Life Essentials: Culture, Community & Diversity

Our Bristol Wellbeing College runs informative courses and workshops for learners receiving support from Bristol Mental Health Services, and their carers. Today’s blog focuses on the much missed culture, community and diversity in our lives.

Let’s talk culture, community and diversity, three crucial elements in breathing colour, soul and dynamic into the human experience. They bind us, inspire us, and incentivise us. Culture is our playground, offering the seeds to inspire and nurture our creativity. Community is our home, where we situate and develop our sense of self and identity. It contributes to our sense of purpose. Diversity is the channel where ideas are exchanged, horizons broadened and the mind opened. Culture and Community morph and interact with one another, constantly forming new shoots from which fresh branches emerge with each generation; diversity feeds this process.

I write this as we approach the end of a cold and seemingly protracted winter. We also approach the anniversary of the UK’s first national lockdown in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. A year into lockdown and restrictions on our movements, one of the major consequences we find is the absence in our day-to-day lives of Culture, Community and Diversity. When set against the fountain of social and cultural interactions pre-COVID, current life (online and off) feels a slow trickle, inadequate to feed our human psyche the contact, encounters and variety it needs to thrive. We become thirsty.  For many, further limits imposed by winter’s short, cold days has intensified this.

At Bristol Wellbeing College, another consequence has been the significant increase in signups to our core workshops such as ‘Coping with Anxiety’ and ‘Managing Depression’. And now that people are able to access us through their GP, we are receiving much larger numbers of overall enrolments, a sign of the growing need to reach out and seek solace in the simple act of sharing and talking with others. Though we are currently limited to online sessions, Bristol Wellbeing College and other Recovery Colleges around the country are offering a free platform where we can reconnect with those essential life qualities of Community, Culture and Diversity. Hopefully in the process, they can help reconnect us with the qualities we enjoy in ourselves, too.

Over the last months, we have witnessed people taking bold steps towards trying something new, sharing their experiences and supporting one another, often discovering that they are much better at these things than they gave themselves credit for. This brings me to sharing, with their permission, the creations of two of our attendees. One is a short story Taking Flight, written by Ruth in response to our Writing with Senses workshop, which she says “especially inspired” her, and from which she continues to form new ideas from sounds and smells. The other is a piece that was written and performed for Bristol Refugee Week by Subitha Baghirathan. Subitha shared this with me just before Christmas, when the days were at their shortest, darkest and often greyest. The imagery of the Sari Shop brought to mind and heart bright colours, the warmth of eye contact and the excitement of discovering a gem in the neighbourhood.

It is also a reminder that beyond COVID-19, life in its many forms exists and our days will yet be as bright as the sari display in the shop window.

‘Taking Flight’ by Ruth

Sari Shop’ by Subitha

If a Wellbeing or Recovery College is not accessible to you right now, you can bring a small dose of Community, Culture and Diversity into your life through a fantastic service, The Poetry Health Service. Receive your own personal Poetry Panacea as many times as you like.

You can browse our range of wellbeing workshops and courses here.

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