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Photography project helps service users get back to nature
17/12/2018

Service users receiving care from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) are being given the chance to express their creativity by capturing images of nature as part of an innovative project to promote wellbeing through art.

The initiative sees service users explore woodland on the Hellesdon Hospital site in Norwich, taking photos of the flora, fauna and trees under the guidance of Stephanie Hartick from Art Branches Community Interest Company. Their images will be used to inspire a large woodland-themed mural on a blank wall in the lounge on the Glaven Ward, in turn improving the indoor environment for patients, carers and staff.

The project is taking place in partnership with Art Branches and has been funded by the Woodland Trust as part of its Tree Charter, which celebrates the value and importance of trees and woods. It aims to give service users – some of whom can spend several months on the ward receiving treatment for a variety of acute mental health conditions – the chance to pursue their interests or try out a new activity away from a clinical setting.

Sophie Watson, Assistant Practitioner on the Glaven Ward, said: “This is a fantastic project which is giving our service users the chance to enjoy some fresh air, get out into nature and take part in a meaningful activity away from the ward.

“Some of those taking part are keen photographers, whereas others have never used a camera before. Stephanie has been giving them guidance on lighting and composing their photographs, and they have all done really well and thoroughly enjoyed it.

“It has been really lovely to see the service users come out of their shell as they happily snap away with their cameras.”

Stephanie, who is Creative Director of Art Branches, which works with vulnerable children and service users across Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge, said: “The project gives patients the chance to get some physical exercise in a social setting while also taking part in a creative and rewarding activity.

“The service users really enjoy it when we get their photographs printed, and are very enthusiastically starting to make scrap books bringing their images together as well as coming up with ideas boards for the mural. The project has encouraged a dialogue between service users, visitors and staff – a patient in his early 30s was initially reluctant to participate, but is now very enthusiastic and keen to show staff and his parents his book of photographs and ideas for the mural.

“Art Branches works so well because it takes people out of the clinical setting outdoors, where they feel less inhibited and more free to express themselves. It is especially successful with male patients, who may find it more difficult to engage with other creative activities.

“It is very rewarding to see the change in patients and their excitement when they see the photos they have taken. The positive feedback we receive makes it very worthwhile.”

It is hoped the mural will be complete by early 2019.

For press enquiries, email: nsft.communications@nsft.nhs.uk