Tamara and Liz held 10 sessions for mums with PND. Over the course of 10 weeks, the mums who chose to participate in the sessions were guided through a creative mindfulness-based programme designed to help combat difficult feelings.
Facilitated by Tamara and Liz, participants made quilts and sensory books to share with their babies and, at the same time, learn the basic tenets of mindfulness. All 10 sessions have now been completed with the mums and they have gained skills and knowledge with how to handle difficult life experiences and created handmade items to take home with them to use through the next stages of parenting. The textiles work created during the sessions will be combined into a quilt and exhibited to the public as part of a final project showcase in June 2017 (date and venue TBC). The quilt is being completed in collaboration with an artist based in Winchester. More details to come soon.
Each of the mums completed questionnaires assessing mood, parenting confidence and mindfulness during the sessions. Two Masters students from the IoPPN are now analysing the data and conducting a focus group with participants later in the year.
On 31 March and 1 April 2017, Liz gave workshops as part of Tate Exchange, via the SLaM Arts programme, also supported by the Cultural Institute. Liz displayed some of the preliminary work from the sessions and ran two workshops with the general public that demonstrated the impact of the project.
Tamara has recently given three talks about the project: one to 25 MRC Psychiatry Trainees in the IoPPN, another to 80 GPs in a Pulse GP event and a third to 40 counsellors from RAPt (the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust). On 12 April, the project was presented as part of the Carers Forum in London, titled ‘The 5 Ways to Wellbeing’.
Show and exhibition
Show and celebration, Saturday 3 June 2017, King's College London
On Saturday 3 June a celebration and show of the works that came out of the project workshops took place at The Conservatory, King's College Waterloo Campus. The event involved an open drop in for professionals in the morning and later a celebration for the participatory mums involved in the project which included an exhibition of the quilts and sensory books created in the workshops.
Exhibition 1, July 2017 - June 2018, Guy's Hospital Atrium 1
Each of the mums contributed personalised squares to a quilt which became part of an art show for family and friends at King’s College London (see above).The quilt is currently being displayed in Atrium 1 of Guy’s Hospital until June 2018, with the support of Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity.
Textiles by Liz Finegold
The creation of the quilt and the final show allowed a common purpose and goal as well as a non-stigmatizing showcase for discussing the challenges of PND and the routes to recovery. Coming back to the creative intention was vital in keeping the work on track as it allowed flexibility and mindfully met the needs of the group and the mums.
The community created by the quilting processes was an important part of helping the participants help each other. Friendships formed, barriers went down and the shared experience of quilting (including across generations and cultures) allowed an experience that was deeply meaningful and therapeutic. Instead of being ashamed of not being a good mum, the participants were amazed at how they were able to contribute, help each other, encourage each other and really work together.
This project has helped to inform more precisely the cognitive, emotional and meaning-making mechanisms that are part of the textiles work. It identified the specific features of the textiles work that have the deepest therapeutic impact. The project reinforced the intuition that the sewing act itself is inherently mindful, yet its impact (and especially clinical impact) can be maximized with the explicit addition of mindfulness and models to support the development of mindfulness.
The project team are planning to showcase the work for three months in Guy’s Atrium 1 on the GSTT Exhibition Wall from 15 January - 29 April 2018. They will also continue to work with Cocoon who are planning to offer a version of this intervention to their service users towards the end of 2017. The team are also exploring the possibility of making a documentary film with the Wellcome Trust as well a publication through Tamara's publisher's Watkins.
Read Tamara’s blog about the project and follow the project on Twitter.
The work showcases what is possible when creativity and science are blended and when individuals with real courage stand up and share their stories and their passion with others. We believe this creative mindfulness intervention has the capacity to support mums in any stage of their parenting journey. We are now seeking partners who can help us to promote this way of working more widely, disseminate the learning and provide opportunities to further investigate its efficacy in a larger sample.
Dr Tamara Russell, academic lead
I had the privilege of teaching these wonderful women mindfulness in an innovative way that helped them heal during an incredibly challenging time in their lives. The results of this project were absolutely clear – that self-expression through creativity in a group setting has a direct positive impacton mental health.
Liz Finegold, artistic lead
My impression was that there was a bit of a difference in people’s response to saying… “I go to a sewing group once a week with other women who are experiencing postnatal depression”, to, you know, “I go to the Maudsley once a week to see a therapist”. I guess it was easier for me to say, and I think easier for people to hear and to understand – it gave them a picture.
Fiona, project participant
Dr Tamara Russell is mindfulness consultant and trainer and the Director of the Mindfulness Centre of Excellence, London. Trained as a research and clinical scientist, she brings a wealth of academic knowledge and skills to her innovative mindfulness applications in the community. Her research explores creative methods of sharing and increasing mindfulness in the context of mental wealth/health, performance and creativity. Her work includes group training programs as well as in-depth one to one trainings and coaching.
Liz Finegold is a psychological therapist, artist and mindfulness teacher with more than 14 years’ psychology experience in the NHS and third sector. She has a breadth of postgraduate clinical training in various psychological frameworks and in delivering individual and group therapy, as well as self-management mental health courses through the Health Foundation. Her research at universities has contributed to studies published in academic journals.
The clinical aspects of the project are supervised by Dr Jane Alderton, a Clinical Psychologist at Family Space in Brixton.
Cocoon Family Support Trustee Rosie Lowman is supporting recruitment and rooms for the project.