Movement for Mind

13 May 2024

As we shine a light on Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme of movement, we talk to Kevin Edward Turner about the current lack of young people’s mental health support, and what Company Chameleon are doing to help.

“There are young people out there who need mental health support and they’re not getting it. Mental health services are oversubscribed and there are long waiting lists to access mental health services meaning young people are falling through cracks in the system. This is why Company Chameleon has developed Movement for Mind.”

Our Co-Artistic Director, Kevin Edward Turner, is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness.  His passion grows from his own personal struggle with bi-polar disorder and it’s the driving force behind Chameleon’s dance and mental health programme, which we began in 2016.

Movement for Mind is a new project in the programme. It’s been developed in response to the heightened number of young people who, since the pandemic (source Young Minds), are struggling with mental health conditions such as panic attacks, anxiety, self-harm and depression.

Over the next three years, Movement for Mind, will help 160 teenagers in 10 secondary schools across Greater Manchester, to use dance as a tool to explore, understand and improve their mental health.

The project encompasses dance performance, workshops and open discussion led by our Dance & Health Artist, Erin Pollitt, plus, mental health support from a practitioner from young people’s mental health charity, 42nd Street.

Movement for Mind is being welcomed in secondary schools as a method of early intervention and alternative method of support for young people struggling with their mental health. Company Chameleon has worked with Manchester’s #BeeWell programme and school mental health leads to ensure the project reaches young people who need the support.

“A conversation has the power to change lives,” says Kevin. “But talking about mental health and how you feel can be difficult, especially when you’re in your teens and still working out your identity and who you are. The amazing thing about dance is that it breaks down this barrier and allows us to express ourselves without using words.”

Feedback from one young person who has taken part in Movement for Mind supports this idea, they said, “I’ve felt low since last year, and I struggle to communicate it. I talked to a therapist, but it wasn’t useful, but this (Movement for Mind) is helping”.

Dance as both an art form and form of physical activity has many benefits. As a physical activity, dance connects the mind and body and helps you feel present, releasing positive endorphins and increasing your sense of wellbeing.

As an art form, dance is a way to creatively express yourself and communicate what you’re feeling on the inside. This boosts confidence and self-esteem and at the same time gives you an emotional release that can reduce stress, anxiety and low mood.

The positives of dance aside, Company Chameleon understands that Movement for Mind is not an instant fix to the mental health problems faced by some young people today.

Kevin explains, “Movement for Mind is the start of a process. Through using dance and creativity as a tool, we hope the young people involved will form a deeper and better understanding of themselves and their mental health. From this understanding, we hope the person at the end of the project is better equipped to cope and support their own needs.

We all have physical health, and we all have mental health.  Both need looking after in different ways and this varies from person to person.  Unfortunately there is still stigma around mental health, and part of Movement for Mind is about normalising mental health, so when problems arise they feel less scary to overcome.

Fundamentally, Movement for Mind creates the space for young people to explore and understand their feelings, which is a big step towards them opening up and talking about how they think and feel, which as we know is essential to keeping your mental state healthy!”

If you work in a school or with a young people’s group and you’re interested in working with Company Chameleon on a dance and mental health project, contact:

Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 and this year’s theme of movement here.

Movement for Mind is supported by the Baring Foundation and our core funders, Arts Council England.

Photography: Joel Chester Fildes. Photos taken at our studio with young people in our Chameleon Youth programme.

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