“I’m a completely different person now”: the mental health service transforming lives through art, people and places
The Recovery Pathways service, part of Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH), supported over 16,000 people struggling with their mental health in 2022.
Recovery Pathways supports individuals to build futures through art, people and places. It offers a range of unique and creative opportunities to build confidence and skills, and enable personal mental health recovery.
The ‘Wellbeing through Creativity’ arm of the service offers a variety of practical projects and courses, ranging from Textiles, Photography, Ceramics, Painting and Drawing, and Creative Writing, to Green Wellbeing, Woodwork and Sleep DIY.
The courses are run across a number of trusted community locations in Greater Manchester, including: Studio One, Benchmark, START, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery, Platt Fields, and Crumpsall Park.
A number of these courses are designed for people with complex needs, experiencing severe and enduring mental health difficulties. Delivered in small groups, service users attend regular sessions, and receive regular support from Wellbeing Arts Tutors to achieve their goals.
Alongside this, the service offers a range of shorter courses, which are available to anyone living in Manchester over the age of 18 who can benefit from creative wellbeing support.
Recovery Pathways also provides an Individual Placement Support service; as well as support via the No. 93 Wellbeing Centre, a community hub at the heart of Harpurhey, which offers a further range of wellbeing activities and sessions.
Figures show that, in 2022, over 16,000 people benefitted from this wide-ranging support.
Reworx is just one of the newest creative textiles courses offered by the ‘Wellbeing through Creativity’ arm of the service. It teaches service users to utilise surplus second-hand clothes provided by the homelessness charity, Emmaus, to upcycle and redesign into fashion products, which are then donated back to Emmaus to sell in their charity shop to help raise funds for homelessness. So far, following completion of the first two courses, sales of Reworx bags have raised £86.
Peter Smith, Service Manager for Wellbeing and Recovery Pathways at GMMH said:
”Recovery Pathways’ courses are delivered in spaces at the heart of communities across Greater Manchester. They provide our service users with the chance to expand their horizons in a relaxed environment, meet new people, learn new skills, and enjoy the present moment. This type of social support is such an important part of mental health recovery.
“It’s amazing to have reached so many people in 2022, and we will continue to grow and provide this vital support in 2023 and beyond.”
Case Study - Kai's Story
“I first attended a textiles course at Recovery Pathways around four months ago, whilst on the waiting list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. At the time, I was in a really dark place with my mental health. I was in an abusive relationship, and I never felt safe or comfortable at home. I was given a diagnosis of anxiety and depression - I’m also autistic and have ADHD, and together, things became overwhelming.
“I was agoraphobic – I couldn’t leave the house. I was struggling with day-to-day activities like taking my meds, eating healthily, and cleaning. I had lots of panic attacks, and I lacked confidence. I was also on a lot of medication which made me sleepy. I felt trapped – I saw other people around me thriving, and I wanted to get better and do the same, but I just didn’t know how to get there.
“My Care Coordinator recognised I was a creative person, and so made a referral to Recovery Pathways. The first step was to attend my local community centre – START, Cornbrook Enterprise Centre. I did a tour with the centre manager to look around, meet all the different tutors, and see the various classrooms. Beforehand, I was anxious it would feel like school – quite formal and cold – but the second I stepped into the building, I felt at home. The textiles room particularly jumped out to me. There were so many different textures and colours, materials and artworks – it’s a very inspiring room.
“I then had a chat with the centre manager about my interests, and my goals, and we agreed that the textiles course would be a great first step for me. We also discussed my accessibility requirements and sensory requirements, which really helped me to feel comfortable and supported straight away.
“In my first session, I was so anxious. I couldn’t speak to anyone apart from the tutor – I kept my head down and got on with the activity. But my love for textiles just grew from there, and so did my confidence.
“I’ve done so much whilst I’ve been here, it’s been amazing. The courses are really versatile. I’ve learned applique, which is a technique of layering of different fabrics, I’ve made a landscape architectural piece, I’ve done screen printing, lino printing, jelly printing, collage, and fashion design – we’ve recently made a big mural which is going to go on the wall, which was really fun to do.
“Art has always been a huge part of my life, but I was always so self-critical of what the end result would be - I was a perfectionist which wasn’t good for my mental health. But since coming to the textiles courses, I’ve realised that that really doesn’t matter – I could make a bag and right at the end I could hate it and never use it, but the actual process of learning the skills to make it and the journey of creating something unique is way more therapeutic. Now, it doesn’t really matter if I like the end result or not – instead, I use the process as an outlet for my mental health.
“When I started – I had a lot of hard and troubling things going on at home. So coming to the studio was such a safe space for me to escape from all that. It’s amazing to seeing the progress I’ve made – it saved my life. I’ve poured myself into the courses, absorbed all the sessions and knowledge, and it’s filtered through into my day-to-day life. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t do something creative now. I often enjoy taking bits home and finishing it at home and it’s been really helpful to get into a routine. It was also great to meet new people on the course, who had been through similar experiences to me, to share useful health hints and tips, and find out about other local community groups.
“I’m a completely different person now to the one who walked into this building four months ago. I’ve become more confident to be out and about, wear the clothes I want to wear, and do the things I want to do. I’ve also been able to exit the abusive relationship, which I never thought I’d be able to do.
“I’ve got lots of exciting things coming up – and Recovery Pathways has really helped me to prepare for this. I’m applying to do an art foundation course, and hope to go on to do a BA. It’s amazing to have found what I really want to do with my life, and I know I can achieve it.
“I’m also going to return to Recovery Pathways as a Volunteer on the next Reworx course, and I can’t wait. I will be there to support others - those who may enter on their first day and feel as anxious as I did. As a wheelchair user and person of colour, I also feel it’s important to have that representation in the room – I want people to know that this is a safe space for everyone.
“I’d encourage anyone who is struggling to come along to a Recovery Pathways course – even if it’s to sit and watch, have a chat and a cup of tea. Everyone is here to help you, and you won’t be alone, even if you feel like you are. You might even find a new passion. Just try it – you might be surprised.”
For enquiries regarding attending a ‘Wellbeing through Creativity’ course, please contact Recovery Pathways via email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07436 560917.
For more information about Recovery Pathways, visit: www.gmmh.nhs.uk/recovery-pathways.