In an activity room at Sandwell Park Hospital in Hartlepool, Farzane is completing a henna tattoo. She is among a group of women from Asian backgrounds who are helping to improve understanding of mental ill health within their communities - and highlighting the help available.
The idea sprang from the NHS trust which provides mental health services to a large part of our region. The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust was particularly conscious that individuals from South Asian communities rarely accessed its memory services for older people.
In an effort to change this situation, the trust teamed up with Shazia Noor, who is known for her work on Teesside to create awareness of mental health issues. She told me why it is a difficult subject for many of the women who come to her.
Together with Middlesbrough Council's Community Learning Service, the trust and Shazia Noor developed a five week course to enable women to volunteer on hospital wards.
The project has two key aims: firstly, bringing staff into hospitals who can connect with patients from similar backgrounds through shared culture and language. It is also hoped participants can pass on their knowledge of mental health to their friends and family on a more informal basis, spreading positive messages and information about the issues.
Sandwell Park is among the hospitals benefiting from the women's knowledge and experience. It provides mental health services for older people. As well as henna tattooing, the women bring a range of skills to the wards, including manicuring, gardening and other activities. A number of recruits have gone a step further; and are beginning paid work for the trust. They say they are delighted to be working for the good of the local community.
A second group of volunteers have now completed their training. The hope is that this project can make a significant, and long term, difference in raising awareness of mental health issues and the help on offer.