Now in its third year, this week is World Wellbeing Week. Here, Hampshire Cultural Trust's Head of Community, Deborah Neubauer, looks at one of the programmes that we run to support wellbeing, Brighter Futures.
In all of our work across the county, whether that be through targeted provision with the most vulnerable in our community, or through our venues, we have always seen the huge benefit that cultural engagement can have on mental health and wellbeing.
Since 2018, we have run a programme called Brighter Futures, funded by Hampshire County Council’s Adult Community Learning, which works in partnership with local health and community providers to support adults with mental health needs. Participants, who come through partners including Wellbeing Centres and Social Prescribing networks, attend courses such as Poetry for Wellbeing, Needle Felting and Arts Journaling, to support them to grow their confidence, develop their emotional resilience and increase their socialisation. Participants can also self refer onto these courses.
Until April 2020, the courses were all run in Aldershot from Aldershot Military Museum or at partner venues in North East Hampshire. When the first lockdown happened, the programme was taken online to enable participants to continue to access this provision during the lockdown period. Offering virtual courses meant that we were able to reach many more participants from across Hampshire, many of whom were unable to leave their home due to shielding or who had been furloughed and were looking for something positive to engage with. More than 12 months after the first lockdown, these courses are still being run online. Since April 2020, we have worked with just under 300 participants on 37 courses.
Not only did these courses provide something regular to engage with, bringing much-needed routine to a participant's day, but they also provided opportunities for people to socialise, learn a new skill and engage in an activity which helped their sense of wellbeing at a difficult time.
Although restrictions have started to ease and face-to-face delivery has started to take place again, our aim is to continue to offer participants the opportunity to engage with us online. We found online delivery was a great first stepping stone in helping to increase people’s confidence, a place where they could try group work and feel safe in their own home, at the same time bringing something new and engaging into their own space. With the easing of lockdown restrictions, a mixed approach to the Brighter Futures programme is needed to ensure we can keep offering these opportunities to as many people as possible, in a way which suits them and ultimately helps with their mental health and wellbeing.
"When lockdown happened, I was soon furloughed which meant I was staring at the same four walls of my flat, desperate for the next one hour walk outside. Lockdown unwelcomely gave me time to reflect on the past couple of troubling years, significantly increasing my anxieties and depression. I was left with no meaningful work, and a fear for volunteering, not wanting to expose myself to COVID and the outside world to my current state of my wellbeing. I had engaged in various arts and crafts activities during this time, but quickly became uninterested with no motivation, finding the same daily routine a struggle. I like to make things when it’s for someone to receive, not just because I can. When I was offered the opportunity to join the Poetry for Wellbeing course, I jumped at the chance; with the hope of something different to look forward to every week and being able to socialise with people in the same situation as me. Throughout the project I gained a new confidence in myself and my abilities, and in turn regaining a feeling of self-worth that I had lost. I also had an increased empathy towards others. When in lockdown, it is hard to appreciate that everyone around you is going through the same/similar mental health struggles and life issues, increasing more negative thoughts and feelings and wanting to avoid more social interactions, including family phone calls. Writing poetry allowed me to have a greater sense of understanding of my own mental health. I’m a very closed person when it comes to my true thoughts and feelings; and it’s even harder for me to write them down, let alone forming them into a poem and sharing that with people I didn’t really know. I couldn't even achieve this in a clinical setting (much to my frustration). However, the tutor, and the group of people I worked with, were so kind, encouraging, gentle and above all inspiring, I soon got excited about what the next session would hold and what work I would achieve that day. This course got me through a very difficult time, providing the help and encouragement I needed, reconnecting me to my passion for poetry, and has inspired me to continue doing the things that I love. Having the confidence in being able to write my thoughts and feelings down in the form of poetry, gives me an immense sense of relief and has had, and will continue to have, a positive impact on my mental health and wellbeing." Course participant.
If you have enjoyed Culture on Call and you are able to make a donation, please click the link below. Any support you can give will help us keep communities connected to culture in these difficult times.