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Evaluating “soft and fluffy” creative activities delivered by Creative Minds


A newly published evaluation of Creative Minds projects is highlighting the importance of creativity in supporting people with their mental health, wellbeing and recovery.

Known as “soft and fluffy”, which creative activities for mental health recovery and wellbeing are often labelled, the evaluation was funded by The Health Foundation and delivered in partnership with the University of Huddersfield and People’s Voice Media.

The evaluation focused on creating new ways to capture people’s experience of creative activities, with them sharing how these activities have supported them with their mental health, wellbeing and recovery.

The evaluation saw over 40 participants and staff being trained to become “community reporters”; adopting the storytelling movement and using digital tools including film and audio to capture authentic stories about their own lived mental health experience.

Over 100 stories have been uploaded to the Institute of Community Reporters’ website, gathered through direct peer-to-peer sharing and storytelling sessions.

Feedback about creativity captured from participants included:

  • “I started seeing things differently… my whole life changed, my purpose in life changed, I started acting differently, it [creativity] gave me a different perspective and that’s what I needed.”
  • “Creativity means life. If I didn’t have creativity in my life I would not be here today. I did an art class that saved my life and it continues to keep improving my life and keeps me well and maintains my status quo in this emotional roller-coaster of life.”

Phil Walters, Creative Minds strategic lead, said: “At Creative Minds, we’ve always believed in the people’s voice and luckily, as a charity hosted by the NHS, the voice of participants from our projects has shaped and progressed our development.

“I met some truly inspiring people during the project; people who had found a passion and talent that they didn’t know they had and the confidence this had given them was truly life transforming.

“We really hope that more people will see that creative approaches are not just soft and fluffy but can make serious contribution to wellbeing, recovery and transform lives.”

Angela Monaghan, chair at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The evaluation report is hugely welcomed by the Trust and it’s heartening to hear stories from people that use Creative Minds funded projects across Barnsley, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield.

“We are proud to fund creative projects, activities and therapies through our Trust charities like Creative Minds. Mental health and wellbeing is a personal journey for everyone and we hope that by offering creative approaches, alongside traditional mental health services, that we can continue to find ways to support as many people as possible.

“All in all, the report provides further confirmation about what we already know; that creative approaches to wellbeing and recovery make life-changing differences.”

The evaluation will now help the Creative Minds team to fully understand the benefits of creative activities, to plan future approaches around what works best and to share the findings with other health and care organisations, alongside South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Read the full evaluation report.

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Creative Minds is a registered charity in England and Wales number: 1055931-13. Registered office: Fieldhead Hospital, Ouchthorpe Lane, Wakefield, WF1 3SP