Case Study: Creative Resilience Chydnerthedd Creadigol

Authors(s), Creator(s) and Contributors: Chris Ryan - Arts Care Gofal Celf

Publication Date: 16/01/2024

Categories: Case Studies

Partner(s): Arts Care Gofal Celf (ACGC) Hywel Dda Universoty Health Board (HDUHB) West Wales Action For Mental Health (WWAMH)

Funder(s): Arts Council of Wales Hywel Dda University Health Board


Creative Resilience was a partnership project between Arts Care Gofal Celf, Hywel Dda University Health Board and West Wales Action for Mental Health, providing those recovering from mental ill-health with creative opportunities to build resilience and improve wellbeing. The project delivered 141 arts sessions facilitated by 10 professional artists across 8 months (Nov ’22-June ’23). Delivery concentrated on 3 areas, firstly, young people with the Early Intervention in Psychosis team; Patients in adult psychiatric in-patient services across 5 wards; and adults recovering from mental ill-health in the community. 186 people participated in one or more of the following: music, clay, print, papier mache, writing, glass, silk painting, willow and crafts with varying benefits.

The Challenge

ACGC has an extensive history of work in the mental health field having been established by partners in both the health and arts sectors in 1986. Over the years ACGC has seen services move to a more community-based approach. While our current creative opportunities support this, those in in-patient services do not have full access to community based interventions due to the acute nature of their illness while in hospital. Days on wards are long in bleak settings, patients away from all they know having little control of their situation whilst battling mental ill health and side effects of treatment. Supported by staff, the project sought to provide people with the opportunity to express themselves via the arts to support wellbeing at whatever stage they were on their mental health journey

The Approach

ACGC engaged 10 professional artists to deliver the project, 4 creative writers who delivered on-line and face to face within the community, and another 6 artists who concentrated on working in health board supported settings. The idea to work with a small team was for continuity for both participants and staff within and across settings as well as to support the creative team. The project developed three main areas of work. The first, in adult psychiatric in-patient services in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. A total of 91 two-hour sessions were organised across 5 wards, reaching 129 different patients. Each ward had approximately 18 near weekly sessions with 4 artists between December 2022-May 2023. The second area of work focussed on weekly sessions via the EIIP team with young people following their first psychotic episode. 4 artists worked with up to 34 different young people who had the choice of engaging in 22 two-hour sessions between November 2022-May 2023. The third and final area of work engaged those recovering from mental ill-health in the community through a creative writing programme. 4 writers each delivered 7 sessions making up a timetable of 14 online sessions between January – April 2023, and a further 14 sessions in-person from March- June 2023.

The Impact

ACGC commissioned an independent evaluation of the project by C.A.R.P. Collaborations, utilising a mixed methodology approach using written/ digital surveys (from artists, staff and participants for each workshop/ block of workshops), review meetings with artists, semi structured feedback sessions by the CARP researcher with artists, participant groups and health board staff, as well as workshop observations by the independent research team across all 3 project areas. Writers were able to reflect creatively on their experience of the project, one responding via limerick “These groups are a bit of a godsend, Without them I'd go round the bend, Sharing of thoughts, Through writing and talk, Whilst connecting and making new friends". The professionalism of the artist team along with a flexible approach was noted across all 3 areas. Participants being given the choice to engage at their level had great impact on wellbeing. That important element of control over a situation meant participants were able to create a variety of artwork that increased self worth, confidence and self esteem. Activity gave people a focus, a distraction from boredom and mental ill-health. Creative outlets helped normalise a chaotic situation, sometimes used to manage symptoms and support connection

Lessons Learned

Post project meetings aided the reflection process, with all keen to address any improvements in addition to the positive impact. Those noted were to improve tools gathering feedback from patients on wards (forms being too onerous); certain artforms (music production) were more suited to patients who were most well, however those engaged in the music relished the opportunity the most. Across all 3 areas, it was clear of the projects value, all expressed a need for more, thus continuity of creative opportunities for participants, and staff too.

The Legacy

Material bundles will enable creative ventures to continue on wards until funds can support artist led interventions to return. "Staff saw the artists as contributing to developing resilience with people, who walked away from the sessions feeling proud, confident and inquisitive, due to the artists being kind, complimentary and supportive. Whilst always encouraging people, generating opportunity and conversation in each session and allowing people to express themselves and live beyond a definition of having a mental health condition"

Website and Social Media Links twitter: @artscare

Contact Details

Chris Ryan, Director at ACGC - or Rachel Murphy, Project coordinator at ACGC -

Tags: Mental health Adults Young adults In-patient services Community mental health Early intervention in psychosis team Creative Writing Ceramics Cyanotype Music production Papier mache sculpture Sculpture Willow weaving Stained glass Metal stamping Sensory crafts Silk painting Print making Carmarthenshire Carmarthen Llanelli Pembrokeshire Haverfordwest Mental health ward On-line Zoom In-person Hospital wards Professional artists Arts Care Gofal Celf

Creative Resilience Chydnerthedd Creadigol