Thursday, 12 May 2022

Addressing loneliness in Powys: Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Earlier this week, to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, we posted about a number of new community initiatives which have recently been set up in Powys to address loneliness and isolation following the launch of the Connected Communities: Loneliness & Isolation Fund 2022 - 24.

Today we look at two more amazing projects which have both been running for several years now in Powys to support people to access services that are "right for them, which improve their independence and help maintain social networks". So often this means people have the chance to be out and about meeting others, making new friendships and revitalising old ones.

Before we dive into the detail, just a reminder about The Mental Health Foundation, the charity which has hosted the annual Mental Health Awareness Week since 2000. The Foundation explains why Loneliness is this year's chosen theme:

"The Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic research has found that loneliness has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. The Foundation has been tracking loneliness levels in the UK during the pandemic and found the experience has been much higher with devastating impact. Loneliness has been an important factor contributing to higher levels of distress, resulting from people’s sense of isolation and reduced ability to connect with others. Further polling also found that loneliness was one of the leading issues that the public felt needed to be addressed."

So in this, the second of our MHAW 2022 week blog posts, we focus on two key services provided by Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations, both of which contribute hugely to addressing the issues of isolation and / or loneliness in the county. These services have played a vital role in supporting people throughout Powys who have struggled through the past two years of Covid lockdowns and beyond.

They are the Community Connectors and Powys Befriending Services.

Community Connector Claire Powell (bottom row, 2nd L)
& partners on the Newtown locality network

Sharon Healey, Senior Officer Community Connectors and Powys Befriending Services at PAVO, tells us more about the work of these two invaluable services, and the impact their work is having on individuals in the county who may be living with challenging mental and / or physical health conditions whilst at the same time also struggling to overcome loneliness and / or isolation.

Community Connectors Service

The Community Connector Service operates across Powys, with 13 Community Connectors based in Localities taking referrals for a wide range of issues – community activities, transport, benefits, housing, health conditions, wellbeing, loneliness and much more.

The Community Connectors can support clients to access the right local support and information. The service helps people in Powys, aged 18 years+ and their families or Carers, to access community level services and activities that will help them maintain independent lives and which will help prevent their circumstances deteriorating to a point where they might need higher level health or social care services.

Community Connectors can also support people when they return home from hospital by helping other voluntary sector services, such as the Red Cross, identify local services that may be needed. This could include occupational therapy, home adaptations, community transport, specific health related issues including dementia, medication/shopping collection or sourcing cleaning and overcoming loneliness and isolation.

During 2021/22 the top presenting issues into the CC service have been Social Isolation and Loneliness. We have supported over 510 individuals presenting with this issue, finding support and signposting them to befriending services, local groups of interest, looking at individuals' circle of support, online social groups, local social groups, etc.

Community Connector Lynda Rogers (far right) supporting Powys Pride


I don't know how I would have got through the last few months without the CCs and everything they had helped find out, put in place and have advised me on.

G is an 80 year old man who by his own admission used to be a workaholic, spending as much time as he could on his farm in the work he loved. However as he got older this became physically more difficult and after he and his son employed a farm worker to help them out with the business he found he spent most days at home, alone. He hadn’t developed any interests due to his work commitments and felt anxious to leave the house.

G was being supported by farming charities Tir Dewi and the DPJ Foundation. The volunteer with the DPJ Foundation had been supporting G for 6 weeks and their support was coming to an end but G felt that he had enjoyed the volunteer’s visits so much he would like something similar to continue. He was referred into the Community Connectors' Service.

Community Connectors spreading the word out in the local community

His local Connector talked to him about befriending. He liked the sound of this and would like face to face visits. He said that with the support of a volunteer, who he had learned to trust, he would consider going out to meet other people at local group activities.

The Connector contacted the main Befriending providers and found that Age Cymru Powys had a volunteer who might be suitable for G. With G’s consent, he was referred into the Community Helpers’ scheme at Age Cymru Powys and was matched with a local male volunteer later that afternoon. Age Cymru Powys will also be offering him their Mamwlad support.

Powys Befriending Service

PBS - Powys Befriending Service is a project run by PAVO - Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations. The service supports people over the age of 50 living in Powys, to help maintain their independence, build confidence, develop their social network and reconnect with activities in the community or with a friendly cuppa and chat in their own home. The service supports people who have become lonely or socially isolated because of ill health, bereavement, disability, life changes or social disadvantage by arranging a supportive, reliable relationship with a Powys Befriender.

The service offers telephone befriending, 1:1 befriending in the client's own home or in the community, digital online groups and befriending groups in communities and letter or email befriending. Befriending is a process of bringing two or more people together with the aim of establishing an informal social arrangement. Befriending support can lower rates of depression, improve social skills, reduce isolation, improve self-management, improve self-esteem and confidence, reduce vulnerability and risk of abuse, build a sense of purpose and see a reduce in use of emergency services.

Sharon Healey (top right), Senior Officer Community Connectors & Powys Befriending Services
at PAVO joins a Powys Befriending board games session

Powys Befrienders supports clients to access social, leisure, educational or other needs and promotes personal choice, increased self-respect, supporting existing social skills and development of new opportunities. They can visit the client in their own homes or in the community to provide companionship and support. Telephone befrienders have light, meaningful conversations with their client, providing distraction from negative situations or circumstances.

As of the end of March 2022 the service supports over 420 clients through the activities offered. Due to the Covid pandemic the service had to amend its offers due to clients isolating and 
therefore with the huge increase in demand for support telephone and online support was developed.

Powys Befriending Service is part of a much wider team within PAVO and the wider Third Sector and any additional support required by clients can be sourced via the PAVO Community Connector Service.

Natalie Philbin-Carr (2nd from left), PBS Outreach Officer North Powys
 at a Powys Befriending session lunch


Joyce Bettley is enjoying her calls immensely. "I look forward to the calls so much and my Volunteer ** is smashing. We talk about food, recipes, cooking, jam and everything else. It's absolutely lovely. I was reluctant at first but Natalie persuaded me to give it a try and it's the best thing I've done!”

There is no question that the Befriending Service has been a lifeline for me at a difficult time. I can recommend it to anybody.

Coffee & Chat Group, Newtown

Jenny Jones - “It was lovely, just to get out and meet people and so spacious, good coffee too!”

A client reported how pleased she is with her Telephone Befriender and that ‘he has made the world of difference to me’. She explained that she really looks forward to his calls and feels pleased that she has been able to help her Volunteer overcome his initial shyness and lack of confidence when talking over the telephone. She said that she is a natural conversationalist and their relationship has become mutually beneficial.

A PBS social event

And finally

If you know anyone struggling with loneliness in Powys, then let them know about services and projects that are available in the county to provide support. 

Community Connectors - contact details

Call our Duty Officer, Community Connector Service on 01597 828649 10am - 4pm Monday to Friday or email 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday.

Powys Befrienders' Service - contact details

Call 01597 822191 for an informal chat or email 9am - 5pm Monday - Friday.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 - Loneliness

Menter Maldwyn - Cerdded wrth yr Afon Tanat / Walking by the River Tanat

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week
 9 - 15 May 2022 is Loneliness

The Mental Health Foundation, the charity which has hosted the annual Mental Health Awareness Week since 2000, explains why Loneliness is the chosen theme:

“Loneliness affects millions of people in the UK every year and is a key driver of poor mental health. The Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic research has found that loneliness has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. The Foundation has been tracking loneliness levels in the UK during the pandemic and found the experience has been much higher with devastating impact. Loneliness has been an important factor contributing to higher levels of distress, resulting from people’s sense of isolation and reduced ability to connect with others. Further polling also found that loneliness was one of the leading issues that the public felt needed to be addressed.”

“Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health so we must find better ways of tackling the epidemic of loneliness.”

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation

Powys Connected Communities: Loneliness & Isolation Fund 2021 - 24

Here in Powys colleagues at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations identified similar issues earlier this year and in response launched the Connected Communities: Loneliness & Isolation Fund 2021 - 24. This grant scheme focuses on funding organisations “providing locally tailored responses and small scale community-based support.” The emphasis is on “building the capability and sustainability of grassroots voluntary and community organisations that bring people of all ages together”.

Menter Maldwyn yoga

In this blog post we look at some of the projects that have been funded in Powys by this scheme. It’s still early days but it gives a feel for how grassroots organisations are stepping in to address “the epidemic of loneliness” which has been identified by the Mental Health Foundation.

CARAD (Community Arts Rhayader & District)

CARAD is an organisation run by enthusiastic volunteers who love working with others and love Mid Wales. If you would like to share or learn practical skills, or have an interest in local stories, we have a new project which you would be welcome to join us in creating. Rhayader Museum is changing into TimeScape Rhayader and will have two new floors of activities and exhibits to experience. 

We would welcome help in all sorts of ways, from carpentry to painting, gardening to crafting and more. We are also looking for people who would like to be ‘expert guides and gallery supervisors’ who can talk to our visitors about the area. We are developing a programme of training to complement what you already know, or support you to learn new things about the area, to help visitors get the most from their visit.

Would you like to feel more confident in meeting people again? If you’d like to enjoy a cuppa and find out about the many ways we welcome people to take part in creating Mid Wales's exciting new visitor attraction, then do get in touch - or leave a message at 07788 663 172 or call in to meet us, Tuesday – Friday, 11 – 4.00, East St, Rhayader, opposite the fire station.

Ennyn Cymru - Circles of Connection / Cylchoedd Cyswllt

We are looking forward to delivering in-person wellbeing sessions for young females across the age span of 9 - 16, with the aim of supporting them in their transition into and through adolescence.

Sessions will involve learning about the bodily changes that occur during puberty, and provide a space for discussion, as well as activities such as yoga, arts & crafts, games and relaxation. The purpose of these session is to create a safe space for young females to gather together to socialise, connect and build relationships with each other, as well as to address the isolation that can be felt when journeying through puberty and trying to navigate topics such as menstruation, that are still taboo. We hope these sessions will empower and support our future generation.

The project will be provided by Ennyn CIC and delivered by Sian Davies.

Ennyn CIC is a community Interest company run by the artists Nicky Arscott and Elin Crowley, that offers creative and educational workshops, activities and opportunities for children, young people and adults in the Machynlleth area.

The wellbeing sessions will be run by Sian Davies, who offers creative menstrual awareness and educational workshops for menstruators and menstruators-to-be to learn about the menstrual cycle and menstrual wellbeing. Sian is passionate about tackling the shame and taboo that exists around the topics of puberty and menstruation, and the feelings of loneliness and isolation that can often arise from it. She hopes for a future where young people are supported in building a positive relationship with their bodies, and feel empowered in their transition in to and through adolescence.

Rydym yn edrych ymlaen i gynnig sesiynau wyneb yn wyneb i ferchaid ifanc oedran 9-16, gyda’r bwriad o’u cefnogi nhw yn eu trawsnewidiad i mewn i a thrwy’r glasoed.

Bydd y sesiynau yn cynnwys dysgu am newidiadau yn y corff yn ystod y glasoed, ac yn cynnig gofod i drafodaeth a gweithgareddau megis ioga, celf a chrefft, gemau ac ymlacio. Pwrpas y seisynau yw i greu gofod diogel i ferchaid ifanc i ymgynyll i gymdeithasu, cysylltu ac adeiladu perthnasau gyda’u gilydd, yn ogystal a chyfeirio at yr ynysu sy’n gallu digwydd tra’n symud trwy’r glasoed. Bydd y sesiynau yn cyfeirio at bynciau megis y mislif sydd dal yn bwnc tabŵ.

Mae’r sesiynau yn cael ei darparu gan Ennyn CIC a’u harwain gan Sian Davies.

Mae Ennyn CIC yn gwmni er budd y gymuned sy’n cael ei reoli gan Nicky Arscott ac Elin Crowley, dwy artist o ardal Machynlleth. Mae’r cwmni yn cynnig gweithgareddau dwyieithog creadigol ac addysgiadol i blant, pobl ifanc ac oedolion yn ardal Machynlleth.

Mae’r sesiynau lles hyn yn cael eu harwain gan Sian Davies, sy’n cynnig gweithdai addysgiadol i godi ymwybyddiaeth am y mislif mewn dull creadigol. Mae Sian yn angerddol am leihau y teimlad o gywilydd a thabŵ sy’n bodoli oamgylch y pwnc, a’r teimlad o unigrwydd ac ynysiad sy’n gallu codi oherwydd hyny. Mae Sian yn gobeithio am ddyfodol lle bydd pobl ifanc yn cael eu cefnogi i adeiladu perthynas bositif gyda’u cyrff, a theimlo’n hyderus ar ei siwrne i mewn i ac yn ystod y glasoed.

Menter Maldwyn - The Climate Project / Y Prosiect Hinsawdd

The Climate Project pilot has been developed with high school aged young people in mind, who live in a bilingual, rural area of North Powys. Like other young people, they have missed out on opportunities to socialise and have fun during the Covid pandemic, and for many there are ongoing consequences from the isolation and anxiety caused by the whole situation. Many young people also suffer from anxiety about the climate emergency and the war in Ukraine adds to what seems like a catalogue of reasons to feel anxious and depressed.

Menter Maldwyn Grwp y Prosiect Hinsawdd / The Climate Project group

The Climate Project pilot has been designed with wellbeing at its core. Monthly sessions for 6 months provide an opportunity for young people to come together with friends, to have fun, to take part in creative and wellbeing-focused activities, both indoors and outdoors with the climate running as a theme throughout. The aim is to support the youngsters so that they can take small actions which help them to see that they can make a difference in the climate emergency - that it isn't a hopeless situation. And to be 'climate activists' or 'climate champions', they will need to look after their own health and wellbeing. 

The first session involved a walk, photography, arts activities, yoga, good food and developing ideas for future sessions. As the project develops, we hope that the young people will begin to lead activities and demonstrate to themselves and others what empowered and capable young people can do. The project is a partnership between Menter Iaith Maldwyn, Fun Palaces and the National Trust and is a Welsh/bilingual project.

Menter Maldwyn Pecynnau blodau gwyllt / Wildflower sets

Mae'r Prosiect Hinsawdd wedi cael ei ddatblygu ar gyfer bobl ifanc oedran uwchradd, sy'n byw mewn ardal ddwyieithog a gwledig o Ogledd Powys. Fel pobl ifanc eraill, maen nhw wedi methu allan ar gyfleoedd i gymdeithasu a chael hwyl yn ystod y pandemig Covid, ac i lawer mae'r canlyniadau o'r ynysu a'r pryder a gafodd ei achosi yn parhau. Mae llawer o bobl ifanc hefyd yn dioddef o bryder ynglŷn ag argyfwng yr Hinsawdd ac mae'r rhyfel yn Wcráin yn ychwanegu at be sy'n teimlo fel catalog o resymau i deimlo'n bryderus ac isel.

Mae'r Prosiect Hinsawdd wedi cael ei gynllunio hefo lles yn ei graidd. Bydd y sesiynau misol am 6 mis yn rhoi cyfle i bobl ifanc ddod at ei gilydd hefo'i ffrindiau i gael hwyl, i gymryd rhan mewn gweithgareddau creadigol a rhai sydd â ffocws ar les, tu mewn a thu allan gyda'r hinsawdd yn rhedeg fel thema drwyddynt. Y bwriad yw i gefnogi'r bobl ifanc fel eu bod yn gallu cymryd camau bychain fel eu bod yn gallu gweld eu bod nhw'n gallu cymryd camau fydd yn gwneud gwahaniaeth yn argyfwng yr hinsawdd - fod y sefyllfa ddim yn anobeithiol. Ac i fod yn 'weithredwyr hinsawdd' neu 'hyrwyddwyr hinsawdd' bydd angen iddyn nhw fod yn iach ac edrych ar ôl eu lles. 

 Yn y sesiwn cyntaf, buon ni'n cerdded, gwneud ffotograffiaeth, gweithgareddau celf, yoga, bwyta bwyd da a datblygu syniadau ar gyfer y sesiynau nesaf. Wrth i'r prosiect fynd yn ei flaen, ryden ni'n gobeithio y bydd y bobl ifanc yn dechrau arwain y gweithgareddau gan ddangos i'w hunain ac i eraill yr hyn y mae pobl ifanc grymus a galluog yn gallu ei wneud. Mae'r prosiect yn bartneriaeth rhwng Menter Iaith Maldwyn, Palasau Hwyl/Fun Palaces a'r Ymddiriedolaeth Genedlaethol ac yn brosiect Cymraeg/dwyieithog.

The Wilderness Trust

Here at the Hanging Gardens in Llanidloes we have set up new creative sessions for new parents living locally.

This is a creative peer group for new parents where we try out different arts based activities (painting, crafts, and writing for example) and share coffee, conversation and concerns. It's a moment for parents to take some time for themselves and to meet others in the area. We have a safe place for you to bring your pre-toddler children who can relax and explore right next to us while the parents get stuck in!

Other funded organisations

Other organisations receiving funding from the Connected Communities: Loneliness & Isolation Fund 2021 - 24 grant scheme include: Gerddi Bro Ddyfi Gardens, the Macular Society, Brecknock Play Network, Mid & North Powys Mind, Llanfyllin Mens' Shed and Credu. Look out for more information about their new projects soon!

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

The PAWS network takes the message into market cafes

The new PAWS mugs are delivered to Machynlleth livestock market

by Sue Newham
Engagement Officer
 Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations

The Powys Agri Wellbeing Support network is facilitated by PAVO, but attended by a wide range of third sector and statutory organisations.

The network has had many discussions about how to raise awareness of the many services that are out there to support members of the farming community. At the end of 2019, it was agreed that the network would produce an information sheet in English and Cymraeg with details of all the support available, with phone contact details. 

Each sheet is two sides of A4, so that organisations can print them out and give them to those who struggle with digital connection. They can also be placed in community buildings, or used by staff who regularly speak to farmers.

The network has committed to updating these every 6 months. The sheets are also available on the PAVO website for easy download.

These information sheets have been well used and helpful, but still the network grappled with how to get support messages out to farmers and members of the farming community where they are.

Discussions came up with the idea of mugs branded with multiple support numbers to be placed in livestock market cafés across Powys.The design work was done and agreed, but the issue of funding remained.

Thankfully, the PTHB Charitable Funds grant opened, and Kate Miles of the DPJ Foundation stepped in to lead on the application on behalf of the PAWS group.

Funding was awarded for 396 mugs to be printed.

Mugs were handed over at each livestock market during April 2022.

Brecon livestock market

A few mugs were given to auctioneers where there was no market caf

Builth Wells livestock market

Many positive comments have been received about the mugs.

Jess Morris, a regional champion for the DPJ Foundation said:

“I absolutely love these mugs. They are really great because all the foundations are on them and they are bright coloured. They will do well in the farming community. As a young farmer working in the farming community, I don't think farmers like to speak out about mental health. It is a challenging sector and promoting a tiny bit here and there will be essential.”

Knighton livestock market

Talgarth livestock market

The Powys Agri Wellbeing Support facilitator, Sue Newham, from PAVO, says:

“It is great to have brought this project to a successful conclusion, but as a group we have to keep pushing forward with raising awareness. Great though the mugs are, we can’t rest on our laurels. We would like to have a more regular “in person” presence at livestock markets, so we are discussing how we can make this happen.”

Welshpool livestock market

Taylbont & Sennybridge livestock markets

If you would like to be part of the Powys Agri Wellbeing Support group,
please contact Sue by emailing:

Rhayader livestock market

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Creative writing workshops on Felindre Ward

Emma Beynon is a writer and creative facilitator based in Mid Wales. Since the pandemic she has “led creative writing workshops on Zoom and face-to-face. Every workshop is carefully planned to guide participants through a series of exercises designed to fire up their creativity and strengthen their writing skills.”

Late last year Emma began facilitating creative writing workshops on Felindre Ward, the mental health inpatient ward in South Powys.

This week I caught up with Emma to find out more about more about the workshops and her creative writing work in general.

Tell us more about your role on Felindre Ward

Millie, the Occupational Therapist, invited me to attend to run creative writing workshops to compliment the work she already does on the ward. I’d already been running creative writing workshops online during Covid, working with Mid & North Powys Mind, and had a tremendous response.

Creative writing was part of the choice of activities people have during their stay on the ward.

What happened at the workshops

I came in for an hour every Wednesday for 11 weeks in total until the end of March 2022. There is an amazing creative room on Felindre Ward where they do pottery. I brought in a table cloth and objects such as flowers, feathers, rocks and postcards to soften the room and set up the table as if we were in a cafe.

I always start with a short warm up. It could be a playful question such as: If you were a packet of crisps what flavour would you be today? This would be followed by a ‘free write’. This technique is used by many professional writers to limber up.

Free writing invites participants to write without stopping, letting their thoughts flow onto paper. There is no wrong answer. The emphasis is upon catching ideas rather than worrying about spelling or punctuation. I find it is really useful to use a prompt when free writing, a starting point such as a shell, a feather -  something to hold and look at.

I might also let everyone choose a postcard of a painting and ask them to free write in response to that. If I can sense participants are stuck I ask questions about the painting. What do you see or hear? What do you smell, what textures might you sense? I invite them to draw upon memory. If people get stuck I encourage them to not let your pen stop moving! Just write “I don’t know what to write” until the stuckness stops. If people can look at me very grumpily – that’s fine – I smile and invite them to continue. I try and shift the parameters until they feel safe enough and ready to give it a go.

Free writing is a great way of focusing on the five senses and noticing too. Millie (OT) was the first to notice the link between creative writing and mindfulness, but during the course of the project many of the participants enjoyed making that link too.

I would then share a selection of poems: poems about nature, weather, working on building sites, even a ping pong ball. I wanted everyone to understand that poetry is a broad church, it can be about anything, not just flowers and feelings. We then read the poems aloud, line by line. This is often a wonderful moment of group performance where we all rely upon each other. Everyone’s voice brings a new meaning to the lines. After reading the poem a number of times we’d talk about about how the poem makes us feel, what we enjoy, what we don’t like.

I was very keen that everyone could be honest about what they felt about the poems, you do not have to like them, they were there to be discussed. I was really impressed by everyone’s response, it was always so detailed, evocative and yet always so true. I learnt so much from the group.

I will never forget the day we read The Door by Miroslav Holub, it is one of my favourite poems, I have read it so many times and always loved it. But this time when we read it, one of the participants just looked up, smiled and said ‘It’s about change’. I had never thought of that, to me it was about risk and opportunity. But they were right, it was great to witness everyone bring their own view of the world to strengthen our understanding. Inspired by the poem, the discussion or maybe just a line or image, everyone would be given the chance to write and they did!

How did the project come about?

As part of the HORIZON project led by Powys Teaching Health Board in partnership with Powys County Council. “HORIZON aims to strategically embed person-centred creativity at the heart of mental health and wellbeing practice.”

One of the aims of the HORIZON project is to learn about patient experiences through involvement in the arts.

Other creative interventions are being planned in Powys, including somatic experiencing and dance with people engaged in the Improving Cancer Journey, and clay modelling, sculpture making and printing workshops for young people at risk of substance misuse at the Mid Wales Arts Centre.

How do you support someone who says they can’t write?

A lot of people think creative writing is like the writing you did at school. But creative writing is completely different. I make this explicit at the start of the workshops when I introduce free writing. I explain that everyone has an individual voice which develops from what they notice. Creative writing is about capturing what you notice in words so there is no wrong answer. Creative writing, in its early stages,  is always messy, misspelt, and the punctuation can be wrong – but it doesn’t matter!

It’s a bit like a sport - you need to practice to get match fit. So I support people from the start to feel they can give it a go. During the project sometimes participants got stuck or did not want to write a particular poem so I would offer them an alternative. That’s the great thing about creative writing - it is very adaptable. Often when I find I get stuck with my own writing I just make myself write a list of questions or objects or thoughts or feelings and somehow this helps get over the ‘stuckness’.

What are the benefits of the creative arts, and specifically creative writing, for mental health inpatients?

A chance to relax

‘It was really relaxing because it does not matter what you write, there is no fear of judgement. If you hate it, so what? You don’t have to share it or go back to it if you don’t want to. Next time you will have a chance to develop different skills. It develops a resilience. It’s just about the person who is writing, the participants lead it, they can write what they like, they have control, they can share their views on a poem and then do what they like.’ Feedback from Occupational Therapist, Bronllys Secure Mental Health Unit.


‘I feel as if my confidence in my own creative abilities has grown’. Mind Participant.

‘Creative writing gives me confidence, a voice and certainly an outlet to escape the daily pressures of life.’  Mind Participant.

‘They've made me feel about fitting in, and confidence to maybe not fit in, but still be a part of things?’  Mind Participant.


‘You could see that they wanted each other to be good, they really listened. Sometimes out on the ward this does not happen.’  Feedback from Occupational Therapist, Bronllys Secure Mental Health Unit.

‘I love sharing our creations, I feel like I'm getting to know everyone a little better through the sharing of our work. It's beginning to feel like a family in a way’. Mind Participant

New skills and hobby

‘I have gained so much knowledge and confidence as well as interest to definitely try and find more courses to learn more skills in writing.’  Mind Participant.

‘I learnt how to have more structure to writing. I learnt how to write in a time frame without pondering too much and without over thinking. I learnt how to believe that what I write is worth more than to be lost on random bits of paper and thrown away when it's clear up time.’  Mind Participant.

‘I cannot thank you enough for connecting, engaging and inspiring me to write. I ask myself questions about what I am writing as you would at times. I enjoy stripping away words and using the magic of simple language. I will carry it on and what you have taught us I will carry with me always’. Mind Participant.

Participants on one of Emma's creative writing workshops in Newtown

What are the benefits to the providers of health services?
  • Millie remarked positively on the way the workshop provided an escape from the ‘enclosed hospital environment of the ward’. Everyone shared all or part of their writing so we could imaginatively join them in Anglesey or out in the field in a valley somewhere in Mid Wales.
  • The patient feels in control in an environment where they cannot control much as they control what they write about. If they like the poem and if they want to discuss/share it – it’s up to them.
  • Patients are out of their room so can be assessed more easily.
  • Concentration, motivation can be assessed as to whether they can concentrate throughout the duration of the group and then this can be monitored and compared to other weeks.
  • Patients often feel a change in mood following the sessions as they have been off the ward (in the pottery room) which is a change of environment and so feel happier and brighter in mood.
  • They can express themselves in a different means which they are comfortable about and say what they feel.
  • It’s so good they get a chance to see the patient in a different and very positive light.

What happens to the creative work that the workshop participants produce?

My practice is all about process - those moments in the workshop rather than the outcome.

I bought notebooks for everyone, plus copies of poems to slip in. They all took their notebooks away and wrote in them in the evenings. They would often show me what they had written at the next session.

Those poems stayed in the notebooks and kick-started private writing and journaling.

Tell us about some of the more unusual places where you have held workshops over the years?

I once led writing workshops for the opening of a new Sustrans bicycle track in Paddington – it was a one-day celebration. Michael Bond, the author of ‘Paddington’, was there. It was difficult to start a workshop as people were milling around so I just went up to them and asked them to read ‘What If This Road,’ a poem by Sheenagh Pugh. Everyone loved the poem and they were keen to respond to it with a story or memory of hope for a road which I then scribed into a poem.

I do a lot of sailing and was sailing from Iceland to Greenland and got terribly seasick so they dropped me back in Iceland. There I was in NW Iceland when I was supposed to be in Greenland. I was feeling quite lonely and abandoned when I came across a tiny 1950s shoe shop which had been turned into a Museum of the Everyday. I went in there and talked to the girls who had started the Museum and within a week I was running writing workshops which developed into a residency every February in the town.

Do you have any other workshops coming up in Powys?

I have some new creative writing Workshops for Wellness starting on 21 April in Newtown in North Powys working in partnership with the Oriel Davies gallery.

We will try and capture the hidden beauty of Newtown’s parkland in words - noticing the changing seasons, the weather and wildlife. It’s about feeling good in body and mind and connecting us to the bigger picture.

Readings and reflections will also be shared to inspire participants to write as we explore Dolerw Park.

No previous experience is required, just curiosity and two hours of time on Thursday afternoons. Workshops are free of charge, funded through Welsh Government.

Workshop dates: April 21, 28 and May 5, 12, 19 & 26, 2 – 4pm.

Feedback from workshop participants

'I like it – poetry is a little like mindfulness.'

'I really enjoyed it.'

'I like it – it's random.'

Feedback from staff

‘It was really relaxing.’

‘I liked it, I enjoyed it. M enjoyed it and engaged much more than I thought he would be. I was surprised when he shared his first poem. It was good.’

A big thank you to Emma for telling us all about the creative writing workshops on Felindre Ward and other aspects of her writing life.

If you want to find out more about Emma Beynon’s work check out her website. You can contact Emma here and find her on Instagram here.

HORIZON is strategic, action-based pilot project designed to inform the production of the Creative Arts, Health & Wellbeing Strategy (led by Powys Teaching Health Board in partnership with Powys County Council) by providing arts interventions for people experiencing mental ill health across a whole range of areas. HORIZON aims to capture the patient voice / service user story around their creative experiences. The project is funded and supported by the Powys Teaching Health Board Charitable Fund and Powys County Council.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

How can a Compassion Focused Model help Felindre Ward?

by Baz Van de Vegte – Wards' Psychology Student

The Felindre Ward is an acute facility in Bronllys Hospital perched on the hills of Brecon’s countryside. The ward welcomes patients to its beds who maybe experiencing a significant crisis in their mental health. The staff who dedicate their time to supporting the patients vary from nurses, doctors, occupational therapists, health care support workers, domestics, clinical psychologists and students. Time and care go into interventions such as nursing assistance, community support, psychological therapies and engagement with activities towards the improvement of well-being.

The Journey of Psychology on Felindre

Felindre introduced its first dedicated psychologist on the ward in September 2021. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to join the psychologist within Felindre Ward in October 2021. At this point we were just starting to build relationships across the teams and establish the potential role for psychology on the ward. It was clear from the start that staff and patients alike were tired and weary from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which drastically impacted the processes in place for patient and staff safety.

Getting to know the Team

We wanted to find out what staff most appreciated whilst working on the ward. We shared a survey with staff, asking questions such as ‘what do you most like and dislike about your role on the ward?’. The overwhelming response was that staff mostly loved spending time with patients and caring for their needs. 

It also highlighted that staff mostly disliked it when tasks got in the way of this time with patients. This told us that interacting with patients played a vital role in staff wellbeing and role satisfaction. However, it felt as if we were all on autopilot and somehow that core passion was worn out from the ongoing tiredness of the pandemic. We wondered ‘how we could reintroduce that important sense of connection between staff and patients?’.

Introducing Mindfulness

Shortly after our research, we developed daily mindfulness sessions that are now being run for patients and staff to explore breathing techniques, notice bodily sensations and engage in group activities. 

Mindfulness is a way to focus one’s mental state on the here and now and away from memories in the past or anxieties in the future. It expands awareness of what we are doing, how we are feeling and what’s going on around us. By practicing techniques that helps ground oneself to the present, anxiety levels can reduce creating feelings of calm and wellness. Daily mindfulness sessions have proven to be well received by patients who started to practice calming techniques when under stress. 

However, whilst staff also engaged in the sessions we noticed that they some seemed to struggle to allow themselves this luxury on their shifts.

A Compassion Focused Model enabled us to understand why this could be.

Baz Van de Vegte – Wards' Psychology Student

A Compassion Focused understanding

We used a Compassion Focused Model to help us understand why staff showed some resistance to practicing mindfulness. According to a Compassion Focused Model, there are three systems in the brain that are in sync helping us makes sense of how and why our brain triggers the arousal of emotions - we call these the threat, drive and soothe systems.

Our drive system is what we depend on to keep ourselves motivated to achieve, complete that short-term goal or stay active with our hobbies. We then get rewarded for such activities by the release of dopamine which in turn drives us to keep motivated. 

The soothe system is what we rely on to keep relaxed when we get overstressed or full of anxiety. The system regulates any feelings of threat and keeps us relaxed so that we can think rationally to reduce levels of anxiety. 

Our threat system tells us when we feel under threat so that we can try and self-protect from a given situation. It’s closely linked with our flight, fright and freeze responses when under stress - causing hormones like adrenaline to be rushed through the body. As a result, this activates as a safety mechanism to help us avoid any immediate danger.

How does this apply to Felindre Ward?

Ideally for our emotions to be regulated efficiently, all three systems need to be evenly active in our everyday lives. As staff go through ongoing stressors, the threat system can grow out of proportion and tower over the soothe and drive systems. The threat system can be activated by perceived threats as well as actual threats. Therefore factors such as staff shortages, environmental noise, too many demands, could act as possible threats. 

Prolonged periods in threat mode can result in burnout, reducing energy and motivation. In order to reduce the threat system it is essential to increase the soothe system. This can be done by mindfulness for example, which can increase self-compassion and rekindling energy for the drive system. 

We knew that if staff were able to increase their own self-compassion and self-care, this could have a direct influence on patient care. The idea of introducing the Compassionate Focused Model to Felindre could be an opportunity to establish compassionate thinking and keep an evenly balanced soothe, drive and threat system amongst our fantastic team.

Our Pathway to Compassion

Now that we are starting to understand how compassion has an incredibly important role in the lives of our patients and staff alike, we can start to build towards a more compassionate focused direction. By allocating tasks to staff members which are closer in line with their interests and values, tasks could be more rewarding than stressful. 

Introducing staff training to help with these tasks could help drive our team to expand their knowledge and bring the best services to their patients. More time spent on reflecting with patients and staff would also help us understand ongoing changes in attitudes and passions so that we can adjust to accommodate all. Taking the time to join mindfulness sessions would also really ground staff members who may benefit from a moment of self-compassion or who generally need to destress from a busy morning. 

By introducing the more compassionate focused practices to the ward, we could help guide our patients and staff to think and reason compassionately by behaving caringly and kindly to themselves and others.

Psychology Notice Board – Felindre Ward

“Compassion is the courage to descend into the reality of human experience.”

Paul Gilbert - founder of Compassion Focused Model

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

NHS Forest – growing forests for health


We recently found out about an amazing project called NHS Forest which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of patients, staff and communities by increasing access to green space on or near to NHS land.

As trees are known to have a positive impact on mental health we wondered if anything was happening in Powys and how we might encourage projects in Mid Wales.

We recently spoke to Miriam Dobson at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, which coordinates NHS Forest, to find out more about the initiative.

What is your role with NHS Forest?

I coordinate the NHS Forest network and our tree planting scheme. On a day to day level, this takes the form of advising healthcare sites on how to use greenspace and nature connection to benefit staff, patients and the wider community; how to improve the ecological quality of NHS sites to help support biodiversity and improve their environmental impact; and coordinating our tree donation scheme – in the 2022/23 tree planting season, we are planting over 12,000 trees at nearly eighty sites across the UK!

How did NHS Forest come about?

The NHS Forest began in 2009 as a tree planting campaign, launched by the “Campaign for Greener Healthcare”, which is now known as the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and is the independent charity that runs the NHS Forest. By 2013, 100 sites had joined the NHS Forest – we now have around 250! Over the course of its history the NHS Forest has expanded from being a tree planting campaign to a nationwide good practice network for any NHS site looking to improve and increase its use of greenspace in healthcare – from tree planting to dementia gardens, to wildflower planting, and so much more.

How does NHS Forest work in brief?

Any NHS site – from hospitals to GP surgeries to ambulance stations – can join the NHS Forest network by visiting our website. We provide advice, guidance and inspiration on all forms of greenspace development in healthcare – whether for environmental benefit, staff wellbeing, use in patient care – or all of the above! 

We collate the latest evidence and resources on green spaces and health to provide an easy to use resource database on our website to help educate people on the benefits of green spaces. If a site has a project in the pipeline or plans to develop a green space, and wants to chat through or hear about other hospitals that have done similar projects, they can get in touch and we can advise and connect them with others in the network. 

copyright Claire Blakey all rights reserved

We also still offer our flagship tree donation scheme where sites can work with us to develop tree planting plans and receive free saplings for planting in the tree planting season which runs from November to March every year. 

We also do other work on green spaces, particularly with our Nature Recovery Rangers, who are full-time members of staff embedded at hospitals to conduct a programme of environmental work to green hospital grounds, improve support for biodiversity, and run activities for staff and patients on nature connection and spending time outdoors. 

We also run an annual conference and awards scheme and produce a bimonthly newsletter full of the latest inspirational news on green space work across the NHS, and a course on Green Space for Health to help people learn about the links between nature and health and begin developing their own projects.

How can people – patients, staff & communities – use their NHS Forest?

The variety of ways that people use their NHS Forest trees, or indeed the wider network, is seemingly endless! 

We have sites who have planted coppice woodlands for use in therapeutic woodworking classes, whilst providing habitats for wildlife and creating a beautiful walkway amongst the coppice willow woodland. Another site has used the NHS Forest tree donation scheme to replace damaged or dying trees in a native woodland in the Cairngorms that is adjacent to their site and has a beautiful walkway and benches where staff and the community can take time out and relax. We have also planted orchards for fruit provision, and standard trees to provide shade in open spaces. Another site has worked with the local council to plant trees along a river bank in a nearby green space, which will help with drainage and flood prevention as well as beautifying this area that is enjoyed by staff, patients and the wider community.

What is the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare?

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare is an independent charity and think tank offering strategic input and consultancy on sustainable healthcare research and practice to national and local programmes. We work across the health system, from carbon footprinting, to sustainable surgical practice, to Green Plans and our expansive green space programme, of which the NHS Forest is part.

The benefits of trees and green spaces on mental health are well documented. What feedback have you had about NHS Forest projects?

Our projects bring a huge spectrum of benefits to staff, patients, the wider community and the environment. We have had a wide range of positive feedback, from the hospitals where our Rangers are placed talking about a whole shift in culture towards focusing on the outdoors and nature connection in daily activities such as having meetings outdoors. 

One of our NHS Forest sites also recently wrote the following feedback: “We have been working alongside the NHS Forest for 8 years. A partnership working approach has enabled the service to transform the once scrub land into a beautiful tranquil green space that benefits the local environment and the people who access the space. Without the NHS Forest support this would not have been possible. The service has benefited in excess of 2,000 people over the last 8 years and we hope to increase this in 2022 by introducing a lovely outdoor woodland area connected to the growing space for more community involvement and therapeutic value.”

Wild Skills, Wild Spaces project in North Powys

Tell us about any NHS Forest projects in Powys

In 2021, a project in Powys won the NHS Forest award for engaging people with nature. This was Wild Skills, Wild Spaces – run by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with Powys Teaching Health Board and Cardiff Met University. The project engages adults and young people in ecotherapy to empower people who would not typically engage with outdoor activities or prescribed therapeutic interventions. They provide free, inclusive and accessible sessions at local nature reserves, including bushcraft, food growing, and other outdoor activities. Over 50 people are currently engaged in the project. 

How can we encourage more NHS Forests in Powys?

By spreading the word and inviting people to join the network!

Tell us about a particularly inspirational NHS Forest

“Come Grow With Me” is the name of the community garden at Highbury Hospital in Nottingham, which immediately demonstrates the welcoming nature of the garden. Highbury Hospital offers Adult Mental Health Services (amongst others) in the city and set up the community garden in 2016 originally.

Food growing is at the heart of the Highbury project. Each hospital ward has its own designated raised bed, and all the participants have access to the communal shed, greenhouse and fruit trees. Other garden features include a no-mow zone and a wildflower meadow. The sensory planting area and herb circles ensure that rich aromas float around the spaces, while a garden wall screening the nearby road creates an enclosed sanctuary. Picnic benches occupy a central area, while more private seating is provided in relatively secluded corners of the garden. 

Every year the garden participates in the community arts festival, on one occasion turning the whole space into a gallery with artwork all the way around. It’s an inspirational example of using green space for therapeutic healthcare but also for celebration, community and the arts.

What are the main challenges of the role?

Keeping up with the incredible demand for trees and green space advice takes up most of my time, and it’s always disappointing if we run out of trees to match demand for the year! However, that’s just more reason to try harder to get more trees sponsored, and make more connections throughout the environmental sector, to ensure that we can provide as many saplings to as many NHS sites as are in need of them, whilst providing high quality bespoke advice to anybody who needs help in developing their green space ideas.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done at NHS Forest so far

It’s been fantastic coordinating our tree planting for the current season. A long summer and autumn of working with nearly eighty sites around the UK developing plans from planting seven to one thousand trees – so much variety! We’re planting around 12,000 trees this season which is the largest number that’s ever been planted by the NHS Forest in a single season! And now we’re into the tree planting season, it’s been so rewarding to see them be planted and hear about the wonderful projects that everyone’s been doing with volunteers in the local community. Seeing the photos and hearing about the joy the trees have brought people already is fantastic and really rewarding.

When you are not working for the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I like to practice what I preach – so you can usually find me outside. I live on the edge of the Peak District National Park where I enjoy going climbing, fell running, swimming and cycling!

If you want to find out more about the NHS Forest initiative, you can contact Miriam by emailing: