A trailblazing mental health worker from Uxbridge has received national recognition for her pioneering work providing accessible wellbeing support to black women across the UK.

Rayann Bryan is a PhD student at the University of Greenwich who started the Thelma Matilda Alves Foundation – named after her grandmother – in April 2020 after her own experiences struggling to access effective therapies.

After going from strength to strength with her charity, Rayann is being celebrated for doing extraordinary things in her community and beyond. 

The foundation provides a space to protect and preserve the emotional wellbeing of women of African and Caribbean descent through online counselling sessions.

Hillingdon Times:

In commemoration of Black History Month , The National Lottery has unveiled a wire-frame installation, created by Lazerian Studio, in the shape of HMT Empire Windrush, at Tilbury Docks, the port where the ship first docked in 1948, 75 years ago. 

Five portraits, created by abstract expressionist artist Jade Pearl, showcase people and projects who have done incredible things with the help of the £30 million raised by National Lottery players every week for good causes, including Rayann’s grandmother and the charity’s namesake, Thelma Matilda. 

She said: “I would never have expected it to grow to where it is, now.

“I thought it would be kind of small, maybe short-lasting during lockdown and once we came out of lockdown, not many people would be interested anymore because life carries on.

“So seeing that the need is still there and seeing that we've been able to still carry on and get funding and expand what we've done has been amazing.

“It's been really nice to honour my grandmother's legacy. The sacrifices she has made coming over here to make sure we've been able to have a nice life.

“For me, to grow and go to university and do other things that she has never been able to do and wasn't able to do at the time. It’s been a really wonderful journey so far.”

The five portraits created by Jade Pearl celebrate and reflect upon the huge contribution made by Windrush pioneers and their families across the UK.

Portraits include Shereen Ingram who helped organise art and music festival, FAM Fest, created by NorFAMtoN; Thelma Matilda, who inspired The Thelma Matilda Alves Foundation which create Black Women wellbeing initiatives; Madgerine Thomas and Reverend Charlton Thomas from MENFA: Mentoring for All; Roxanne Beckles from Show Racism the Red Card and Icylin Douglas from Windrush: The Story Continues, created by Feed My Creative. 

Rayann’s grandmother came to the UK from Jamaica in 1962, laying the foundations for her game-changing work more than half a century later.

The foundation was started after she noticed discrepancies between the mental health treatment she was being given by her GP and that of her white female friends, with her white friends being offered a range of mental health treatments such as funded counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and medication while she was only offered a high dosage of antidepressants despite expressing suicidal thoughts. 

Her challenging experience approaching the NHS for mental health treatment prompted her to research and learn more about the experiences of black women's mental health in Britain, highlighting a significant problem of black women being disproportionately affected by mental health but not receiving the quality of care that they need.

Hillingdon Times:

The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, has awarded more than £1.2 million to more than 140 community groups across the UK commemorating Windrush 75 this year. In addition, the funder gave more than £50 million to over 1,000 projects supporting Black communities across the UK last year, demonstrating its ambition to invest most in places, people and communities experiencing poverty, disadvantage and discrimination. 

Speaking on the impact of National Lottery funding, Rayann added: “It helped us increase our awareness in the communities so we were able to hold an exhibition during June to early July. 

“We were able to curate some art pieces from some amazing higher-profile, black London-based artists and have an opening night where we had some poetry from some amazing black poets around the theme of Windrush and around a theme of immigration. 

“Schools were able to go and it really helps us increase our profile as well because we noticed that people coming who were in London for tourism, came to our exhibition as well. 

“It was a nice way to commemorate the legacy of Windrush, but also to highlight and talk about some of the issues faced by the generation.”

David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “The 75th anniversary of Windrush is a great opportunity to recognise and embrace the endeavours and legacy of Windrush pioneers and their families. Communities have chosen many ways in which to mark this historic occasion and the lasting contribution made to the UK. Thanks to their incredible efforts and the support of National Lottery players we are proud to have awarded over £1.2 million across the UK to commemorate Windrush 75 and ensure the legacy lives on.”