About The Next Step

The Next Step is a unique place that welcomes those who have experience of mental health difficulties into an environment that provides creative and engaging activities where individuals flourish.”

The Next Step supports people who may have experienced depression, mental health or emotional difficulties in their lives.  Such experience can make life very difficult. Work can be hard to get and many have to live on state benefits. 

We provide a year round programme of creative and engaging activities & workshops to support and enhance mental health and well-being. These include Open Art Studio, Craft Cafe, Restorative Yoga, Woodcraft, Singing, Knitting & Crochet, 5 Rhythms Dance, Mindfulness, Creative Writing. We also run a youth programme, dedicated to the 18 to 25 age group. All our activities are on an open access basis and facilitated by people qualified in their field. See our programme / calendar of events on the top right of this page.

We support participants by providing a variety of activities and workshops they can attend as and when and for as long as they wish. We do not provide therapy or counselling. We do not intrude or inquire into their personal experience, rather we allow the person to decide what works for them. We hope that by participating in our programme, they will gain self confidence and self esteem, form friendships and in time feel better in and about themselves. In this way we hope participants will be better able to engage with friends, family and the wider community.

Declan was our inspiration. A casual meeting over coffee sometime in the Autumn of 2009, many more meetings, discussions of options, and a search for funds culminated on 27th April 2011 in a 2 hour art class, one day a week for 10 weeks at the Camden Palace Hotel community art centre, led by professional artist Charlotte Donovan and funded by City Hall.
It went well, all 10 participants seemed to like it. Many said that it became a focal point of their week, something to look forward to. The Next Step was up and running.

Developing over the years
We have gradually increased the scope of activities provided. By September 2012 we were operating 2 days a week, including one ‘self managed’ day (less costly!). Over time we managed to secure the necessary funding to add further activities including wood-craft, creative writing, mindfulness, singing, dance, yoga, knitting and crafts to the point where we now operate 5 days a week. In 2015 the Camden Palace Hotel arts centre closed. We were fortunate to be able to relocate to the Unitarian Church in the city centre.
On 1st of January 2020 The Next Step becomes part of Cork Mental Health Foundation, which gives us the back up of a larger organisation while allowing autonomy of operation to preserve our particular member centred ethos.
We are a volunteer run organisation, we have no paid staff. We do pay facilitators to run most activities but some are facilitated by volunteers, people who initially came as participants. We believe in openness and transparency and regularly consult with participants.
We have been fortunate in receiving adequate funding over the years. We now get 50% from the HSE and a further 15% from small weekly contributions from participants. The balance has come from a variety of sources.

Do participants benefit?
The Next Step provides an alternative approach for people with mental health difficulties. Our belief is that through attendance at our workshops and activities, in a safe and welcoming environment they might improve self confidence and self esteem, the better able thereby to engage with friends, family and the wider community. We make no judgement on what is the best approach. For some, The Next Step works very well. Others may seek something different. There is no simple one-size-fits-all solution.

We were aware from the outset that there was good evidence for the benefit of art in fostering good mental health. 
In a 2011 report: Beyond Diagnosis - the transformative potential of the arts in mental health recovery’ was published by a research team into a HSE ‘Arts + Minds’ group project. Among its findings were:
             Beyond Diagnosis found that the arts in mental health are a tool to recognise people’s resourcefulness and multiple skills, which are often lost when they become ‘patients’ in a mental health service.
             The Arts + Minds Research Project provides clear evidence of the value of the arts in mental health in promoting individual wellbeing, recovery-oriented practice and social inclusion for people experiencing mental health difficulties.

We have sought feedback from participants on a number of occasions. The following is a sample of comments received:
In a quiet space in the middle of the city there exists The Next Step, a little bit of magic, a place where all this happens:
...“expression, exploring, acceptance”...  ...“renaissance”...  ...“exploring art + enjoying it”...  ...“A place to enrich my spirit”...  ...“It allows me to express myself in colour”... 
We are a collective of individuals who come together and find a friendly welcome and a space to let the creativity within find expression. In other words: we paint, we draw, we print, we learn techniques; we chat, we sew, we make, we grow; we dabble, we think, we laugh, we drink (tea + coffee!). We sing, we dance, we meditate; we come and go, let ideas flow, we feel supported, enriched, safe, encouraged. Sometimes we’re just messin’ - but that’s OK, ‘cos there’s no ‘right’ way! We’re just free to explore once we walk in that door, and we can leave it all behind, ease our troubled minds and enter a small piece of heaven. Let’s hope it lasts for ever.”
I was referred to this service at a time in my life when I was recovering from mental distress, and it proved invaluable to me. Through it I made wonderful friends and developed my skills as an artist and writer. I have learned so much along the way about the creative process, about life and about myself. Just watching people flourish in the group has been an incredible experience.”
some further individual comments:
Feel safe… Have something in common with other participants… Gets me out of the house… Just enjoy being there… I’m happier… Gained more control over my emotions… More confident… Made me feel good about myself… Less nervous… Better self esteem… Motivated to get up out of bed… It saved my life
Some participants have gone on to facilitate activities themselves, no small indication of a transformation in their lives. 

All this is very heartening and makes us aware of what an important and worthwhile place in peoples’ lives is The Next Step.
Where Next?
We look forward to our continuing development in our new alliance with Cork Mental Health Foundation