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A Creative Approach to Mental Health – Blog #50

Washington Mind takes a very creative approach to mental health. As a local charity providing services across the City of Sunderland, we are passionate about making our City a safer, healthier place to live, work and play. Our mission for the organisation is to work in partnership with our community to promote recovery and improve mental health and wellbeing. The demand for services like ours continues to grow, with almost 2000 new people coming to us for support (last year and a total of 3454 people accessing our services, activities and training).

We all have mental health and evidence would suggest that one in four people will experience mental health difficulties at a given time. This is why it is crucial that we all work in partnership to raise awareness and understanding of mental health.

We are a mental health charity working creatively towards social inclusion and cohesion in our community through the use of counselling, training, film, literature, art, music and photography.

“I found music to be the therapy of choice.” David Byrne

Washington Mind believes strongly that all people who access our services should not be passive recipients – participation is central to all that we do.

Young people have told us that there is a need for creative expressive groupwork – in essence, a non-medical approach to alleviating emotional distress. We know that music, art, writing, reading, film can be very effective coping strategies for many people, in part because they are non-stigmatising, normalising and inclusive

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”  Pablo Picasso

With the help of PopRecs, ‘Underground Neighbourhood’, came into existence in May 2016  and is essentially a group led by young people for young people, which focuses on the pursuit of mental wellness via creative means. At its launch we were supported by local musicians Barry Hyde and Martin Longstaff, which helped to very much put young people’s mental health on the agenda.

The benefits of creative groupwork are well documented, but we are hoping to add to the evidence base for this through our involvement in a research project carried out by the University of Glasgow (Creative Writing Interventions for Mental Health). We are in the process of developing a creative writing group, the efficacy of which will be evaluated by Carolyn Jess Cooke (author)

‘Writing is my therapy – it lets out the demons’ Matt Haig

More recently we have worked in partnership with James Withey (Recovery Letters) to develop a young people’s version. We are hoping to hear from young people that they are happy to share their stories of recovery, draft letters can be sent to

Watch out for personal stories relating to hope and recovery and a creative app ‘Reason2’ , coming soon.

River Wear at Dusk - 2011 [Andy Martin -]

River Wear at Dusk – 2011 [Andy Martin –]

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