Tyne Stories: Karl’s story

Hello, my name is Karl, I’m a member of Tyne’s resident consultation group and I have lived with Tyne Housing for many years now. Today I want to tell my story about an art project I recently worked on with Converge, part of York University.

During the Coronavirus lockdown I was really struggling, there was a big dip in my mood and I became anxious about going out and seeing people, even though I wanted to be getting out, I rarely did because I found it so hard. I spoke to Bryan Beverley (Tyne’s Learning & Wellbeing Manager) and we discussed some different things I could do to help my confidence. Tyne provided me with a laptop and encouraged me to take part in an art project called Converge which was run by York University. It was an online art class setup for people struggling with mental health as a means for them to socialise with others and express themselves creatively.

The classes were run on zoom once a week with homework in between. It was really great for me because I was meeting new people, making friends and helping my anxiety. It also gave me a bit of a routine back which I really needed. I was looking forward to the weekly sessions and in between the homework gave me something stimulating to focus on when I was stuck in the house. It definitely improved my mood and mental health.

After the course, some of us were given the chance to participate in Converge storytelling, which was to create an art piece that showed how Converge had helped you personally. I saw it as a great way to say thanks to the team, and also show others how great the course had been for my mental health so they might be encouraged to do it in the future. We were even paid money to produce our final piece which was a great help but I think it’s important I say that even without the money I would have still wanted to be involved. The project was a great outlet for me and gave me art as a way of coping with my difficult feelings, something I’ll continue to do.

On completion of the course I was invited to travel by train to York university as Covid restrictions were starting to loosen. I felt confident enough to go, which I think is down to taking part in the course, and I got to meet others who I’d been on the course with as well as the tutors who had supported me. I took my final art piece up to be displayed at the University alongside everyone else’s which made me feel really proud. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out of the North East and it was amazing to visit York which is a beautiful city full of fantastic buildings with so much history. We were shown around the University which is a beautiful building in keeping with the rest of the town. There was also an open day on, which gave us the chance to see any other upcoming classes that are starting online and to meet other students.

I would really advise anyone struggling with mental health, particularly anxiety and depression to participate in online classes such as these. Thanks to Tyne Housing providing me with a laptop and encouraging me to try new things I was able to do something I’m really proud of. My art project for the final piece gave me a lot of confidence and renewed the faith I have in myself and my abilities. It was a fantastic experience and after lockdowns was a great way to get back on track and into the world again. Thank you to Converge, York University and of course Tyne Housing.

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Karl’s story demonstrates that with a lot of motivation on the part of the resident, and a little support from staff, fantastic results can be achieved. At Tyne we’re working to reduce digital exclusion for those we support, by providing Karl with access to a laptop and free wifi at his home he was able to take part in the course during a particularly difficult period of isolation and loneliness.

The story also demonstrates the power of partnership working, in this case with Converge at York University. By using creative activities Karl was able to address some of his anxiety in a way that allows him to to maintain his mental health whilst, at the same time, exploring the reasons for his historical drug misuse. Karl is not just someone who attended an arts course, but is an artist in his own right and we’re incredibly proud to see how far he’s come.

Karl’s final art piece can be seen below, featuring a poem he wrote sharing his experiences of addiction;

Addictions unforgiving. Addiction is cruel. And it had a hold of me before I left school.

At first I used the drugs, then the drugs used me, I slowly lost the memory of the boy I used to be.
You live to get high then get high just to live.
To go back and not have started, what I would give.