Library chiefs creative bid to beat the winter blues

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Council chiefs have launched a campaign to combat the winter blues - by encouraging people to get in touch with their creative side in the town’s main library.

St Helens libraries are offering local residents a creative antidote that will help people to feel better about themselves, relieve stress and improve wellbeing.

The programme on offer is called Creative Alternatives which gives people who are experiencing poor mental health access to a

number of weekly workshops in creative arts, such as painting, woodwork, crafts and expressive writing.

Creative Alternatives is an award-winning ‘arts on prescription’ service, which can be offered as an alternative or as an additional treatment for people with mild to moderate depression, anxiety or stress.

Research shows that the arts can help improve a person’s wellbeing and reduce the symptoms of anxiety or depression and it’s for this reason that St.Helens Council’s Public Health Service fund this initiative as part of their remit to help people in the borough stay well.

Coun Richard McCauley, cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, said: “Creativity can give a person something meaningful to do with their time, as well as allowing them to socialise, explore their feelings and take time out to relax and unwind.

“Being part of the programme also means people will become connected with all of the arts and cultural events that are happening throughout St Helens Libraries and in the process will help to reduce their social isolation and give the opportunity to discover more about their local area and form new friendships.”

Creative Alternatives began in St Helens in September 2015 and has successfully been re-commissioned again to run until June 2017.

The feedback from the first year of the programme has been very positive with participants citing that it has not only helped to improve their mental health but it has also increased their confidence, created opportunities to meet new people and given them alternative coping techniques that they can use outside of the workshop environment.

One participant, who took part in St Helens last year, said: “Since joining Creative Alternatives I have gained confidence in the person that I used to be.

“The creative process has helped me do that and I can now get lost in drawing and painting for hours on end. I also feel more relaxed and I feel I am able to join new groups and meet new people in the future.”

Creative Alternatives forms part of St Helens Council’s Cultural Hubs, Arts in Libraries Programme, which is supported through funding from Arts Council England.

“The service is free to access and all the workshops are led by people trained in arts and health programmes. Individuals can either refer themselves or be referred by their GP, counsellor or another health or social care professional.

“There will also be a series of taster sessions on offer throughout the coming months where people can find out more before joining up.”