Patients at Valkenberg Hospital got to feel what it’s like to “strut your stuff” on the runway during an interactive fashion show recently. More than 30 female and male patients participated in the interactive fashion event organised by non-profit organisation Beauty Behind Bars in collaboration with Friends of Valkenberg Trust, an organisation working in conjunction with Valkenberg Hospital to promote the recovery of people with serious mental illnesses. The event took place at the hospital in Observatory on Saturday 29 September.Female patients were given the opportunity to dress up and have their hair and makeup done by volunteers from the two organisations while the male patients took on the role of event ushers, explains Beauty Behind Bars founder, Cleo Jacobs.According to Jacobs, fashion and beauty are often not accessible to individuals at mental health facilities. “Individuals in mental health facilities are actively on the road to recovery. These individuals find that their physical, spiritual and emotional health is all connected, and that supporting one supports the others. Being able to feel good and look good helps one during the recovery process and increases the likelihood of staying well,” explains Jacobs.Her organisation strives to celebrate the beauty of those living in adverse situations.Sandra Matthew, director of Friends of Valkenberg Trust, says female patients were afforded the opportunity to choose an outfit for their personal keepsake. “Other clothing items used during the fashion show were auctioned to guests. Money raised was given as a donation to the Beauty Behind Bars organisation,” explains Matthew. A special keynote address was delivered by Tiffany Love-Harden, founder and chief executive officer of Beauty Behind Bars USA. “I am thankful for the opportunity to inspire and uplift women and men at Valkenberg Hospital. Stigma and discrimination are the two biggest obstacles curbing public dialogue about mental health. “Individuals with mental health illnesses have a right to take an equal part in society. Let’s make sure that happens,” Harden stated.Matthew says Friends of Valkenberg Trust often partners with external organisations to offer services and activities which target each aspect of the recovery process. They currently have 19 ongoing projects which focus on enhancing independent living skills, building self-esteem, improving physical activity, offering work experience or providing the practical support to make this all possible. “This is vital as it means people can get back to their lives, their families, their jobs and their communities,” says Matthew.V To partner with Friends of Valkenberg Trust, contact Sandra Matthew at email@example.com or 021 447 2092 or 021 440 3126.