Norfolk County Council Press Release: Change Minds exhibition launch in Norwich

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Change Minds: Archives for mental health will open at 5.30pm on Monday, 20 November.

Come and listen to an overview of the project, chat to the organisers and participants and view their work. Cedric Anselin will be giving a brief talk about the project at 6.15pm.

Please contact Norfolk County Council’s press office (details below) if you would like to attend or email Laura Drysdale, Director of the Restoration Trust at laura@restorationtrust.org.uk.

Display showcases two-year project researching mental health patients in Norfolk

The lives of people living in a Norfolk asylum in the 19th century are being showcased during a thought-provoking display at Norwich’s Forum later this month.

The free exhibition from 20-23 November is the culmination of a two-year Change Minds project which has supported North Norfolk residents with mental health conditions and on low incomes to research the history of those in the Norfolk County Asylum in Thorpe.

Change Minds has provided a fascinating insight into local heritage, mental health and identity.

It is being opened by former Norwich City FC footballer Cedric Anselin, who is a champion of mental health support in Norfolk having battled mental illness himself. He is an ambassador for a Norfolk County Council campaign to promote mental wellbeing, reduce the stigma around mental ill health and urge people with suicidal thoughts to talk to others.

Items on show to the public will include visual displays, a digital walk through of Norfolk County Asylum, a listening post featuring oral history clips and an activity area so visitors can have a go at their own research.

Change Minds is run by the Restoration Trust, in conjunction with Norfolk Record Office and Together in North Norfolk and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Around 20 people have been involved in the project, assisted by support workers and staff offering guidance.

One participant, Georgina, had previously researched her own family history when the project was suggested by her support worker. Georgina said: “Although it was daunting at first, people understand and don’t judge me. It has been a really interesting project and has helped to improve my confidence. I’ve made some new friends and hope to continue as a volunteer.”

Together support worker Lindsey Ashfield said: “Participating in Change Minds has made an amazing difference to the people I support. I have seen their confidence and self-esteem grow, their network of friends increase and their hope in their futures renewed and revitalised.”

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, said: “Participants have had an enjoyable and interesting experience, formed friendships and developed their skills in archive research in a welcoming environment. I would encourage people to come along to The Forum and view the findings for themselves.”

Participants each chose one person to research and then studied them at their own pace, using archives at Norfolk Record Office and online census records in Norfolk libraries to track them and learn about their lives through visits to Gressenhall Museum and Norwich Castle Study Centre. They have taken part in creative workshops, learned how to make an oral history and taken part in group activities.

Some of those taking part also indexed the asylum casebook to make it easier for future users to find the details of those people whose lives are recorded.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has invited participants to visit the House of Commons after finding out more about the project.

On November 22 there will be seminar for health and social care professionals in the Vernon Castle room at The Forum’s Millennium Library about research into the benefits of the project. This is part of the 2017 Norfolk Arts Forum conference, Creative Health: Building Alliances for Social Change in Norfolk.

The project was funded for two years initially, it is hoped it could be extended in the future to benefit more people with mental health problems in Norfolk and beyond.

County Archivist Gary Tuson recently spoke about Change Minds at a National Archives Conference and the project has also been evaluated by psychologists at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Their report found that participants have enjoyed themselves, made friends, and developed confidence. They have gained historical research and creative skills, deepened their interest in history and the lives of people in Norfolk and developed a stronger sense of place and purpose.

Laura Drysdale, Director of the Restoration Trust, said: “Change Minds is a completely new way for local people to use archives to reveal the hidden stories of asylum patients and relate them to their own lives. The exhibition at the Forum celebrates their fantastic research and creative achievements.”

Norfolk County Council’s Millennium Library, also based at The Forum, offers a range of books about mental health issues and will be including a display of the most popular titles during the week of the exhibition.

More details about the project are available at www.changeminds.org.uk

For further information please contact:
Communications Team at Norfolk County Council
Tel: 01603 228888
Email: pressoffice@norfolk.gov.uk 

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