THIS week, we're shouting about a charity that has saved lives by helping hundreds of struggling Swindonians express themselves and talk about the unspeakable.

Behind an unassuming front door on Milton Road lies Ipsum, a mental health and wellbeing centre that uses a mixture of music, creative writing, art, and one-to-one counselling to support clients of all ages and change their lives for the better.

It's overseen by director Julie Mattinson and run by a small dedicated team of volunteers and staff who provide enjoyable distractions that can lead to revelatory personal progress.

Julie said: "It's rewarding work that is humbling and often brings me to tears. Clients say this place gives their mind a break from their worries and it saves lives. There would be a void in Swindon without us.

"I worked in addiction for 15 years and in 2015 noticed a gap we could plug for mental health support services. We help people rebuild relationships and become more resilient then connect them with voluntary work and the jobcentre if needed.

"One consultant said it was the best alternative to prescribed medicine he'd seen. We're unique in the south west. Statutory teams and GPs refer people to us which speaks of the incredible confidence they have in what we do.

"You don't need to have a diagnosed issue, If you feel low or stressed or isolated, this can help."

Michael Beckley and Richard Price help people turn their pain into powerful music in the charity's basement studio - Michael through lessons with physical instruments and Richard with a computer program that lets people skip the technical stuff and dive straight into music-making.

They have worked with St Luke's School and CAMS amongst others.

One 10-year-old turned his first heartbreak into rap, teenagers from troubled backgrounds channelled their anger into acoustics and a group of lonely pensioners formed a band known as the Mystic Mondays.

Richard said: "The program lets them dive straight into making music and keeps it fun They're not confident and struggle to talk about their feelings but this gives them something else to focus on and get a lot out of their system. They open up and come alive, they love it.

"I used to be a service user so I know what it's like for them."

Artist Sue Bardwell runs weekday workshops where clients produce art that is displayed in the building and will be on show in the Sainsbury's Bridgemead cafe.

The supermarket is supporting Ipsum as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations and will host an event tonight at 7pm to mark the beginning of the partnership.

She said: "This is a relaxed pressure-free atmosphere that allows anxious people to try new things and grow their confidence which has a big impact on the rest of their lives.

"It's all about giving people time away from their problems and encouraging social interaction, which is just as important as the creative side of things.

"People underestimate the difference that being creative can make, it helps them move forward and feel better about themselves.

"I've done this for two years and it's a lovely privilege to see people grow and deal with their issues. So many struggle with things like breakdowns, bereavements and bad days at work but don't talk about it to anyone This acts as a relief and when they feel comfortable, they open up more."

Clients who pop in to get creative often decide to then speak to one of 20 counsellors who host sessions at Ipsum. Barbara Lorusso is one of them and organises the schedule.

She said: "Many think that this is just talking about their childhoods but that's a cliche. Worrying about the stress of the here and now, with things like job loss and divorce, is reason enough, we're very inclusive. People say they feel lighter and more in control by the end of the care plan."

Bob Heath hosts music therapy and creative writing sessions. He said: "It's such a powerful way of helping people say the unsayable.The moment people get the opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment with people who have shared experiences, something extraordinary happens."

Ipsum relies on donations and support from businesses to keep going. They are looking for funding and for skilled volunteers to help run their creative services.

Julie added: "I'm so proud of this place, though it's tough to stay afloat, we're constantly paddling. It would be a serious loss to the town if we weren't here."

For more information, visit or call 01793 695405.