top of page
  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


Updated: Jul 13, 2020

There are many fine examples of how creativity can help people become more resilient to the challenges presented by poor mental health. Challenges that appear to be more prevalent, also better recognised, across the UK.

Challenges that are being exacerbated by the social isolation and uncertainty brought about by the current pandemic with increasing anxiety about the path back to whatever 'normal' becomes.

The Office for National Statistics estimates that even in ‘norma’l times 1 in 4 of us will have problems with our mental wellbeing at some time. To be more specific, The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey reports that nearly half (43.4%) of adults think that they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life (35.2% of men and 51.2% of women). A fifth of men (19.5%) and a third of women (33.7%) have had diagnoses confirmed by professionals.

As an example in Rochdale, my home town,14.5% of patients aged 18 or over on GP practice registers are recorded as having depression. The the national average being 9.1% (NHS Quality Outcomes Framework 2016/17).

Poor mental health can impact on every aspect of life, including how we feel, think and communicate as well as on our physical health, our employment chances, our educational attainment, our relationships, lifestyle choices, and risk behaviours.

Creativity is increasingly being deployed as therapy for the mind across the whole spectrum of the arts from writing to making music, dancing to painting, gardening to baking, in fact whatever floats the creative boat.

Creative activities as therapy for the mind builds resilience to poor mental health in many ways including:

Relieving stress - like yoga for the brain. Even simply observing creativity can decrease psychological stress, such as attending a concert, checking out a museum, or reading.

Improving mood - the self-reflection and greater understanding of oneself that comes with being creative can increase control over emotional pain and depression as well as boosting self-confidence and a feeling of wellbeing through achievement.

Cultivating a social life - bonding through common experiences and interests develops positivity and affirmation, improved social contact, and communication with others. A healthy social life is essential to our well-being and resilience.

One successful examples is SWCT [Stories We Could Tell]. A project funded by Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale NHS CCG that provides a town centre based project for young people to develop their resilience to the mental health challenges they face and may face in the future through engaging with their creativity.

It was formed in 2015 to provide a communal safe space for young people [known as members] with an offer that engages them in creativity on their terms.

Although SWCT members include young people [aged 11-24] who face mental health related challenges in their lives. such as: asylum seekers/refugees, looked-after, self-harming, self-medicating, autistic, bullied and abused the aim is to identify and enable them to develop their individual assets rather than focussing on their needs and problems.

Members are drawn from the whole spectrum of Rochdale’s diverse communities and many join the project through SWCT’s social media presence and at the recommendation of members themselves.

SWCT works closely with partner organisations across the borough, including: #Thrive, MIND, CAMHS, Barnardo’s, local schools & colleges.

Members are encouraged and supported to work alongside local professional artists and technicians to develop their creativity across the whole spectrum of the arts and to share what they create in their own way, when and with whom they choose. This gives members a voice to which the wider community is encouraged to listen through local print media, internet radio, social media, website and public performance.

Members also are given access to events and activities at such as Touchstones Museum and Art Gallery, Rochdale Pioneers Museum, Oldham Coliseum, Bolton Octagon and Home Manchester.

To find out more about SWCT visit

Other local organisations working to help people build resilience to mental health challenges include:

The Proud Trust

Castleton Health and Leisure CIC Enlightening


Skylight Circus Arts

16 views0 comments


bottom of page