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Finding Safe Spaces: The Phoenix Project and Mental Health Awareness Week

Updated: May 14

Mental Health Awareness Week has arrived and our attention turns to the significance of safe spaces for individuals grappling with mental health challenges.

In Ipswich, The Phoenix Project, is at the forefront of showcasing these essential sanctuaries within the community, with their True Thoughts project participants. True Thoughts runs every Friday afternoon 1-4pm at the Quaker Meeting House in Ipswich.

The Phoenix Project is a welcoming and social community combating isolation, stigma and discrimination for those affected by mental health issues.

Tracy and Paul, regular participants of True Thoughts, stress the importance of knowing where to find welcoming environments, particularly for those dealing with anxiety, stress, or other mental health issues. In a region where over 100,000 residents experienced common mental health conditions in 2020, the necessity for accessible support networks cannot be overstated.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, the Phoenix Project will share insights into some of their preferred safe havens in Ipswich.

Their exploration begins at the Geek Retreat, a gaming shop and social centre on Upper Brook Street. Founded by Sharon and Rob Lockhart, this franchise provides a space for individuals to connect over shared interests, alleviating the pressure of discussing personal challenges. As Sharon aptly puts it, "Post-pandemic, it was important to meet again in a friendly, safe environment, especially with a dying town centre like Ipswich."

Listen & watch below.

Joining the ranks of safe spaces is the Coffee Crawl, a social group gathering weekly for coffee and conversation at various locations. This coming Wednesday, they'll be meeting at the Geek Retreat, offering a relaxed setting for like-minded individuals to forge connections and nurture friendships.

Press play to find out more...

For those seeking solace in nature, ActivLives provides a sanctuary through its community garden and physical health initiatives. Jack, the site manager's assistant, attests to the transformative power of green activities in improving mental wellbeing. Carl, a participant, shares how being part of ActivGardens has changed his life, blending work and social interaction in a fulfilling way.

Venturing further, The Hive on Norwich Road emerges as a cultural community centre, offering diverse activities from language groups to craft workshops. Omar O'Connor, a supporter of The Hive's social sessions, praises its ability to unite individuals from all walks of life, supporting a sense of belonging and creativity.

The Phoenix group acknowledges the abundance of safe spaces in Ipswich and aims to compile a leaflet for future reference. Through their efforts and collaborations with organisations like the East Suffolk Care Group, represented by Debbie Atkinson, individuals facing mental health challenges can find refuge and support in their community.

So, what exactly does the Phoenix Project do? The Phoenix Project is a social project in Ipswich that provides support and a sense of community for individuals dealing with mental health issues. They host a Friday club at the Quaker Meeting House, offering morning activities and a space for conversation and connection over lunch.

As Mental Health Awareness Week approaches, let's celebrate the power of safe spaces and the resilience of individuals forging connections and seeking support on their mental health journey.

For those interested, the Coffee Crawl has a dedicated programme for Mental Health Awareness Week, offering opportunities for connection and self-care:

  • May 13 Walk & Talk with ActivWalks in Christchurch Park,

Ipswich 10:30 – 1pm. (Meeting at the Soane Street Entrance) Please wear suitable shoes. Stopping at the Mansion Tea Room for a cuppa (optional).

  • May 15 Coffee Crawl meet up for a cuppa and chat at Geek Retreat,

41a Upper Street, Ipswich IP4 1DU 10:30 – 1pm. Includes an Art Workshop exploring Movement in Art (optional).

  • May 17 Chair Yoga session with Yogability, 524 Woodbridge Road,

Ipswich IP4 4 PN, 2pm. Please wear comfortable loose-fitting

clothing. Free entry – Spaces are limited. Please contact Debbie

on 07795267227 for more information and to book a space.

To find out more about The Phoenix Project visit

True Thoughts is a weekly session for creativity, exploration and mindfulness.

This is a chance to try new things, socialise and learn new skills!

If you’d like to join a session please email or call 07976768763.

True Thoughts is a Phoenix Project in association with ICM and funded by Suffolk Community Foundation, The Health Lottery and People's Health Trust.

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