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  • Staying well, connected to others and resilient

Creative Minds Using the arts to support better health and wellbeing

What is the problem this innovation solves?

We work predominately with people with mental health problems and learning disabilities. People using NHS services were telling us that creative activities helps their recovery and improves their wellbeing. They said, "when you're not feeling well you can lose your confidence and become socially isolated and we need some support to reconnect socially and creatively". This is about restoring hope meaning a purpose to the lives affected by health related issues.


We developed Creative Minds as a strategy to encourage South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SWYPFT)  to develop more pathways for people who use their service to access creative group activities. We developed Creative Minds as a charity that would work in partnership with creative community organisations to co-fund a variety of creative activities that offer choice and pathways for people who received SWYPFT services. This was sometimes about moving people away from a life defined by their condition into a life much more defined by the skills and talents they developed and passions that motivated them.

Evidence base

All projects developed through Creative Minds use a variety of credited evaluation tools which demonstrate the value to the individual and the benefits to wellbeing. We have individual case studies that capture the individual recovery journeys and the transforming effect developing skill, talents and passion can have. Latterly we have encourage projects to use Warwick and Edinburgh Wellbeing Scale  to get some consistency. We have also  just started to use participatory research techniques to empower participants to capture their journey over a longer period of time. This might also us the talents they have developed such as creative writing or photography.

Expected impact

When people find talents, skills and passion for a particular activity the impact can be life changing and many participants have described told us this. In general people have talked about improved confidence, self esteem and stronger emotional resilience. The activities can provide distraction from focusing on problems and motivation to get out of the house and meet people with a mutual interest. People also tell us that it helps to combat the stigma of health conditions through skills and talents being presented through performance\exhibition and sometimes selling paintings etc.

Stage and spread (where it is/how much is there?)

We have been operating for 6 years and we cover the local authority districts of Barnsley, Calderdale,Kirklees and Wakefield. We have over 120 community partners and we develop over 60 projects a year and we estimate that we have been in touch with well over 20,000 participants.

What would kill it?

We have been lucky to have senior management support form the NHS Trust that we are hosted by and allowed the freedom and spirit to develop a separate but complementary approach to the Trusts traditional services. We were also given support to develop a culture that valued creativity and creative approaches in the organisation.  We built a bridge that enable community organisations to work in partnership with the Trust and offer solutions to some of the problems people who were using NHS services were facing. There does need some recognition that statutory and community language is very different and sometimes needs translating. We do not feel that people are hard to reach if you offer choices they will find the right activity for them; strong leadership and listening to people and communities, in brief.

Where to go for more information