How a charity is using dance to improve mental health

Posted on October 27, 2016

Ten young people from Manchester mental health charity 42nd Street are struggling to spin their legs round their bodies while keeping their hands anchored to the studio floor as they’ve been shown. Instructor Kevin Turner stops them and explodes into his own demonstration of high-speed repetitions of the sequence, while they watch in astonishment.

"Look, my legs are all over the place," Turner pants mid dance. "They are going like crazy. When I was ill, I often felt that things were happening that were out of my control. Can anyone else relate to that?"

Turner, 34, sits down, perspiring, among the group of young people aged 16 to 25. Several hands go up hesitantly, and a young woman quietly says, "I can".

Turner founded Manchester-based Company Chameleon in 2007 with his friend Anthony Missen. Their was aim to make hard-hitting contemporary dance exploring the reality of being male in greater Manchester. Turner has bipolar disorder, as does at least one of the youngsters in this workshop, and he has told them his diagnosis.

He wants the young people he's teaching today to see that they can use dance to explore their own mental health problems, and the impact on the people around them. Most of them have never danced before, but 42nd Street is convinced that dance can help build trust and confidence, without the need for words.

"Where dance is different from simply doing exercise - which of course makes you feel good because of the endorphins - is that it helps you to use the physical to experience your internal world," says Turner.

He believes his own mental health problems started when he was a teenager, but he did not recognise depression and tried to ignore it until it was no longer possible.

Dancing helped him handle the pain of his parents’ divorce from the age of eight, when he became a member of the Trafford Youth Dance Theatre. He argues that young people need to be aware of how creative movement can support good mental health.

The number of referrals to 42nd Street is high. The charity, which has been running for almost four decades, is commissioned by the NHS to provide mental health support, including counselling, to young people across Manchester. However, advisers are having to tell suicidal young people they will have to wait more than four months for one-to-one support.

"It's not something we are happy about," says chief executive Simone Spray. She also worries about the short length of therapy, when it does happen, leaving young people without support before they are properly well. The charity's solution is to invest heavily in the arts to give young people what Spray calls "wrap-around support".

Spray says: "There is nothing fluffy about this. Dance work like this should be recognised as a pre-crisis intervention, because it has such a positive impact on some young people." In her view, it can prevent them needing to access therapy at all, or at least keep them feeling better until more formal help is available.

To read the full article, click on the link below.

Category(s):Bipolar, Dance Therapy

Source material from The Guardian