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A picture of health

Taking up a new hobby can be a great way to manage your mental health and live the life you want. Bernie Penman, a 71-year-old from Stanley found that taking up photography really helped him. We met up with Bernie to find out more.

“I originally started taking photos of live music as I’m a big rock fan. Then somewhere along the line I just started taking pictures of wildlife.

"I like to photograph all sorts of animals, but my favourite things to shoot are owls. I find them so astonishingly beautiful. When you see them out hunting, they are so graceful to watch.

"I suffer from chronic depression and have been getting treatment for years. The photography has helped with the mindfulness, especially the editing side of things. When you’re trying to clean up and improve the images you’ve taken you can get lost in it.

Owl sitting on fence post

"I’ve been able to make lots of friends through the photography, both through the wildlife photos and my music photography. I met a young guitarist who can play like Jimi Hendrix at a gig at a pub. We ended up talking about the music we love, like Led Zeppelin, Dave Gilmour and Santana. There’s no age barrier when you share the same passions.

A man wearing sunglasses and playing guitar

"If you’re interested and you’re keen to improve you can get really into it. I’m 71 now and it’s the most I’ve tried to learn something.

"It’s a hobby. I don’t have any technical knowledge; I just enjoy doing it.”

You don’t have to face life’s challenges alone. We provide a wide range of personalised support services throughout the North East for people with diagnosed mental health needs.

To find out more about our services and how we can help you, please ask to speak to a team leader in our Supported Housing Operations Team by contacting us at or calling 0808 164 0111.

Silver Friends

We’ve just started running Silver Friends, a community group hosting events in the north of County Durham for people aged 50+.

To find out more contact Silver Talk on 0191 223 8662 or email

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