Eleanor Beckett, SGGS Alumna
As part of our ongoing blog series, former SGGS student Eleanor Beckett shares her experience of raising mental health awareness and provides current students with an artistic activity to engage with.
Over to Eleanor …
I first joined SGGS in 2012 and remained at the school throughout my secondary education including Sixth Form. It was during this time that I discovered my passion for Art and I took the subject both at GCSE and A-level. I will be studying English Literature and History at York University from this year, but my enjoyment of drawing has seen me continue to explore the benefits of the artform and apply my findings to other things I am passionate about in life, such as personal and community wellbeing.
I remember guests visiting SGGS as part of the Speaker Programme, and addressing my class about important topics such as eating disorders, and I believe these experiences have helped to inspire me to look for ways that I can help to empower young people with knowledge around important issues.
My journey abroad
In January of this year, I travelled to Nepal with international development organisation VSO, as part of the Department for International Development funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme. I lived with a local host family so we felt fully immersed into the community and could see the challenges people face with our own eyes.
It is safe to say that my experience of ICS has changed how I think about the whole sector of international development. It has inspired me to become much more involved in problems affecting my local community. Opportunities like ICS gives young people the chance to take an analytical eye to sustainable development, which really equips us to make the most long-lasting changes we can in communities across the world as well as in our own future volunteering and careers.
Bringing my findings home
Upon return to the UK, all ICS volunteers undertake an ‘Action At Home’ project, ensuring that their new skills also benefit their local communities. One of the central aspects of my return has been the ‘Better Faces in My Time’ project. This is a community-oriented project aiming to bring people together by creating very simple, entertaining drawings of ourselves and our lockdown companions; which works to alleviate some of the mental and emotional strains of daily life in quarantine as well as spread awareness of the need for protection and care for mental health as individuals and in our community.
At the moment the project is in its infancy, yet I have been able to connect with amazing organisations like Guy’s Gift, the Starfish Collaborative and Coventry and Warwickshire Mind as well as Peace First, a global organisation which supports young people to make sustainable changes in their community.
Stories are more valuable than statistics yet as it stands, 75% of people with anxiety and depression do not get the help they need. This project aims to invite everyone in local communities to engage more actively with their own wellbeing, with art being a key mechanism to explore emotions, especially when it happens in a safe space with no judgement. We want people to get talking about their portraits and through our display of them, raise awareness and build up networks.
What comes next?
Through connecting with Art departments at schools, including my friends at SGGS, I am hoping to create curated artwork to promote wellbeing and tackle stigma. To get involved in the project, take part in the activity below and email your drawings to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through our Facebook page, ‘Better Faces in My Time.’