A CREATIVE not-for-profit arts group helping people across the borough with mental health issues has not let the coronavirus pandemic get in the way of their important work.

Breakdown Bolton, established in 2016 as a community interest company, runs creative workshops for those with mental health issues with the aim of giving people an opportunity to express themselves without judgement.

When lockdown hit Breakdown Bolton’s work became more important than ever, as loneliness and isolation became a big concern for the project’s participants.

However, thanks to the help of Zoom meetings, the team behind the project have continued to provide informative sessions to those affected by mental health issues.

The project is run by creative professionals and the goal is to educate on the arts as well as giving people the opportunity to make their own work.

Artist Jennifer Gilmour who specialises in textiles joined the Breakdown Bolton team in 2017 and is now one of the directors.

Having experienced mental health issues personally - in fact all of the team have - she understands the importance of creative expression and mental health.

Jennifer said: "The project offers the chance to make art in a more professional way, although you don't have to have any prior experience to take part.

"We offer a variety of mediums, from painting to calligraphy and we normally have different workshops throughout the year.

"It was set up for people who have a lived experience of mental health issues, so that they wouldn't have to censor themselves.

"It is not a support group as such, it's up to those who take part if they want to share their experiences, people can share what they're been through if they want to.

"We also work closely with other third sector organisations such as Mind and MhIST.

"In the past we have run workshops at the Honeysuckle Lodge women's mental health unit in Bolton. Anybody can engage with art.

"There are exhibition opportunities and we have had some people go on to start careers in art.

"Breakdown Bolton is open to anyone, we just say that you have had lived experience of mental health issues, we have had people with Bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety."

Since lockdown began the group has been running sessions over Zoom and have sent out activity packs via post to participants.

Jennifer said: "Art is so good for your health and wellbeing. It's good for your mind to do something with you hands and it can be quite a meditative experience.

"It can help interrupt negative thought patterns and moods.

"This is something that has been so important during lockdown and even if it's just over Zoom, it's an escape for people.

"Mental health is always something we want to return to, we want to show people that yes you can have a life and you are more than just your mental health and you can move on from it."