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Where arts and crafts help with mental health issues

13 Dec 2017 - 09:58 by helen.walker

How a grant from Manchester’s health and care commissioners is providing accredited arts and crafts courses to support people in central and south Manchester that have serious and enduring mental health problems

To many people, being able to express yourself artistically is an important part of health and wellbeing. Now one Manchester project has received funding to provide accredited arts and crafts courses for people with long-term mental health issues.

HerArt, a community interest company set up in 2016, is one of 35 projects that successfully bid for NHS funding to run projects that aim to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people living in Manchester. In total £330,000 of funding was made available, which allowed for grants of up to £10,000 to be awarded to voluntary, community and social enterprise groups to provide additional, neighbourhood-based mental health support services that target those people who find it difficult to get help.

HerArt uses its NHS grant to deliver Entry Level and Level 1 AQA-accredited arts and craft courses at Moss Side Children’s Centre and St Andrew’s Community Centre Wythenshawe to people with serious and enduring mental health problems. Each course runs three hours per week for six weeks and includes practical workshops and visits to local art galleries and other local courses. Mindfulness exercises are components of the sessions and participants can access a trained emotional support worker as well as 1-to-1 chats with the project’s coordinator to identify potential progression routes and ongoing opportunities.

Participants are able to continue accessing support for up to three months after the course to access further courses, foster personal creative development or volunteer with HerArt or other organisations. HerArt intends to hold an open celebration event at Manchester Craft and Design Centre where participants will exhibit and sell their work.

Bhagya (not her real name) is in her 40s and has regularly attended HerArt’s arts and crafts courses. Bhagya grew up in Sri Lanka during the civil war but moved to Europe in the mid-1990s, to England in 2000 and subsequently moved to live in Manchester. She suffered emotional, sexual, physical and financial abuse for many years in her arranged marriage which ended following the secret intervention of her GP, social services and Women’s Aid. Bhagya was diagnosed as schizophrenic in 2003 and has made more than one attempt at suicide.
Bhagya says: “At HerArt I learn lots of new things, everybody is nice and talks. Some of the things I have learnt here I didn’t learn them anywhere else. It is very creative, I’m not only learning things but I can also see the instructions from the sheet so I can take them home with me and think of ideas. Before, I lost my interest because my former husband threw all my work away and I didn’t buy anything but now I’m buying little by little, the paint, canvas and I’m going to do art at home. This course has inspired me to do art again because I lost my interest for a long time".

"I am very proud of myself now, I feel well now. I need to get out of what happened to me. I would also like to volunteer with HerArt, sometimes I don’t feel like talking but I can help. When I first came to HerArt I was very, very quiet, but now I am very chatty because I feel better.”

Michelle Ayavoro is a Director of HerArt CIC and leads on the delivery of this project. Michelle commented: “I’d like to thank Manchester’s Health and Care commissioners for awarding HerArt this grant and I’d also like to thank all of our participants for sharing their personal life stories and experiences. HerArt is set up to provide activities in the community to increase skills, improve wellbeing and reduce isolation. We use art and crafts as a tool to devise unique projects to develop confidence and build self-esteem. This project had an impact on many lives and it gives me great pleasure to witness that positive change.”

For more information on the MHCC mental health grants programme, which is administered by Macc, please contact Macc’s Grants Development Worker Oliver Cranfield on 0161 834 9823 or via oliver@macc.org.uk.

HerArt CIC website: www.herart.co.uk
HerArt CIC mental health project summary: www.manchestercommunitycentral.org/accrediting-your-creativity
Mental health grants programme webpage: www.manchestercommunitycentral.org/mental-health-grants-programme
MHCC website: www.mhcc.nhs.uk

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