Activity-based Groups for Mental Wellbeing
We're a registered local charity supporting adults living in the area around the Ashdown Forest, who are experiencing stress, mental illness or isolation
We are The Ashdown Hub, a local charity in Forest Row, East Grinstead and surrounding areas, that runs groups to support mental wellbeing.
Our groups are for adults experiencing stress, mental illness, or who have been through difficult circumstances such as bereavement or physical illness which is impacting on mental wellbeing.
We get together to check in as a group, interested in how the week has gone, do an activity together and use the activity to explore thoughts, feelings and responses. It isn't intensive therapy but it can be powerful. These are simple, friendly, safe groups to support mental wellbeing.
We recommend joining a group for 12 weeks to get the most out of it, but you can try the group out for a week or two without commitment and we have some once off- events.
We are a registered charity (Charity Number 1192088).
Click here for more information about us.
We are volunteer run and rely on donations to offer our services. Your money is carefully used and will make a big difference to our community. Please donate here
All our groups are FREE for participants.
If you can't join us in-person for a group at the moment, you might be interested in a supportive technique called Art Journalling, which you can do at home. Find out about this here
We are a charity all about meeting up in person, but we're all having to adapt during the pandemic and so we are offering some online groups.
We are offering:
Zoom or group phone call groups
1 - Fridays 2-3pm.
Stress Reduction Zoom Group
Meet with a small group of other people and check in about your week. This is an invitation to have a pause in the week, to support each other by listening and to become more mindful of our responses and our surroundings.
2 - Saturdays 8-9pm starting 23rd January 2021
Stress Reduction Zoom Group
Meet with a small group of other people and check in about your week. We will offer an invitation to have a pause in the week, to support each other by listening and to become more mindful of our responses and our surroundings.
3 - Wednesdays 8.30-9.30pm.
Stress Reduction Group Phone Call. Similar format to Friday group but by phone. This a very small group, and ideal if you are "zoomed out", have poor connection or prefer phones. We give you a phone number to call at 8.30pm on Wednesdays, and a code to tap in when prompted. This lets you join the small group.
In person mental health support groups:
This is what our charity does, we love it and meeting in person has a magic that zoom doesn't have. However at the current time, when the risk is described by public health as "extraordinarily high" we feel we would put our participants at an unacceptable risk through going ahead with the groups.
There is an exemption to restrictions for support groups and we will use this as soon as our risk assessment indicates this is a safe thing to do.
We know in-person mental health support is very important and are so sorry we can't offer this right now.
Please join one of our online/ phone groups in the meantime.
Evening Mindful Art Group
This is normally on a Tuesday evening 6.30-8pm. We will restart this group as soon as we possibly can.
Mindful walking group:
These are normally on Fridays: in view of the current situation, we are pausing for as brief a time as possible and will restart this group as soon as we can.
Please contact us for more info.
We will start more groups soon with different activities and in different locations around the Ashdown Forest
About Art Journalling
Art Journalling- a "conversation with yourself"
We ran a Zoom Art Journalling group through lock-down. People told us this was a really eye-opening and helpful technique. The Zoom group has now finished as we start our in-person groups, but please feel free to look through this information in case you want to try it out yourself.
This is a safe technique but as always, if you are under the care of a health professional, let them know you plan to try this out and check it's right for you.
What is visual journalling?
There's lots of info here and some of our volunteers have made a video discussing the technique. You can see this on YouTube
Well-known psychologist and arts therapist Cathy Malchiodi has written a helpful article and we have her permission to share this with you click here
What is it?
Basically you take time to check in with your body and your feelings each day and make an image (it doesn't have to be a great work of art). Then you look at and think about what you have made.
Does this sound light-weight? Don't dismiss it! Simple things can be powerful and this is one of our favourite techniques for getting to know your own mind, so we'd love you to try it out.
It's an evidence-based, rewarding practice to promote good mental health
Do I need to be artistic?
No! Not at all. This isn't an art class and you don't need to be able to draw anything recognisable! You don't even need to show anyone else what you've made. There are options to take photos, make models or do scrapbooking if you hate drawing.
What do I need?
A pen and some scrap paper is enough but you could use coloured pens, paints, old catalogues or you can use your phone. A plain drawing pad is really useful if you have one but not essential.
Click here for basic instructions. Wishing you happy journalling and good mental health!
More about us
We offer simple activity-based groups to support mental wellbeing.
We aren't a crisis service and don't provide treatment. Click here if you need urgent help.
Our groups are very simple. We meet once a week with the same small group of people do an activity and check in.
Although we work simply, we have thought hard about making the groups as helpful as possible. We have a number of very experienced clinicians (registered counsellors, GPs, psychotherapists) working with us and supporting our work. Facilitators make sure groups are safe, respectful and welcoming for all and we have a code of conduct for participating.
We are a member of MSVA, 3VA, The FSI , NVCO and SCC.
We have gained a Charities Excellence Framework Quality Mark for our ongoing work on our charity setup and governance.
Participants have lots of opportunity to input into how each group runs- we will ask your opinion about what you want to do. If you don't like the activities we are currently offering, check back in with us as we'll try to offer a diverse set of activities.
We also look for simple ideas to contribute to the wider community because connecting in this way can be helpful for wellbeing.
We know joining a new group is a big deal. We'll try to make this a positive experience.
© The Ashdown Hub, 2020. All rights reserved.
Urgent/ additional support for mental health
Ashdown Hub offers weekly support groups but isn’t an emergency, treatment or crisis service.
If you’re looking at this page and concerned for your health or in crisis, we warmly encourage you to seek support.
In an emergency, please call 999 or attend your nearest A&E
For urgent, but not emergency situations, contact your GP (or community mental health team if you have already been seen by them) and/or
Call 111 (website nhs.uk). They can direct you to local crisis and mental health services
Sussex Mental Healthline:
0300 5000 101
Offering crisis care for people in Sussex, in urgent need of help with their mental health.
Preventing Suicide in Sussex
Website providing information about help for people in Sussex who are feeling suicidal or people concerned for others
Mind provides advice, resources and support to empower people experiencing mental health problems
0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Mon-Friday except bank holidays)
Free emotional support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
116 123 (Freephone 24 hours a day)Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pathfinder West Sussex
An alliance of organisations working together to support mental health
Provides support services to people with mental health needs, those with a personality disorder and individuals at risk of homelessness
SilverlineFor people over 55 Confidential, free helpline open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.
Also offers telephone befriending
0800 4 70 80 90www.thesilverline.org.uk
For people affected by mental illness, families, friends and carers
0300 304 7000 (4:30pm – 10:30pm every evening)
During Covid: 07984 967 708. Leave a message with your first name and number and you will be called back.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
A movement against suicide including a helpline
0800 58 58 58 (5pm-midnight daily)
The Money Advice Service
0800 138 7777 (8am-6pm weekdays)
Please find our privacy document attached below.
Organisation: The Ashdown Hub CIO, e-mail: email@example.com.
Volunteers and employees from The Ashdown Hub who process your personal data will be called “we” in this document.
We are committed to protecting your personal information.
This privacy notice relates to our use of your personal information.
Personal data (any information identifiably about you) may be collected from you in person, by letter, e-mail or over the telephone.
We collect and process personal and sensitive data (for example data about your mental health) in order to contact you to inform you about our groups, to ensure safety and suitability of our service for you and other group members and to keep a clinical record of your attendances at a therapeutic support group.
We will ensure that data is accurate, relevant and limited to what is necessary to run our group.
What information we collect
We will collect and process information when you contact us to express an interest in our organisation.
At the point of initial enquiry, we will respond by email to ask you for personal data, in order to arrange a phone call to tell you more about our service.
We will ask for, and record:
Details of enquiryNameTelephone numbere-mail address
Our email system is Protonmail, which is a secure, encrypted email system. There is information available from proton mail about their security and encryption https://protonmail.com/security-details
If you are interested in joining a group, a clinician will arrange a time for a brief, confidential phone call to seek more information. This includes details of your past and current health, background, including risk assessment, and your past experience in groups. This is to ensure safety to participate.
After this phone call and each group session, we record a health record entry.
We store your data from your assessment and group sessions on a password-protected clinical records system (smilenotes.co.uk). Here is what Smilenotes says about the safety of data in their record system “All transmitted data is encrypted during transfer using SSL technology. Our data storage facilities (based in the UK and Amsterdam) maintain extremely high standards of security, and include safeguards such as biometric readers for access, 24/7/365 on site security and security cameras.
All patient/client data (including uploads) is encrypted at rest using AES. All of your client/patient data stays within the EU and strictly meets the requirements set out by the ICO.” source https://www.smilenotes.co.uk/help/faq.html last accessed 24/10/2020
We have a specific “contacting you” consent form, asking for your permission to contact you by phone, text and email and preferences about this. You can update and change preferences at any time. This contact form also asks for an optional emergency contact number and first name in the unlikely event you are incapacitated during a group session. Please seek your contact’s permission before providing us with their number.
How we use this information
We use the information you give us:
To provide a legal record of your attendance at a therapeutic group and any support or advice we provide.To ensure continuity of care during your time with our service, for example transferring between groups. For accounts and grant-seeking purposes.To contact you about your ongoing group.To contact you, if you consent to this, when new groups or events with our organisation become available that may be of benefit to you.At your request and with your consent, to liaise with health or social professionals involved in your careTo seek emergency help if we believe you or others are at risk of harmFor quality feedback and audit purposes.
Our lawful basis for processing your personal and sensitive data, is legitimate need in order to provide information about groups, contractual need in order to offer support group services and legal requirement to keep a health record of participation in therapeutic activity support groups.
We do not pass on your information for commercial purposes.
We take all reasonable steps to ensure that our information is kept up to date and rectified if necessary. It is your responsibility to inform us if any personal information changes, in order that our records are accurate.
Links to External Websites
Our website does not record your data unless you send us a message via "contact us”.
On our website, there are links to external websites for mental health information or support. We also have links to JustGiving and Amazon Smile. These are separate organisations. Please see these websites' and organisations' individual privacy and personal handling information before clicking on these links.
How long do we keep personal information?
We keep your personal data for no longer than reasonably necessary.
We are legally required to retain health records for 8 years after your last clinical contact.
We may retain electronic records indefinitely for use if you return for another episode of care within 8 years and for analytical purposes.
You are under no statutory or contractual requirement or obligation to provide us with your personal or sensitive data but failure to do so may mean you are not able to participate in group activities.
Sharing your personal data.
We do not normally share your data or information with any person outside our organisation.
If you ask us to contact professionals involved in your care (for example your doctor, mental health professional or other health or care professional), we may share data with your consent.
This information would normally be passed on in the form of a written letter which is given to you – if this is the case, the letter becomes your responsibility and the protection of its contents is your responsibility.
If the information is passed electronically by email, it will be with your consent, by secure, encrypted email. We will take all reasonable precautions to transmit the information securely.
We have a professional duty to share your personal information if this necessary to prevent serious harm to your health or safety, or that of another person.
If we believe this is necessary, we will discuss this with you as soon as we can. If there is an immediate risk to health or safety and we cannot discuss this with you, we will share personal data to prevent harm (for example with the emergency services or adult safeguarding team) and will discuss this with you as soon as possible.
How do we protect your information?
We are committed to ensuring that your information is secure. In order to prevent unauthorised access or disclosure, we have put in place suitable physical, electronic and managerial procedures to safeguard and secure the information we collect.
Controlling your personal informationYou are entitled to request a copy of the personal information we hold about you and to have any discrepancies rectified if appropriate. If you believe that any information we are holding on you is incorrect or incomplete, please write to or email us and we will promptly correct any information where legally possible.
You are entitled to request that we transfer your data direct to another controller and to request that your personal data is erased where it is no longer necessary to retain it.We will not sell, distribute or lease your personal information to third parties unless we have your permission or are required by law to do so.
We confirm that we do not transfer data abroad or use any form of automated decision making in our business.
All changes will be notified on our website.
Any questions or complaints regarding this privacy notice should be addressed to:
Joanna Murphy, Trustee, The Ashdown Hub
We want to share this technique with you that we have used with other people for some time. It was part of a Zoom group over lock down.
Clinical volunteers Jeanne-Claire and Jo had a chat on zoom about this practice around this time and we keep this recording below in case it's helpful
We don’t know you in person yet, and so don’t know your background. If you are reading along and having a go, and something doesn’t feel comfortable or suitable for you, don’t do it. If you are under professional care, please discuss your plans to try this technique and its suitability for you at the moment
If you need to change something in these instructions to make journalling more comfortable to do, this is fine. If you are worried about your mental health, please click here
1. Finding the right time, being ready
Give yourself the gift of some time each day for this supportive practice.
We know this can be easier said than done. 30 minutes to an hour is ideal, but 10 minutes would do. It can help to aim for the same time each day.
Try to find a quiet period where you won’t be disturbed, at a time you won’t forget. Make sure you are comfortable, and aren’t hungry or cold. You can even set an alarm to remind you of your practice time.
Gather together some materials before you start (these could be pen and paper but if you have the following then they might be helpful and fun to use: coloured pencils, pens, old catalogues, scissors and glue, modelling clay or materials, phone for photos)
2. Check in with yourself, with curiosity and kindness.
Here are some basic instructions we find helpful in checking in with the body, but if they don’t suit you, feel free to adapt them.
Sitting upright in a supportive chair with your feet comfortably on the floor
Check in with your body: ask how is my body feeling today?
Really trying to notice what is there, with a friendly curiosity, without trying to change anything. Can you feel your feet today? Perhaps the soles of your feet are resting on the floor. How does this feel? Are you able to feel your toes? All of them? Perhaps you aren’t. That’s OK. Perhaps there are intense feelings, or buzzing, itching, hot or cold. That’s all OK. Scan your body. Are there areas of muscle tension, perhaps in the hips, in the tummy area, in the shoulders or jaw. It’s OK if there are. Just noticing and not trying to change what you find. Which parts of your body are you most aware of? Are the feelings intense? Pleasant? Are they there all the time or do they come and go? Being curious about the areas of the body you aren’t noticing at the moment. How is your tummy feeling today? Is there churning, or rumbling? How about the breath? Can you feel the rhythmical movement of the chest wall and tummy? Perhaps you notice the steady flow of breath in and out past the nostrils?
Ask yourself “How am I feeling today?”.
If I had to find some words for my mood, what would they be? Are the feelings intense? Are they a mixture of feelings, partly feeling one thing and partly something else? Really try to look hard and be curious without criticising what you notice or trying to change it.
Are you perhaps feeling nothing at all? It is fine to feel whatever you are feeling, whether this is pleasant or unpleasant, strong or even not there at all, and also to struggle to put words to what you are feeling. Just noticing with kindly attention
You might like to glance down a list of feeling words to help with this (you can find these online easily by googling “list of feelings”. The Hoffman Institute has a good list, for example and it might help to print it out)
3. Try drawing or making an image of how you feel.
This sounds hard, but there are lots of techniques to help and it’s important just to have a go- you can’t get it wrong.
Here are three simple options:
Scribble what you feel in your body:
Take a pen and scribble on the paper. If you feel churning in your tummy, maybe draw a swirl in the middle of the page, and maybe you have a heavy head so you draw lots of lines at the top of the page
“I made the image below on a day I didn’t know what I felt, and bits of me felt different, so I just tried to draw what I felt as best I could”
Choose one colour
Have a few different coloured pencils and chose just one or two colours each day to make any marks or drawing that comes to mind after checking in with body and feelings.
“I drew the picture above on a difficult day, when I couldn’t feel anything, but as I wondered about feeling nothing, and tried to think exactly how I could tell I was feeling nothing, I became aware of my feet and warmth over my head. I felt better after making it”
Cutting out or using photos:
Tear or cut out images from a paper, or chose a photo from your album that most matches how you feel. It doesn’t matter what it is- so long as it appeals to you and seems to match how you feel in some way.
“The picture below was something I cut out of a catalogue and stuck in my journal. It was an image of Christmas lights. I felt it was hopeful, sparkly, sociable, comfortable”
“When I drew the picture above, I was feeling scratchy and irritable, and also hurried. I poked the pencil hard on the paper. It was quite aggressive. I felt better after doing this”
“I took the photo above on my phone when I was on a walk, feeling a bit numb, flat and like I was “up against it”. It was cold and grey, and the wind had blown this hawthorn over, but it was still growing. It seemed to connect with how I was feeling”
4. Reflection time
Once you’ve done your drawing/ photo or other image, check back in with yourself.
How did it feel while you were making the image? If you couldn’t make an image and are staring at a blank page, that’s OK. How does this feel? If you forget to make an image one day, that’s OK too- try getting back to it the next day
How do you feel now? Has anything changed?
Are you pleased with the image? If it could talk to you, what might it say?
If you like, make a few notes about this (but you don’t have to)
Looking at the record over time:
Keep an eye on your journal over time. Sometimes an image that didn’t seem important at the time feels important looking back.
If you are making loose images, try to keep them in a folder or box, or take photos. Sometimes looking at the image the next day can be interesting, or taking a time to look back over a week. Are you seeing any themes? Do you feel the same each day or do your feelings change?
If things are difficult, do you need any help? We aren't a treatment or emergency service but click here for urgent help
It can be really helpful to join a group and discuss your journalling experience with others. A group won’t be critical of anything you have noticed and your experience might help others.
There is evidence that this kind of mindfulness of your feelings, and the experience of connecting to them in this creative way, can be very helpful to mental wellbeing.
There is scientific evidence for this practice, and we’re happy to share some of what we’ve enjoyed reading, and learning about this area (below):
Visual journalling is the kind of practice it is difficult to study and is based on years of clinical experience, for example many art psychotherapists will use it. It is hard to evaluate the benefits of being really in touch with how you are feeling and put figures to this, but here are some studies you might be interested in.
Mercer, A., Warson, E. and Zhao, J., 2010. Visual journaling: An intervention to influence stress, anxiety and affect levels in medical students. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 37(2), pp.143-148.
This study followed some medical students who kept a visual journal. They reported their mood improved and they were less anxious
Martin, L., Oepen, R., Bauer, K., Nottensteiner, A., Mergheim, K., Gruber, H. and Koch, S.C., 2018. Creative arts interventions for stress management and prevention—a systematic review. Behavioral Sciences, 8(2), p.28.
This was research looking at a number of different artistic practices for stress management and reported that arts can be very helpful in stress reduction
Kaimal, G., Ray, K. and Muniz, J., 2016. Reduction of cortisol levels and participants' responses following art making. Art therapy, 33(2), pp.74-80.
This study looked at stress hormones before and after art making and found they went down
The practice we are doing before doing our journalling is a type of mindfulness. There are lots and lots of studies showing the benefit of mindfulness for mental health. Here are a couple of recent studies:
Reangsing, C., Rittiwong, T. and Schneider, J.K., 2020. Effects of mindfulness meditation interventions on depression in older adults: A meta-analysis. Aging & Mental Health, pp.1-10.
This showed mindfulness is helpful in depression for older people
Blanck, P., Perleth, S., Heidenreich, T., Kröger, P., Ditzen, B., Bents, H. and Mander, J., 2018. Effects of mindfulness exercises as stand-alone intervention on symptoms of anxiety and depression: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 102, pp.25-35.
This showed that mindfulness has a positive impact on depression and anxiety
These books might be useful for background reading
Heaversedge, J. and Halliwell, E., 2012. The Mindful Manifesto. Hay House, Inc.
Leavy, P. ed., 2017. Handbook of arts-based research. Guilford Publications.
Cameron, J.ed 2016. The Artists’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
Please let us know how you get on with your visual journalling, and if you need any help. We wish you well!
“I found these 6 toy ducks. Every day for a while, I spent some time being mindful of my feelings and then moved the ducks around and took a photo. Sometimes the “ducks were in a row”, and sometimes they weren’t. I enjoyed this practice and it was really quick. I kept the ducks on the table and did this just after breakfast most days for a few weeks”
Code of conduct for participants at The Ashdown Hub
We want our group to be safe and friendly.
These are rules we have agreed together for all participants, volunteers and staff.
Please ask if you want any more details or if you have suggestions
Alcohol or illegal drugs must never be brought to the group.
Anyone noticeably under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs will be politely asked to leave that session.
Everyone is equally welcome. No form of discrimination will be tolerated. This includes discrimination on the basis of race, gender, colour or religion.
We are a kind group. Bullying or intimidating behaviour of any form is not OK. We give each other our kindly attention and silence phones.
We are a safe group. Violence or threat of violence (physical or verbal) is not OK.
We are a confidential group. Any personal information shared by participants must remain strictly confidential. We don’t take photos of anyone in the group, or of their work, without permission. For online groups, we ensure we access the group in a private space.
There are a few exceptions. All participants must agree that Ashdown Hub staff work as a team and can share information with each other.
Participants understand staff must break confidentiality and disclose information to a third party, if staff believe a participant may be at significant risk of harm to themselves or others. Examples of a third party include the police, health or social services.
We are a caring group. If a participant is worried about the health or safety of another participant, they agree to encourage that participant to seek professional help and/ or speak to a member of staff or volunteer. Participants will not support others alone or keep concerns secret from the group.
Whilst participants may form friendships outside the group, they will keep discussion of issues raised in the group to the group. Group members will not start intimate relationships with each other whilst attending the group.
Under no circumstances must any participant ask to borrow money from any other participant
Swearing is not OK.
This is a safe, considerate space for all. Sexual behaviour, whether physical or verbal, is not OK in the groups.
Your donations make the world of difference to our small charity and to our participants.
We are volunteer-run and rely on donations for venue hire and costs such as running our IT systems etc. These small amounts of money need to come from somewhere, if we are to run.
Please donate via Justgiving and if you use Amazon, nominating us as your AmazonSmile charity
If you'd like to fundraise for us, donate or volunteer for us, please let us know.
Our registered charity number is 1192088 and we are The Ashdown Hub CIO.
We'd love your help. Many thanks!