#GoodNewsCymru | Social enterprise

Creative collective encourages new ways of learning to beat mental health stigmas

Through struggles with mental health breakdown, we look at how Jonathan Fews formed the Fewsion Collective to encourage others to help create a world where people with mental health and neurodiversity challenges are given every opportunity to succeed.

By Ben Bostock · August 21, 2020

See this page in: Cymraeg

As is so often the case, change is triggered by chance. A single moment which alters life’s trajectory. This turning point can come as a result of an encounter, stagnation on a chosen path or unavoidable changes beyond individual control.

Many of the above could be applied to the story behind the inception of the Fewsion Collective.

Jonathan Fews faced adversity throughout his life as a result of mental illness and neurodiversity. From this and a single opportune occurrence, the Fewsion Collective was spawned with a vision – to see a world in which those with mental health or neurodiversity challenges are given every opportunity to succeed.

“One day I was watching ‘Harry’s Heroes’. During the programme, Paul Merson talked about his struggles with Mental Health from his addiction illness, explains Jonathan.

“I really related to this and decided to get help and work on the reasons why I struggle with standard learning systems and my feelings. As a young boy, when things got too much, my brain couldn’t cope. I’d have epileptic fits and undiagnosed, I was put on “zombie meds” and told I would ‘grow out of it’”.

This was the less-than-helpful advice which would lead to a Jonathan seeking out his own coping mechanisms which included; over-working, excessive training in the gym and use drugs or alcohol as suppressants. At several points, Jonathan explains, he hit rock bottom and contemplated suicide.

“Let’s talk. We have something special in the Welsh social business sector a real sense of community, work together, innovate, stick our heads up and shout about what we want to do then make sure it happens.”

Jonathan Fews

“Last year, after five days without sleep, talking to imaginary people and thinking about taking my own life, I had a breakdown. I got help from the doctors and after what felt like a lifetime, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and autoimmune issues – a side effect of the damage I’d done to my body”.

This however would ignite the touch paper for unexplored territories of holistic healing which would ripple through to others experiencing similar difficulties in their lives and would plant the seed for initiatives such as #farmingfuturefeelings creative workshops in schools, among numerous others, within which Jonathan and the collaborators provide mutual opportunities for those in our community.

“During my recovery, I listened to and mixed music as a way to be creative and escape the negative thoughts. Feeling that I had wasted years by not talking or even understanding how I felt, I wanted to make sure that younger people were supported better today.”

Musical collaborations created platforms where others could relate, find comfort or get support. Jonathan also started designing t-shirts, rekindling the fashion label Garm Farm which had for years laid dormant and again forged a channel for connectivity and expression of feelings through creativity.

From these creative projects and passion for collaboration was hewn the Fewsion Collective, a not-for-profit organisation with social and community goals ingrained in every one of its many opportunity-offering facets.

“With the contributors, founder and committee’s perseverance, motivation and desire to help others has seen Fewsion Beats, Fewsion Fashion and Fewsion Wellbeing develop under the Fewsion Collective”, explains Jonathan.

“We now have a number of contributors and volunteers along with a highly respected national committee.”

It seems as though there’s a bright future ahead for Jonathan and the collective, with an unerring ability to overcome challenges and bring the best out of any situation. This was yet again demonstrated during lockdown, with collaborators encouraged to get involved in the “corona” cypher music track, allowing groups to sing about how they felt in the midst of daunting times, with yet more projects in the pipeline:

“We are lunching our education brand “Educ8” we are to go into a number of schools and use our music and art to encourage our young people to talk or get help if they are struggling.”

With the indomitable overarching aim to continue providing outlets for others to express themselves with confidence and ask for help when they may need it most, Jonathan is keen to emphasise the need for connection, mutual support and collaboration with like-minded businesses as part of community-orientated open approach to recovery:

“Let’s talk. We have something special in the Welsh social business sector a real sense of community, work together, innovate, stick our heads up and shout about what we want to do then make sure it happens.”

 


Jonathan is one of the social entrepreneurs who have attended the ‘Start up with a cuppa’ mutual peer support sessions where people from start-up social enterprises in Wales can meet and discuss ideas, best practice and future collaborations with each other. You can sign up for the August mutual support sessions here. See you there!

The Fewsion Collective has received business consultancy support and advice from Social Business Wales New Start, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.

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