Making Up For Mental Health

A Perth mental health worker is incorporating a surprising tool into her patient toolkit – make-up!

Sarah Dunbar, Resilience Outreach Worker at Change Mental Health, is planning a series of workshops to show the mental health benefits of make-up following the success of a pilot event in the city.

make up

Sarah Dunbar making up one of her clients at the recent Connection Cafe. Credit – Kelly McIntyre Photography.

Sarah hosted one of a programme of Connection Cafés across the city on the run-up to Perth and Kinross Health and Wellbeing Festival which will take place at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 August 2023.

Mother of two and former primary school teacher Sarah left her full-time job almost two years ago to work for national charity Change Mental Health.

“From a young age, I was always extremely anxious. By the time I was at secondary school, every day was a battle of stomach-churning anxiety, I was so fearful, catastrophising everything and had a series of rituals to get me through the day. It was no life, everything felt frantic. Life changed at the age of 21 when I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. It was a huge turning point and a relief to know why I felt so different from everyone else. It also allowed me to start working on myself, unravelling 20 years of habitual behaviour, but also to pursue a career in primary school teaching.”

She added, “When I was younger, I used make-up to boost my confidence and self-esteem as I thought so little of myself. However, as my confidence grew as a teacher, the benefits switched to relaxation. I started using make-up to calm myself and went down to London to complete a course.  I would spend two hours on my skin routine and make-up to relax, and started doing my friends and family’s make-up too.”

make up

Credit – Kelly McIntyre Photography.

In 2021, Sarah decided to leave her full-time teaching job and applied for the role at Change Mental Health, supporting people of all ages within the charity’s Resilience programme. She is also an occasional supply teacher when time permits.

She said, “When I started in the role, the charity had just become a partner in the Perth and Kinross Mental Health Festival so I offered to host one of their Connection Cafés, and to focus on Mindful Make-up.  It went so well that I’m now hoping to run more within Change Mental Health.

“It might sound like an exaggeration but make-up has the power to calm the mind, to provide a daily focus for 20 minutes or half an hour. Just concentrating on a task, that involves steps, an order, is exceptionally relaxing and takes you away from your thoughts. From the initial feedback we got, people compared it to a grounding technique that they can repeat at night when they remove it.  There’s also something around resilience – people saw that, if they made a mistake, they can wipe it off and start again. By practising that thinking every day through a physical task, they can then use that in other areas of life.   It also sparked conversations about colour, fragrance and the importance of sleep and staying hydrated, but in a way that wasn’t preachy, just fun and enjoyable.

“With mental health, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. People are grappling with different challenges, on different levels. Whether you’re struggling with depression or living with trauma, the festival will showcase the full cross-spectrum of support. We are extremely proud to be part of this important event and to signpost the help that’s out there.”

To find out more about Change Mental Health, visit their stall at Perth and Kinross Mental Health and Wellbeing Festival. Change Mental Health will also offer a free ‘Connect Crafts’ workshop at 1.45pm on Sunday 20 August 2023.

For more information about the festival, visit