Yessica's Journey Blog

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Yessica’s Journey Presentation – Chalk Circle Theatre Company

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© Copyright 2013 Anastacia Tohill, Yessica’s Journey Blog. All rights reserved. Please do not copy or download images or text.

Chalk Circle Theatre Company Facebook
The British Association for the Person-Centred Approach
Kate Hayes Person-Centred Therapist
Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind Website
Norfok and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Website
Five Ways to Wellbeing New Economics Foundation Website

Bit behind on my blogging…opps. Please take a look at Kate Hayes report about the event, at the end of this blog which is brilliant, thanks Kate for sending to me. On the 25th September 2012 last year I was thrilled to be asked to do a presentation about Yessica’s Journey and my art to a group of people invited through the Chalk Circle Theatre Company. The event was held in Norwich in the evening at Take Five and was a great success. The Chalk Circle held several events around the theme of mental health so I was so pleased that they asked me to be involved and for giving me the opportunity to show my artwork. Thank you to Suzanna Coppolina and Adina Levay for giving me the opportunity to show my work and for your kind invitation and support.

suzanna anastaca

Suzannah Coppolina Director Chalk Circle and Anastacia at Yessica’s Journey Presentation

Screenshot of Chalk Circle invite to the Yessica's Journey Event

Screenshot of Chalk Circle invite to the Yessica’s Journey Event

Quote from Suzannah Coppolina Director – ‘Chalk Circle is a newly established professional theatre company working in collaboration with local and international theatre practitioners. Our aim is to create contemporary, innovative, challenging and cutting-edge theatre in Norwich and the surrounding area. Last year we produced 4.48 Psychosis written by playwright Sarah Kane. Sarah Kane is one of the most powerful and controversial playwrights of our time and her plays have been widely performed in Europe and South America. We, at The Chalk Circle Theatre Company would like to support and raise awareness of mental health and aim to host panel discussions, rehearsed readings, art exhibits and workshops based around the subject matter within the play.’

Suzanna and Adina created a fantastic play which I went to see last year – 4.48 Psychosis written by Sarah Kane. Adina directed the play and Suzanna was the main actress in the play. They both created an outstanding play and I was hugely impressed with their talent and creativity.

I displayed some of my artwork from Yessica’s Journey on the wall and also some other artwork from the Five Ways to Wellbeing diary and the character Antony the ant. I also brought my stop motion puppet ‘Undine’ and various information about animation in general.


Anastacias artwork on display

Tim Burton is my favourite director and has influenced and inspired me a great deal. I bought one of his books along for people to look at – a very creative person and hugely talented. I also displayed an armature for a stop motion puppet which is like a skeleton for the character which allows the character to move and be manipulated into different positions. I also took some flick books and my Zoetrope and Praxinoscope which is one of the early methods of creating animation using illusion and a revolving wheel. I used to use these when I taught animation. I thought it would be interesting to not only show my artwork but also incorporate a little bit of animation history.

display table2

Anastacias artwork on display

The Praxinoscope has a circle of mirrors within its centre which reflect a strip of drawings located within the inner part of the spinning wheel. When the wheel spins at speed it gives the illusion of moving images. The images appear stationary whilst the wheel is turning. Each drawing shows a different movement and when run in order, in rapid succession one image after another and at speed they blend together to magically make the image appear to animate. This replaced the Zoetrope which was less effective as it only had narrow slits and no mirrors making the image hard to see. See image of Praxinoscope below.

display table

Praxinoscope with mirrors front left of picture


My Apple Mac with artwork displayed and projector and speakers lent by Oz for the presentation

I took along my Apple Mac and had my artwork displayed on the projector screen changing every few seconds. Oz lent me his projector and speakers which was really useful. I also used this to show the showreel of my animation work which advertises the Yessica’s Journey project and my animation film ‘Undine’ which I completed for my degree which is around the same time that I became unwell so I felt it was relevant to the event.


Oz Osborne talking about his involvement with Yessica’s Journey at the presentation

I invited Oz Osborne to be a guest speaker and also to introduce everyone who was talking at the event. Oz has been involved with the project from the beginning and has helped support me throughout. He has also helped with the writing of the script and is now the Production Manager for the project. He also works with the Human Library and Time to Change and is passionate about the Five Ways to Wellbeing which he also talked about.


Anastacia talking at the presentation

I was really nervous about talking in front of everyone and especially about my work and my mental health difficulties. I had no idea what I was going to say but everyone said I did OK so I was really pleased. My presentation was around 45 mins I think and I showed the films and answered a few questions afterwards. I am pleased I did it as it gave me a lot of confidence which I have always struggled with.


People at the presentaton. My friend Silvia came and the lady at the front is a Neurologist from New York who just happened to be in the pub.

There was a small group of people who came to attend the event so I was pleased. I met a Neurologist from New York and she was really interested in my art and creativity. Her partner and her just happened to be in the pub and wondered through and looked at my art and asked if they could attend which is lovely.


Ruth Turner Psychologist from the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Maggie Wheeler, Chair of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust kindly asked Ruth Turner who is a psychologist to give a talk about the work of the Trust and Mental Health. I wanted to ask some of the organisations who were involved with supporting and funding the project and did not want the whole event to centre around my artwork as I thought this would make the event really interesting to people. Ruth was fantastic and everyone was really interested in what she was saying about the NHS. She explained information really clearly and she was asked many questions so clearly the audience had an interest which was nice to see.

It was really nice as I met up with Ruth at the Chalk Circle 4.48 Psychosis play several months later with some of her colleagues.

ruth close

Ruth Turner


Kate Hayes person-centred therapist from Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind

Kate Hayes is a person-centred therapist and a member of the co ordinating group for British Association for the Person-Centred Approach (BAPCA). She works for Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind. Thanks to Paola Colombo, Manager at Mind and Peter Gianfrancesco, Chief Executive of Mind for asking Kate to give a talk at the event. Mind are one of the funders for the project and Peter is my mentor for the project. Please see the brilliant report at the end of this blog from Kate who wrote about the event which was published in the membership Journal for the British Association for The Person- Centred Approach


Kate Hayes talking at the event

Kate gave a really interesting talk and like Ruth there were plenty of questions from the audience. She did a fantastic job and it was really interesting to have two speakers from different backgrounds talking about mental health. Below is a picture of Kate and her son with Paola Colombo.

It is really nice as I have remained in contact with Kate and we sometimes meet up for a chat. She is also an artist so we have a lot in common.

Thank you to Ruth and Kate for coming to the event and giving your time to talk about your work, I do appreciate it. Thank you also to Oz for all your help and for coming to the event to talk and help me set up – thanks for your encouragement.

paola oz

Paola Colombo and Oz Osborne at the event talking

Below is some more photos of the event.

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Article written by Kate Hayes, Person-Centred Therapist

© Copyright 2012 Kate Hayes. All rights reserved. Please do not copy or download images or text.

This Article was published in the membership Journal for the British Association for The Person- Centred Approach

Yessica’s Journey, Chalk Circle, Frank Bruno and the person-centred approach.

It’s been an interesting month.

I have been fortunate enough to be introduced to a radical new theatre company called Chalk Circle. The company have started rehearsals for a production of the Sara Kane Play 4.48 Psychosis. The play starts in Norwich on November 8th at The Garage. The company has links to Norwich Mind and as a result of a discussion with a colleague I was invited along to meet the actors as they wanted to ask me questions about therapeutic approaches to psychosis and suicide. It was a daunting task.

Sara Kane, the author of the play committed suicide after writing it and the actors were struggling with how to represent the author sensitively and accurately. My contribution was minimal but many questions, some I could answer and others I couldn’t, were put my way. What I could say was how historically ways of ‘treating’ and supporting people who were experiencing distress have been under developed as the medicalization of distress has been the norm. I was able to share that there are creative and empathic ways to be alongside people in distress that are beginning to become more visible in society and have been around for more than half a century and are present within the Person-Centred approach, the Soteria network and Positive Psychology.

Chalk Circle encourage other artists and subsequently I was invited to attend an evening introducing Anastacia Tohill’s animation’ Yessica’s Journey’. Anastacia experienced a ‘psychotic breakdown’ as she chooses to describe it, at the age of 41 when she was at Art School. She courageously continued with her final show work ‘Undine’. She explained how she discovered a new depth and level of creativity as she struggled through her harrowing experience. This prompted her to make a film all about her experience; the project is named ‘Yessica’s Journey’. It is anticipated to be ready in three years and is going to be part of an awareness raising campaign around Mental Health Difficulties, Psychosis and Wellbeing – helping people to understand as well as challenge the stigma and discrimination associated with it.  On September 24th at take 5 in Norwich she exhibited some of the drawings and designs for the animation. Anastacia invited myself, a clinical psychologist Ruth Turner and Oz Osborne from Stuff Stigma, The Human Library and Time to Change to talk about approaches to psychosis and mental health. I called my talk ‘Psychosis A natural reaction to a distressing world?’.

I had not shared a platform with a Norfolk clinical psychologist before and as I was being introduced by Oz who was talking intensely to her in a corner, I thought I’d best speak with him before the evening started. As I approached I was interested to hear Ruth explaining to Oz how the only way of contacting people in distress is not through CBT but through listening to them and validating their experience. ..and then they calm down. On further discussion she explained she had studied Stephen Joseph and Gillian Proctors work for a dissertation she’d written about positive psychological attitudes to carers for dementia. She knew about post traumatic growth and fully accepted that rather than trying to persuade people to think differently, if you accept ‘where they are’ they can move towards growth. I appreciate this is not news to us, but for me this was an exciting dialogue as my local trust has been traditionally disinterested in the person-centred approach and now it seemed a  chink of light is opening up.

Anastacia’s brief animation Undine, made during her breakdown, was a remarkable film. The film is set in a farmyard  as a young woman‘s head opens the sequence in stark relief as a pair of scissors cuts her long hair and sobbing and the slicing scissors punctuate the image. The woman progresses through a journey moving through darkness to light in a beautifully illustrated and coloured animation. The film held a depth of sadness and distress but it was also surrounded by beauty and hope. Anastacia’s vision has developed throughout her process of growth and after 4 years of determination she has attracted the level of funding she felt she needed to create the work ‘Yessica’s Journey’. She managed to get some talking therapy recently which she feels is part of the key to her ongoing growth process. This is being provided by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and is incredibly hard to access. The people I see through the NHS are not under the mental health team and traditionally the only interventions offered are CBT and medication.

The evening was packed with interesting talks. I have already written about the Human Library in a previous PCQ. Oz is the person who brought it to the UK from Denmark. It originated from a music festival where there were so many different gangs and tribes in attendance they evolved this idea of a person being ‘a book’ that can be borrowed and listened to in order to effect mediation between differences. The project has grown and tours the country breaking down prejudice and stigma.

Ruth Turner spoke mainly about the early intervention service that works with young people who have had a first psychotic episode. They have three years of access to the team and services include taking them to University by taxi in order to attend lectures. It’s clearly a service that struggles with ethical dilemmas and also does not seem to have a counselling facility in built. Ruth seemed frustrated by forms and inconsistencies in the service and was not afraid to say that the system often makes people worse.

I was next and I acknowledged and responded to Anastacia’s film. At events such as these it’s easy for moments to ‘get lost’ and I wished to bring the focus back to the remarkable work we had seen an hour before. I shared my strong sense that the film and her process felt like a beautiful demonstration of the actualising tendency coming through her distress. She is achieving exactly what she wishes to achieve and as a result will impact on other people’s lives.  She beamed brilliantly back at me. I shared how it had made me think about the creative aspects of the person- centred approach and how Carl Rogers’ daughter Natalie had developed her own expressive arts therapy called the ‘creative connection’ and that this had evolved as a therapeutic approach in itself. I mentioned I had run certificates at the UEA on ‘contacting the creative self’ and this aspect of nurturing growth is recognised and supported by person-centred practitioners. I explained some of the theory around the approach, the importance and valuing of coming alongside a person, of listening to them, acknowledging their experience as valid for them and offering warmth and acceptance. I explained how in 1996 I had tried to offer counselling at a local support centre for people who had experienced severe breakdowns, called Bridges  as I felt strongly then that people who had gone through breakdowns or severe mental and emotional distress would benefit from person-centred processes. But there was no funding and the concern was that so many people would want it there would not be enough therapists to offer it.

Right up to the present day this valuable resource has not been introduced in to the mental health trust and their focus on medication and CBT remains intact. I introduced the philosophy around the Soteria network and Soteria houses. I also referred to the work of Dion Van Verde and the wards he runs in Belgium based on the Pre Therapy approach developed by Prouty and its growing influence in the UK. The multi-cultural audience was of a broad age ranging from seven to early seventies. I nicked (but attributed) Richard Bentalls phrases ‘social inequality drives people crazy, racial discrimination drives people crazy, Cities drive people crazy, Gay bi and transgender discrimination drives people crazy. My talk was more a dialogue and people were clearly keen to speak out about the medicalization of distress and appreciated the view that often natural responses were turned into and identified as illness. I also spoke about BAPCA, how it is open to a broad range of practitioners who are involved with or interested in the person-centred approach, the practitioner research network and our intention to gather evidence. I mentioned Frank Bruno’s visit to a charity event for Norwich and Norfolk Central Mind and how he expressed very strong feeling about the focus on medication and how there was a need for alternative therapies to be used.  I referred to Ben Goldacre’s article in the Guardian that had been published that weekend about the drug industry and mentioned Robert Whitaker’s books.

At the end I shared this quote from Carl Rogers ‘the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change’.

This was well received and I hope that those who were at the talk will now naturally consider the person-centred approach as a way of being that is accessible to all. I also posed the idea that we are still evolving emotionally and that was welcomed by many within the group.

My son Jo who had come to support me reassured me I had done a good job and at the end said to me ‘The solutions to mental health drives people crazy’.

Here’s hoping that state of affairs may soon change.

Quote from Anastacia, the artist: –  ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and feel it has helped me a great deal with my confidence, something which is very important in helping people with mental health difficulties. I would like to thank Suzanna Coppolina Company Director and Adina Levay Artistic Director for giving me the opportunity to share and talk about my work at the ‘Chalk Circle’ event. I would also like to thank Oz Osborne who gave a talk about his role on the project and his work with Time to Change, Rethink and the Human Library. Kate Hayes, Accredited Therapist and Ruth Turner, NHS Psychologist for giving up their time to talk at the event. I thought all the talks were so interesting and informative and clearly by the reaction of the people asking questions there was a great deal of interest which was lovely to see. It was clear to see how passionate people are about their work. Thank you also to Maggie Wheeler, Chair of the NHS Trust, Peter Gianfrancesco Chief Executive of Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind and Paola Colombo Mind Inclusion Manager for your support.’

‘Yessica’s Journey’ is an animation project about my journey through mental health difficulties and how I learned and developed a healing process to improve my wellbeing. The project is anticipated to be completed in 2015 and incorporates Stop Motion and 2D animation. The film is funded by, The Wellcome Trust, Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind, The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, and has also been supported by Rethink and the Bipolar Disorder Research Network. The film incorporates the New Economics Foundation Five Ways to Wellbeing – Connect, Be active, Take notice, Keep learning, and Give. It is hoped that by showing a small glimpse of someone’s lived experience that it will help to educate and enhance people’s understanding, give people hope, and help to end and challenge the stigma and discrimination associated with it. It is also hoped that it highlights the importance of improving your wellbeing and encourages creativity in people, something which is very important. As a Freelance Artist I specialise in Animation and Illustration. I use mixed media styles, combining traditional with digital methods to create unique and meaningful art.’ For further information please see website links. Yessica’s Journey Website: | Anastacia’s Website:

Kate Hayes Mbacp (acc)

Author: Anastacia

I am a freelance Animator and Illustrator. I am a Director/Producer and Animator of the Yessica's Journey Animation Project

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