We have set up a number of Reading for Wellbeing groups within the Trust having trained a number of staff and service users through a training programme provided by The Hearth Centre in Birmingham.
The format for the groups is very relaxed, open and inclusive. The facilitators will select a short story or poem of literary value which they think will be appropriate for the group. The reading of the texts is shared between all participants attending the group. Sometimes people find tremendous benefit from reading aloud whilst for others it is not appropriate and they enjoy just listening. A break in the reading occasionally allows for reflection and discussion.
If appropriate, the facilitator uses creative writing methods to increase engagement in the activity and extend personal reflection; the participants can discuss difficult issues in a distanced manner, focusing on the text and their writing.
Reading for Wellbeing is currently taking place at the Redwoods Centre in Shrewsbury, St George’s Hospital in Stafford and George Bryan Centre in Cannock.
We are very grateful for support with these sessions from our valued AHP staff plus volunteer, Ken Lowe who supports the Redwoods sessions and also to Dr Jo Cannon, published author who has supported our St George’s sessions.
We also really appreciate the support of Ceri Williams, our librarian, who contributed to this project in many ways. The Trust libraries are a great resource for books on mental health issues.
Feedback: “I enjoyed this session very much. It is brilliant, keep it up!” “Fabulous group, thoroughly enjoyed it.” “ The poems and stories evoked much discussion and debate; invaluable for all concerned.”
Creative Writing Project
Over 120 people have been involved in a fantastic creative writing project from right across the Trust. The project ran for ten months from September 2011.
Supported by an Arts Council England grant of £17,500 grant in addition to £800 funding from Staffordshire County Council and the Trust, Staffordshire author Nicholas Corder and a team of writers, poets and artists worked with people accessing local mental health services.
Over 80 creative workshops were held in community centres, libraries and Trust premises in Shrewsbury, Wombourne, Uttoxeter, Stafford, Telford, Tamworth and Burton on Trent and a selection of the work created has been published in a booklet entitled Writing the Future.
Debbie Moores, Professional Lead for Allied Health Professions at the Trust said:
"Creative writing is great for our mental well being and for many people suffering with mental health problems, workshops such as these offer an opportunity for expressing feelings and a chance to meet and speak with others. The work they have produced, both individually and as groups is evidence that they were really able to find a voice."
Nick Corder, artist, added:
"Many contributors had to dig very deep to put pen to paper, but all involved have gained much from the process, including new friendships and new experiences. There is a great appetite to continue creative working and we hope to develop the workshops further."
The sessions were followed up by a very well attended staff training day. Occupational therapy staff who had been supporting Nick's sessions were able to come and explore creative writing techniques together with a view to incorporating them into their own practice.
Copies of the booklet are available from the Arts for Health Team and a PDF version is available to download.
We are thrilled that Writing the Future has been longlisted for the West Midlands Arts Health and Wellbeing Awards, which recognise artists, organisations and groups delivering exceptional arts and health projects in the West Midlands.