Mind The Gap: Changing the tune for people struggling with mental health issues

Funds raised through The Health Lottery have helped founder Sue Tebble provide a safe studio space in Norwich where people can come to use music to recover from trauma.  Making music, battling loneliness, and breaking the taboos around mental health issues are why Mind The Gap was set up.  Everybody’s welcome here for tunes, tea and biscuits...

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One’s a prolific rapper, the other’s a flame-haired punk, but Chris Parsons and Sue Tebble have been brought together by Mind The Gap. 

The Norwich-based wellbeing project offers music and social drop-in sessions for people affected by mental health issues and loneliness.   

Music teacher Sue, 54, has played in punk bands on the local music scene for many years and she’s the driving force behind the project. “We’re giving people a louder voice,” she says. 

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“Mind The Gap is about giving people support and a creative outlet.”   

Funding raised through The Health Lottery has helped Sue put her plan into action and set up a welcoming space that includes a common room and five studios with drum kits, guitar amps, bass amps and a PA. 

Anyone can come along and make music, meet friends, or just have a natter with some tea and biscuits.  

Sue knows how music has the power to help people recover from trauma, as she’s been through her own struggles that stemmed from being in an abusive relationship as a teenager. 

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“I was sectioned when I was 21, then I joined a punk band and have never looked back,” says Sue. 

“When you come out of hospital you get chocolates and your friends visit but come out of a mental hospital and everyone goes: ‘Oh.’   

“I know how music heals. Part of it is having to concentrate. If you’re trying to play guitar, for example, it takes you out of what I call your ‘washing machine head’ and gives you that calmness. 

"There’s also the togetherness when you join a band and make friends and the thrill of getting on stage.” 

As someone who’s about to go out on tour, rapper Chris, 39, knows this feeling well – and the supportive atmosphere of Mind The Gap has helped him through his dark times.

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“It’s incredibly daunting getting up on stage, but I need to do it,” says Chris, AKA Rappalupus.

“I’ve been dry for six years, but Sue has been with me from when I was an alcoholic. Mind The Gap is an amazing healing environment and it’s given me a new lease of life."

“I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 15, so I spent a lot of years not knowing how to deal with it and didn’t know where to get help. 

"At one point I was drinking from the moment I woke up until I passed out at night. I’d have accidents in my home. I’m not a violent person, but I’d get into confrontations with people. I was blotting out the problem.   

“Now, with the right support, everything is falling into place. I’m launching a career in music and I’m working my butt off and going the whole way with this. Hopefully the energy and love will inspire other people. I didn’t feel that love before I met Sue and found Mind The Gap.”   

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Sue looks on proudly as he speaks. “Chris’ confidence has gone from strength to strength since he has been coming here,” she says. 

“In other places he’s misunderstood, and a lot of people don’t understand mental health like we do. Someone with autism or ADHD might struggle, but I always say we all have issues here and we have to look out for each other.  

“The creative brain is a diverse brain. I’m not the best musician in the world, so I hope I encourage others to have a go. All I’m doing is building people’s confidence.”   

But it’s clear that by providing a welcoming space for people to express themselves and meet other musicians, Sue is doing a lot more than that. 

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“We want to smash the mental health stigma and players of The Health Lottery help us to do that,” says Sue.

 “Thanks to the grant, we’ve got all this space with five rooms of creativity. It also allows me to run a beginners’ guitar group and I can pay a couple of other guys, including one who’s training to be a teacher. 

"It’s a real lifeline for a lot of people and we’re really grateful for every bit of funding we get. Thank you.”

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The current society benefitting from funds raised is EWA Health CIC T/A HL Wales

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