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The benefits of group activities for health and wellbeing

Mark works for Creative Minds, an organisation that focuses on offering group activities to promote health and wellbeing. They were one of the five partner sites on the Realising the Value programme run by Nesta and the Health Foundation which looked at person- and centred-community care approaches. He shares his personal journey of using the services.

My journey is a long and complex one. Having struggled with poor mental health over nearly 40 years, I found myself lurching from crisis to crisis, albeit over different timespans and frequency, which was extremely debilitating.

I felt completely worthless, unable to contribute to society in any meaningful way, just existing, and I just wanted to die

A series of chance conversations, which happened when I was at my lowest, started me on a different path once again. Over time, I became a passionate service user agitator, and I am now driven by an intense drive to make life better, however slightly that might be, for service users and carers.

I was being supported by my psychiatrist when we hit upon a possible misdiagnosis of my condition and a new medication regime was put into place – at the same time I was signposted to the Calderdale Inclusion Support Services team and started to take part in a Friday afternoon football session in Halifax.

I live eight miles away from Halifax and was struggling with incredible levels of anxiety, as well as managing quite crippling depression, but, over time, I learned to enjoy the football, the routine, and slowly began to move away from a very dark place.

I began to look forward, not just to the football, but the camaraderie between players

No one talked about their mental health as such, we just came together to play football. I even managed to begin to do some food shopping for the weekend, round the corner from the sports centre, something that set me up for the weekend – a small thing for many, but a huge thing for me.

Five years later, I work for Creative Minds and with our creative partners we have had phenomenal success. We’ve worked with over 20,000 people on hundreds of projects, yet it feels like we’re still at the start of a fantastic journey. The possibilities and opportunities are still huge but at the same time tangible – they do feel sometimes just a little out of grasp but SWYFT has supported us throughout this process and continues to do so.

The future – who knows what it holds? We now want to take this approach to the next level. We’ve proved the concept, we’ve had the plaudits, we want to do more and for others to be part of the movement, to “be the change you want to see in the world”

You can read more about the learning from the five sites from the Realisiing the Value Programme in: Making it Happen: Practical learing and tips from the five Realsing the Value Sites 

Author

Mark Wisbey

Mark is a Project Manager for Creative Minds, South West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust (SWYFT).