Confidence Building Through Creative Art

Reading Matins Rotary supports a pilot programme to help young people to cope with lockdown challenges

Karen Eveleigh, 13th November 2021

A grant from Reading Matins Rotary and our Rotary District Foundation team has enabled a local counselling service to pilot a new style of support for young people during the pandemic. The success of the pilot workshop series, based on creative expression and art has enabled the charity to reach more young people and there are plans to develop the format and add it to the charity’s core activities. 

No.5 is a free counselling service and this year it is celebrating 50 years of helping young people become mentally fit. It is based in Reading and supports people aged 11 to 25 in and around the town. Counselling is generally run as one-to-one sessions on a weekly basis, face to face, on zoom or by phone. The charity also works with local schools and has a Young Ambassador scheme through which it supports and trains young people to deliver talks and workshops directly to their peers.

The statistics are disturbing. (note 1)
  • One in ten children aged between 10 and 16 in Reading will suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – equivalent to 3 in every class.
  • 2,400 (8.9%) young people between 16 and 24 will have self-harmed in their lifetime.
  • 620 (2.3%) young people between 16 and 24 will have an obsessive compulsive disorder

The aim of the new style of workshop was to support a group of young people to improve their confidence, relationships, communication, self-expression, and to relieve stress and anxiety. It also focussed on the challenges of lockdown and isolation and the associated consequences young people have experienced.

The workshop idea was brought to No5 by Elii Daly, who has been a Young Ambassador for five years, through her A levels and university degree. Now a qualified Arts and Health Practitioner having recently graduated with a first class degree in Creative Expressive Therapies, she wrote the programme plan, developed the budget and she ran it with support from a No5 counsellor. 

Carly Newman, the Operations and Partnerships Manager at No5, describes the workshops as a ‘freeing time’. Young people have returned to school after lock downs, there’s a big push on academic catch up and the pressure adds up. Elii gave participants the opportunity to stimulate their imagination and increase their confidence. She produced her own artwork (note 2) during the online sessions to demonstrate the ideas and the participants then also created their own works. Early intervention programmes such as this can focus on the undeveloped healthy aspects of people.

There is a long waiting list for counselling and this has increased during the pandemic. No5 has to prioritise severity and needs, and those with lower severity levels wait longer but of course their needs can increase as they wait.

As Carly explained:

"The idea of this and other projects is that those on the waiting list are offered something straight away, or as close to straight away as possible. For some young people these interventions will be enough and they won’t require counselling any more and that would be fantastic, if they feel they’ve got what they need, particularly the group and peer support that comes out of it”
“For others who will need more support, it means that they will require less counselling, once they are allocated a councillor. Our average uptake is 15 sessions and we anticipate that these young people who have been on the creative expressive wellbeing workshop or will come in the future, will require fewer sessions each because they have already done some of the therapies and they have already built the trust with the organisation even though they won’t have met their counsellor before.”
“Projects like this benefit all of the young people that we engage with, either directly or indirectly… because they will reduce demand on the (one-to-one) counselling service”

Feedback from participants included: 

“I have felt a lot happier. I have used some of the resources given to me to doodle/draw when I have been feeling down. I have learned how to express myself through my doodling and drawing.”
“The team were fantastic. They were calming and reassuring. There was never any pressure and if something felt uncomfortable then the team were happy for me to do something else.”
“It’s an amazing way to help people on the waiting list.” 

And from parents:

“I have noticed an improvement in how T views herself since taking part in the workshops.”

Greg Wilkinson of Reading Matins Rotary explained that the club first heard about No5 when the CEO visited to speak to club members about their work. Since then, over the years, club members and their families have helped to decorate the premises, fundraise through cycling and running challenges and one member is an active trustee. Through these activities the club and No5 maintain their close links.

No5 hopes to continue this creative workshop, offering two online groups on a weekly basis, while continuing to review the balance of face-to-face and online services. 

Note 1: data from No5 website 11Nov2021

Note 2: The artwork shown here was all produced by Elii, who ran the workshops. The artwork created by the young people who participated is not shown here. 

Visit the No5 website to read more about the services they provide. 

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