Making Well: Health & Healing through Green Crafts

The Fathom Trust

At the end of March we completed our six-month pilot programme, called ‘Making Well: Health and Healing through Green Crafts.” For a small charity, this felt like a big milestone.  We were subject to thorough and consistent evaluation both from Bangor and Cardiff Universities throughout the autumn and winter but also from two groups of participants and the GPs and community mental health teams that referred them.

The final report is due to be published later this month and will demonstrate individual improvements in health and wellbeing of 40-50% on average and a social return of £4.80 for every £1 invested, rising to £9 over the next twelve months. I am grateful to Professors Rhiannon Tudor Edwards and Mary Lynch, along with Drs Ned Hartfiel and Holly Whitely from the Centre for Health Economics and Medicines Evaluation for their expert analysis. Holly has led the project with admirable sensitivity, rigour and imagination, which will be evident in her final report.

This report will be accompanied by an ethnographic report focusing on the Practices of Change that Dr Lucy Sheehan observed and captured with GoPro video footage and field notes.  This has been a particularly insightful piece of work and an approach I can commend it for the space and dignity it affords each participant to engage in the programme without the distorting effects of overt observation.

As important as these outcomes are, they are matched by the Fathom team that has come together from different backgrounds and with different skills, each of which has served to define and deliver the Fathom programme. The different crafts – horticulture, green woodwork, and willow weaving –  have worked wonderfully well together, largely as a result of the expertise and empathy of the craft tutors – Jess, Barn, and Heather – but also because each craft has yielded different kinds of insights and connexions with the natural world.

"I have felt safe at Fathom for the first time in my life.”

Participants, referred through GPs, Community Psychiatric Nurses, local MIND groups and social prescribing link workers offered the following reflections:

“Before starting the course I was suicidal with anxiety. I felt I was too ugly to leave the house. Since starting Fathom, I have stopped wearing make-up and have developed the confidence to leave the house. I have made friends and have even found a job”.

“I have felt safe at Fathom for the first time in my life.”

“Fathom is my lifeline and it has become my extended family. Since starting, I am now talking to my family again.”

“a sense of being able to breathe.”

“The peace, and quiet, here, and a sense of belonging.”

“What I experienced with this course, coming every week, is a tremendous sense of calm.”

“With making things, it takes your mind off what you’re worrying about and it gives you a sense of achievement, really, that you can get up every day and you’ve got people you can talk to and its just the friendship I like most.  It gives me a sense of purpose.”

“The course gently awakened me, stirring feelings and knowledge long forgotten and unpractised, helping me to find belonging, hope, and the strength to continue, to dare to believe.”

Attending gave me purpose and a sense of achievement. It taught me to go with the flow of the materials we were working with, to be accepting of the natural imperfections and to celebrate the end result of my endeavours. The encouragement from the group and the fun we had together is very hard to relay to someone outside but all you need is to have the courage to take part and the rest just happens.”

“It has given me new skills and knowledge. Also inspiration on future projects. I met lots of great people that I would be happy to call friends.”

“The Fathom Trust gave me the condfidence to re-engage with society through tranquil craft work in a nurturing and safe environment.”

“My experience with the Fathom Trust helped me to have more confidence in myself, to interact more with other people, to learn new skills and use them to try to control my anxiety.”

The Making Well team

For our craft tutors:

“The Making Well course is giving me a sense of purpose, a feeling of being nurtured through sharing and empowerment. My confidence is growing through the comments and reactions of the participants and the team.” Heather, Basket maker

“This is a great opportunity to engage with wonderful people trying to improve our collective lives through connections with each other, nature, and craft.” Barnaby, Woodworker

The Making Well course is benefiting me by being in a beautiful environment with like-minded people and watching individuals blossom as they progress through the course.” Clare, Occupational Therapist and volunteer

“The Making Well programme is an opportunity to nurture connection and meaning in our lives and in our community, a space for self-care, reflection, learning and friendship.” Jess, Horticulturalist

And from one of our GP partners:

“Mental Health is a huge area we deal with every day as GPs. Patients often feed back to us that medication isn’t the answer. We often comment that people need additional support alongside medication, where it’s needed,  or indeed something different entirely different. Fathom offers a multifaceted approach to addressing mental illness. When I visited I saw patients smiling, engaging with each other, growing in confidence and learning new skills. This is clearly giving them a huge wellbeing boost and helping them to connect with each other and their local environment.  It ticks all the boxes for offering additional support  – the kinds of support that are so badly needed but which we can’t offer in the NHS.”