Art and Wellbeing: Creative Engagement during Lockdown

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Dylan Gwilym, ICM’s Mental Health Coordinator, talks about getting creative during lockdown.

During lockdown, we have been thinking of innovative ways to continue to deliver the ICM creative engagement groups for our members, to provide meaningful, social and expressive participation opportunities to support mental wellbeing.

Art and creative activities are really effective approaches for supporting people with their mental health, as they can offer ways to focus and relax, to express ourselves, create memories and connections, and bring us together.

One such project we have been offering is an interactive online art group, which is an amalgamation of our Art & Wellbeing and Get Creative groups, and is a collaboration between the Inspiring Change Manchester partnership of Shelter, Back on Track, The Big Life Group and Community Led Initiative.

Normally these groups are face to face drop-in sessions held at the ICM Hub, where members can come together and interact with each other. It has therefore been important that we embraced the growing move to digital communication platforms, to keep the group as involved and participatory, in the way that it was when we were all sat around the same table together.

We also had to think about how our members could participate in sessions from their own places of residence, so Paul at Back on Track put together resource packs and sent out art materials, so everyone had the equipment they needed. He has also been sending out equipment and materials so members can pursue their own individual art projects, including soap and candle making, paints and canvases and even model aeroplane kits. We have also given members smart phones with pre-paid data, so they can access the group sessions and no one will be excluded.

We have set up a private Flickr page where members can share and view their art work online, providing a place to consider and appreciate each other’s work. One regular member commented “ I enjoy the weekly ICM online art group because it gives me something to do and I look forward to seeing everyone”.

The art group is now in its third week and so far the themes have included ‘What does ICM mean for you? (Creating art on the back of an envelope/cereal packet)’ and ‘Lockdown, what has it meant for you?’ – This week’s theme is ‘What keeps you well?

In addition to the online art group, staff members Dylan and Paul are currently working with The Men’s Room to deliver an online practice based creative art session for Greater Manchester Mental Health team. We want to support other agencies to consider the different ways they can keep clients and members engaged, to give them a positive and social focus, during these socially distanced times.

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