Helping adults with mental health issues actively grow in confidence

A Bognor Regis community interest company (CIC) not only helps preserve our favourite images and memories, but also supports disadvantaged people in the community.

Frame of Mind CIC offers businesses and residents bespoke picture framing and printing services. In so doing, it provides vocational training and wellbeing places for adults with mental health issues, learning disabilities and dementia.

The work helps its trainees grow in confidence and become more active members of their community, taking part in the everyday activities many of us take for granted.

The organisation’s roots go back to 2006, when former mental health services user Theresa Bates and her husband Ian set it up with ‘four people, some paper and some pens’.

Today, it is a thriving, award-winning social enterprise, based at the Arun Business Park.

Ian said: “We are one of the very few people who work with people with dementia in a work-based environment. They come here, frame pictures and restore old photographs.

“It’s a question of how much or little help people need, but not about helping them too much – it’s not much benefit if I do it for people!”

Frame of Mind is supported in its work by the Henry Smith charity, ‘but could do with more referrals’.

Ian said: “We feel we are doing meaningful activities for people. It’s particularly important for people in the early stages of dementia, as they are not ready for the day centre. It’s that one-to-one support - so people can do what they want.”

The organisation has already received many accolades, from a national award for the most innovative dementia care service to a Fine Art Trade Guild Award for the most innovative product.

Among other awards, Theresa won Inspirational Woman of the Year from Johnston Press in 2014 and was also invited to speak about social isolation at the fourth Annual Convention of the European Platform Against Poverty and Social Exclusion in Brussels,

Big-name clients include the Butlins Wave Hotel: “We did 655 frames in a week! It showed people we are a real business. This was the sort of challenge businesses have every day - and we could do it.”

In 2016, Frame of Mind took part in a pilot project with the Department of Work and Pensions: “It went so favourably, they asked us to contract with them as an independent supplier.”

Vocational wellbeing services can make a huge difference to life for adults with dementia.

Theresa Bates, co-founder of Shripney Road-based community interest company Frame of Mind, said the daily grind can be ‘very closeted’.

Theresa said: “People are extremely worried they are going to hurt themselves, so they sit there and don’t do anything.

“People are very protective of people with dementia and learning disabilities and they ask to stay - but we say no!”

To this end, the organisation works one-on-one with people on meaningful projects in its workshop, giving them as much support as they need.

“We get them to do stuff - it’s like going back to work for them. It’s also very beneficial for people to leave at the end of the day with a product to be proud of.”

Theresa said people with mental health issues or dementia frequently become isolated in their own homes and ‘won’t go out’.

One of the benefits of joining Frame of Mind is therefore the opportunity it provides to mix with people.

Another key element is the organisation’s geniune inclusivity, where all members are on an equal footing.

Theresa said: “We’re all equal - we’re just about to vote for our Christmas lunch.

“Everybody has the opportunity to bring in menus and ideas and we’ll put it to the vote.

“We even voted on the colour of our carpets and our website design.”

She said Frame of Mind has an understanding of what is important for participants as it is run by mental health service users and carers.

The aim is for everyone involved to feel part of the Frame of Mind family.

“We treat people as we would like family members to be treated.”

The organisation also welcomes students from St Anthony’s School, Chichester for two-week-long work experience sessions.

Theresa said: “Our youngest member is about 16, from St Anthony’s, and our oldest trainee has just turned 90.

“Everyone just mixes in - there are all ages and different disabilities and you can see the knock-on effect.”

In addition, student members of Sussex Police are invited to come for training and work alongside people of different ages and with different disabilities.

To find out more, see www.frameofmind.uk.com