Wellbeans: breaking the silence around mental health with a smile

10 October 2018 | West and South West England

Liz Andrews

Liz set up scheme to help sufferers deal with difficult issues in a light-hearted way.

When Liz Andrews and her Wellbeans colleagues were planning their first event, some people were surprised to hear they were staging a comedy night. But Liz says she was always determined that the group would embrace smiles and laughter to help people deal with mental health issues.

“We want to keep it light,” said Liz. “That is why the very first event we organised was a comedy night. We continue to put on events that deal with difficult issues in a light-hearted setting. Why not have a laugh while promoting good emotional wellbeing?

“I work with an amazing group of people and our vision with Wellbeans is to create an open, compassionate culture that is without stigma, empowering people to feel free to be themselves.”

Liz was inspired to create Wellbeans after meeting three families who had lost loved ones to suicide. Crucially, none of the families she met had previously had any idea of the pain and suffering their loved ones were going through.

With newly-published statistics revealing that one in four suffer from mental health issues, Liz was determined to reach out to those not comfortable discussing their problems. And she realised the best way to do that was through laughter.

“The day I met those families was a wake-up call,” said Liz, who has been in the therapy business for 30 years. “I realised it was essential I get the message out that there is a community prepared to listen and help so that you don’t have to suffer in silence.”

Thus Wellbeans was set up in Bristol in 2015, with like-minded champions, to raise awareness of mental health, stigma and discrimination through networking, social events and wellbeing workshops.

Liz says she faced her own fight for survival having “lost nearly everything that was dear” to her a few years ago. Although reluctant to go into details, she explains: “I myself experienced mental ill health issues that have brought me here to where I am today. I am thankful to have a very supportive husband and two fabulous children but it has been a long journey.”

Liz is now determined to help others on that same journey through Wellbeans. She said: “Our aim is to help reduce social isolation by 2020. Mental health continues to be hugely misconceived within our society, we all have mental health, and as with physical health, we will at some time in our lives experience ill-health related to one or the other.

“But the issue is many people feel afraid to admit they are struggling with their mental health – the stigma is far worse than their actual mental health diagnoses.”
Wellbeans’ focus on helping people is having tangible results, showing how when people help people, it’s a good thing for all of us.

Liz added: “It is so rewarding seeing how we can help people. There is one man in his 40s, 6ft 3ins, that I have worked with and who had tried to take his own life. When he first came to us he found it hard to speak beyond a whisper. Eighteen months later I was so proud to see him give an encouraging speech to over 150 people.”

**If you have concerns about your mental health, or the mental health of someone close to you, visit mind.org.uk