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Sixteen benches in Southampton city centre have been transformed into works of art by local creatives including Solent University alumna Jojo Lewis; who has used the project to highlight the support available to Southampton’s residents from leading mental health charity, Solent Mind.

13th January 2021
Art and design

The BENCH Project is a partnership between the city’s Business Improvement District (BID), GO! Southampton, and Solent University’s Showcase Gallery, with benches installed along Above Bar Street.

BA (Hons) Fine Art alumna Jojo’s bench features Solent Mind’s Wellbeing Helpline number, along with the text “Take a minute, take a breath, call a friend”.

JoJo said of the project: “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, Solent Mind has extended the operating hours of their 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.

Find more of Jojo’s work on her website.

Picture of Jojo with her installed bench on Southampton high-street