In 2021 Louise began her journey with Helix Arts with artist Jessica Kinnersley. Louise took part in online journaling workshops, which also explored a range of other crafts based on group member feedback. These workshops were part of our social prescribing programme Better Connect supported through Thriving Communities.
“Each session has offered something different that has developed into tools that I can use going forward, for example, book poetry/blackout poetry have been a way of self-expression and weaving/paper folding are very soothing and repetitive to keep hands busy and mind occupied.”
Now, Louise looks forward to seeing what opportunities arise next.
Finding What Works
Actively seeking out activities Louise felt could make a difference to her health and wellbeing she shares:
“I had already been referred by GP for social prescribing opportunities… I read online that the Better Connect class was delivered on zoom. The sessions were for carers and non-carers.”
Louise told us she has anxiety, depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“The sessions are extremely beneficial to my mental health and wellbeing. I often struggle to “stay in the moment” as I’m either worrying about something coming up or processing past trauma.”
Whilst many people struggle to find the mix of social, creative, physical activity that improves their circumstances Louise recognised she needed space to take part in friendly creative sessions.
A Positive Difference
Social Prescribing supports medical interventions and treatment. In Louise’s case it made a noticeable difference to how she thinks and feels.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed each week and have learned new skills that I have used outside of the sessions, made connections and it has done more for my mental health in just these few weeks than months of talking therapy and medication.
This holistic approach could benefit many people’s mental health in North Tyneside and across the UK.
Exceptional Artists Create Comfortable Online Creative Spaces
Jessica Kinnersley’s approach was vital in making this positive difference. She created a warm welcome and a safe space to take part in positive creative activity.
“It was so relaxed and comfortable, no pressure to share anything personal, but still feeling connected. I have noticed how inclusive the sessions were, with everyone encouraged to contribute without being put on the spot.
The aim of the sessions was always to create a “round the table” type of feeling and this was definitely achieved with lots of humour, chat and comfortable silence when everyone was busy. Teaching/demos were spot on, pitched correctly with clear instructions.”
At Helix Arts we work closely with our associate artists to ensure they are the best fit for each project. Jess exemplifies the benefits of working in this way.
Why We Need Social Prescribing
When asked why we need opportunities like Better Connect? Louise said:
“To me, it’s not just crafting – it’s therapy. Mental health services are extremely busy, in my case I waited over 12 months for talking therapy on the NHS, while taking a cocktail of medication that wasn’t working particularly well. Crafting (along with other mindful activities) should be more readily available through social prescribing as it really does make a huge difference to health and well-being.”
This morning the news reported that GPs are underfunded and under unprecedented pressure. Social Prescribing can help alleviate the strain on the NHS by helping those that are able to find activities that support their physical and mental health.
Creative Producer Elizabeth Kane, Helix Arts comments:
“We know the difference we want to make with Better Connect. We want those who face really difficult challenges to take part in exceptional arts experiences that improve their wellbeing and help them make new connections.”
Better Connect removed barriers that can prevent people with mental health conditions like anxiety from joining new activities. For example, Louise didn’t have to worry about travelling to and from a venue and associated social anxiety. What is so important about Jessica’s practice throughout Better Connect is that she was able to still create a sense of togetherness online.
In summary Louise speaks powerfully about the difference Social Prescribing can make. It can transform people’s lives. We look forward to seeing the next step of Louise’s journey and the legacy of Better Connect in the coming months and years.
With thanks to our alliance partners North Tyneside Carer’s Centre who promoted this project alongside their existing programme of events and training for carers.