Welcome! Tony Cealy is the Director & Producer of 492 Korna Klub the UK’s only weekly improvised radio drama exploring social issues amongst the black community. He is a recognised ‘Artistic Agitator Fellow‘- connecting strangers to begin the difficult conversations in shared spaces about Brixton, it’s residents and it’s history at the new Brixton House. He conceived and is the curator of 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance – a radical reclaiming of heritage – to imagine, experiment and create new futures. He’s a facilitatortrainer at the Core Learning Group– a project that sets out to envisage how civil society in London might better share resources and power to drive change. He’s associate community development artist at using arts, culture, heritage and activism for community development. He sits as an adviser/member on the Reference Group for 

The members took part in contributing to Lambeth Suicide Strategy

The Black Men’s Consortium is a performance project & charity for Black men that aims to provide support and nurture around mental health issues that affect their lives. We mix art and politics along with a range of creative games, exercises and techniques in order to explore stuckness, blockages, inequalities and injustices that Black men experience in their daily lives.  Through the ongoing creative weekly sessions we aim to:

  • build strategies for citizen action 
  • analyse, understand and overcome situations of oppression 
  • make theatre to understand the reality we live in, the collective search for alternatives to injustice, power imbalances and inequality in access to resources and opportunities 
  • build solidarity to find concrete means for transforming unjust realities, overcoming oppression and building the future the men long for

We also use improvisation and storytelling to alleviate isolation, anxiety, depression and stress. The men work towards developing plans to create change within their mental health which acts as a catalyst to promote health and wellbeing and strengthen skills and local knowledge, particularly about how they access support.

Recent questions that seem to trigger us into action have been:

  • How can Black Men survive in a post COVID 19 world and remain proactive during these challenging and uncertain times?
  • How do we ensure that Black Men are not the first to die in this ongoing pandemic or in police custody?
  • What are the current obstacles Black Men face when dealing with economic success? 
  • What can Black Men do collectively to look after their Mental Health & Wellbeing and address our current reality?
  • How can Black Men support and guide the next generation so that we are better prepared for civil action?

Consultation outcomes:
Group members were initially asked two questions. What do you personally do to support your own mental health & What one service would you like to see or improve in your community?

A place to go with problems in the community possibly a café. Teams with learnt experience to address problems at an
initial stage. Volunteers like me. Walk in service -Counselling, Peer to peer support, Mentoring, Mainly provided by the black community for the black community. More black therapists. Valuing diversity. Being Culturally aware especially re
ethnic minorities i.e. black people. Bespoke services for families. Peer to peer support. Afro-centric/culturally appropriate services. Therapeutic youth services – with longevity not for gimmicks or tick boxes. I’d like to suggest more counselling services especially therapists who are from the Black/BAME Community. Information, Empowerment, Awareness, Centre. Educate mental health, awareness and recognition. Promote wellbeing before mental health crisis.
Address stigma. Policy makers who look like us Start at nursery level, teaching coping mechanisms. Early Intervention in Primary schools. MH Professionals in non- mental health settings. Male mentors. Couples counselling. Easy access to services 24 hours Legal advice/legal aid Drop in services.

We then asked: What do you personally do to support your own mental health? The answers to this question have been sorted into themes below:
Physicality Exercise. Breathe. (breathing exercises) Gym. Swimming. Yoga. Biking. Be outdoors, walking or running. Long walks 3 x per week Play sport. Football.

All forms of talk Speak to a professional. Counselling. Clinical therapy. Talk to my very close friends. Talk to friends and family. I will talk to my mum. Talk to best friend. Talk to/with my wife Talk to family. Friends. I am kind to myself in the way I speak to myself (my inner voice) I talk to myself as if I was talking to a friend/loved one. Talking to my close family and friends that can relate to the issue. I do check in with my wife where we treat questions about our mental health and the best way to deal with them. We also encourage each other. Admit issues to close male friends. Family counselling Church orientated (its free).

Spiritual Practice Meditate. Mindfulness. Spirituality. Pray. Family Prayer Pray to God about what is on my mind. Cast all my burdens onto him. Also pray for peace and guidance. I pray, seek the face of God.

Related to music Listen to music. Play music. Sing. Sing in a choir Dance.

Consciously thinking I try to think of something that I am grateful for, one thing, It helps. Reflect and give thanks Be thankful for what I have and where I am, and where I could be. Practice reflecting on my day. Think I think forward into what will happen after. Have me time. Taking time off for myself. Take time for myself to gather my thoughts and have a plan to move forward positively.

Writing Write. I write a letter to my future self Journal. Use a gratitude journal Writing down my achievements no matter how big or small.

Solitude Self isolate Find a peaceful place Be alone. Shut down Sleep Resting.

By Mouth Eat. Comfort eat. Drink.

Possibly solitude I read. Stories are the most accessible. Medicine. Self Care.

Watching something Watch football. Watch a film. Watch animals. Watch comedy – find a way to laugh.

Positivity Positive affirmations. Be around happy people. Stay Positive.

Acknowledge the pain Cry. Being vulnerable.

One offs Creative Projects. Upcycling. Baths. Basics: Breathwalk. Diet. Mindset. Standards. Heating/Insulation. Early Intervention Services. Entrepreneur services. Suicide prevention – “The Brave Project”. Long walks 3 x per week. I’m doing Volunteer work in Horticultural Growth. Stay connected to the Almighty. Practice empathy. Look at others. Learn to respect other’s views Stay away from toxic people (including family!). Building stronger communities Workshops Going into schools. Playing games. Travel Holidays. To know where you go you need to know where you came from.

The responses record the overwhelming wish for services that are tailored to the needs of the black community, although what is meant by that does seem to vary. E.g. culturally appropriate might mean visibly black (looks like me) to some people or culturally Caribbean or African to others. Many men identify as Black British. The other thing that comes across is that a multi-agency approach would not just be focussed on health, but would include legal advice, financial advice, opportunities to socialise informally and, repeatedly requested, counsellors and service providers who are black. It would be available on a drop in and a 24 hour basis. Much of what is requested is currently available, but not promoted or publicised in a way that amplifies the ethnicity of practitioners or service users, or the application. For example the popularity of activities that support physical health to also support mental health is not reflected in the way access to sport and exercise is promoted.

Clare Douglas

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