourselves with. The gratitude journal allowed us the time and headspace to reflect on our day and be thankful for what we often take for granted.

We all had a slightly different approach in terms of recording our results, and all found doing this task daily a little tedious. But whether it be via an app, alarms and reminders or good old fashioned pen and paper, we all experienced an increase in our levels of happiness by recording a gratitude journal. Going forward I think it’s safe to say we would all recommend keeping track of what you are thankful for in your life to recognise what you do have and to familiarise yourself with your own triggers for what makes you happy.

Tips on how to write one:

  • Your gratitudes don’t need to be big or impressive. Often the smallest moments like a long hug or seeing a beautiful flower can lift our day.
  • Don’t view it as a chore. Remember that you are journaling to help you learn more about yourself and to enrich your experience of life.  
  • Close your eyes and think about your day; when you woke up, what you did over the morning, into lunch, the afternoon and evening. Think about the people you interacted with that made you feel better or the thing you ate to nourish your body. Did you have a shower, and did it make you feel good? Or did you use your phone to contact someone you love? We often forget that these very simple things make us feel happier.  
  • Use an app as a reminder to write your gratitudes, or write by hand. Use a book that you enjoy writing in, and try decorating it. Anything to make using it an enjoyable and personalised experience that you look forward to.
  • Be as specific as possible – Try to find particular events, people etc that made a difference in your day. Eg ‘I’m grateful for seeing my best friend and having a good catch up’ rather than just ‘I’m grateful for my friends’.
  • Write your journal at night – there is evidence that proves it helps you sleep!

Do you have any tips you’d like to share? If so, we’d love to hear from you…

This is the final instalment in our series on Coping Strategies. Do check out our other pieces on coping strategies.

If you have something you want to say about mental health send us a pitch to

Keep your pitches to less than 150 words and tell us what content you want to make and why you want to make it. It can be anything, from a poem, to an article, to a video, to a piece of artwork – we’re just after stories to tell. We can keep things anonymous if you’d like and we’ll help you to edit your piece then get it up on the blog.



We’re excited to announce the first few events that will be taking place at Freedom of Mind Festival 2018! Tickets will be on sale soon, but for now, here’s a little taster for what you can expect between the 8th and 12th of October…


Spoken word night

We’re super excited to collaborate with Raise The Bar to bring you a night of mental health themed spoken word. Raise The Bar put on Bristol’s biggest spoken word poetry events, showcasing the country’s finest performers and hottest new talent, and we can’t wait to work with them again. Our last event with Raise The Bar sold out, so don’t sleep on this one.


Wellbeing walk with dogs

Calling all dog lovers! Come along for a Sunday stroll featuring some furry friends, all in the name of mental health. Enjoy the mood-boosting combo of nature, fresh air and (most importantly) dogs! Starting and ending at Café Retreat, this 2 mile will take you along The Downs in a circular route. The walk is open to everyone, whether or not you own a dog, so take time to paws and unwind.


Music event

Come together and celebrate the vibrant Bristol Music Scene. We’re bringing together a medley of classic Bristol sounds to honour our city’s amazing music culture that brings so many of us joy and freedom. So join us for an uplifting evening of unfettered fun, inclusiveness and festivities, all in the name of wellbeing.


Singing, Drumming and Dance Workshop

Get creative with an evening of singing, drumming and dance workshop. Choose between 3 different activities (singing, drumming or dancing), and become a master in that field as you follow a workshop leader. By the end of the evening, the three different activities will be fused together for one beautiful performance. Whether you’re a seasoned performer or an absolute beginner, come and make something wonderful.  Expect to have a lot of fun, and enjoy the togetherness and expression that singing, drumming and dancing fosters. All abilities are welcome.


Book Signing

Join us at Waterstones for an intimate evening with an award-winning mental health campaigner and author. We’ll delve deep into the topic of mental health with an interview, book signing and panel discussion. In the past, we’ve spoken to critically-acclaimed author Nathan Filer, and this year it’s set to be even bigger and better. We can’t tell you who it is yet, but stay tuned for a big announcement!


That’s all for now! More will be announced soon, and tickets will go on sale closer to the festival. You can keep up to date with all our latest announcements on our social media – follow us on Facebook and Twitter and make sure you click attending on our Facebook Event!

Sean, our Volunteer Manager, shares his experiences of being a father to his daughter, Becky. Join him on his journey through the ups and downs of a Father’s mental health.

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