The coven of witches on a mission to improve people's mental health in Coventry

A coven of witches is attempting to tackle the Coventry area’s mental health epidemic with open and free sessions for all.

Margot Stanford and forty pagan witches set up stalls at markets in the area and take in people who have fallen through the cracks of Britain’s mental health services. With wait times to see professionals sometimes reaching peaks of two years, Stanford said that people from across society have reached out for her help.

Ask anyone on the street, and they’ll imagine witches to be cartoon caricatures, with big black hats, black gowns, and a broom somewhere. Stanford says that’s not at all who they are.

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“We don’t play fancy dress, we are just people. We have some unusual things you wouldn’t find on the street but what we were traditionally was as simple as healers. We’d support our village, support our communities, and we were the midwives and palliative carers.”

Stanford offers free workshops involving meditation, yoga, breath work, mindfulness classes, and they don’t charge a penny for them. They say they’re not trying to cure mental health or detract from mainstream health services, but rather to help manage symptoms when no other help is out there.

“There’s 125 suicides a week in the UK. My daughter is autistic and has just been diagnosed with OCD. It’s a two year waiting list before she can get any practical support.

“Unless we raise awareness in the community and learn about mental health, the death toll is going to keep rising because the help just isn’t there. We have had people say ‘you saved my life’ because we just sat and listened to them.”

Stanford said the witch aspect of these market sessions isn’t front and centre, rather it informs how they approach people.

“These are holistic classes. They will not take the place of proper medical help. You’re not to come off medications, you’ve got to work with modern medications as well. It’s not in place of it, it’s a support.

Stanford said that while she would rather see a vast improvement in the services available for mental health support from mainstream services, she would also like to work towards a mental health support hub.

“It’s not to replace medical support but it may help because all the services that are supposed to support us are breaking their backs. They just aren’t there.

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