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Local Artist creates Solent Mind Bench

As part of a new public art campaign partnership between the city’s Business Improvement District (BID), GO! Southampton and Solent University’s Showcase Gallery, local artist Jojo Lewis has created a bench to encourage people to talk about their mental health.

Sixteen benches in Southampton city centre have been transformed into works of art by local creatives including Jojo Lewis; who has used the project to highlight the support that is available to Southampton’s residents.

The BENCH Project is a partnership between the city’s Business Improvement District (BID), GO! Southampton, and Solent University’s Showcase Gallery and have been installed along Above Bar Street. Linked to GO! Southampton’s city Covid-19 recovery plan, the project explores how creativity can rethink places across the city by giving unusual canvases a new significance.

Jojo, a student from Eastleigh has just graduated from Solent University with a BA in Fine Art. Her work is created to empower people and give voices to those who may not be heard, through working closely with local communities.

The bench features Solent Mind’s Wellbeing Helpline number, along with the text “Take a minute, take a breath, call a friend”.

JoJo says: “I wanted to create something reassuring and positive for the city centre, especially as we are living through such troubling times. I wanted to initiate a time of reflection or conversations with friends and family. I felt it was extremely important to show the Solent Mind’s helpline too, so people can see that local support is available to anyone who needs it.

Throughout lockdown on social media, helplines are being shared to access support. I thought this would be a brilliant opportunity to show that to the community that may not be online, or out as a key worker, in a more permanent and reachable way.”

As someone who has experienced mental health issues and has used mental health support services in the past, Jojo is keen to get others to understand how important it is for the 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health issue in any year to reach out and start a conversation.

Jojo adds: “I’ve had an amazing reaction from this bench. People have said that the message of the bench is really important. Solent Mind is a great place for people to get help and it needs to be heard more. Pieces like this are a step in the right direction for a positive impact on the community.”

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues into 2021, we're extending the operating hours of our free Wellbeing Helpline, a new service to support anyone feeling anxious, low or lonely during the national lockdown. Residents in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight can contact trained Wellbeing Advisors, 8am-9am & 5pm-8pm on weekdays and , 9am-5pm on weekends.

You can see more of Jojo’s work on her Instagram or websiteIf you see the bench, take a seat and send us a selfie!

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