A Dorset arts facilitator has told how her art class has helped save the lives of those who attend.
She explained: “One person was suicidal before coming because they felt so isolated, and now they feel connected to new friends who care about them.
“It has saved his life.”
People who come to the group are 60 and above and work to express their thoughts through the creativity of painting, drawing and designing art.
Bridget added: “Making art intelligently is a great therapy to help build and clarify thoughts and confidence.
“The purpose of the Creative Connections group is to help build a community feel, give everyone a chance to enjoy having a voice through being creative and learning new skills and helping them to feel better.”
The arts facilitator, who has been doing this kind of work for four years, explained how isolation in a rural place is a big issue, particularly for those on a low income. Bridget believes that the work she does helps people to stay alive for longer.
Dorset Mind previously applied for funding to set up 10 new mental health support groups in rural Dorset, however they were unsuccessful.
Dee Swinton from the charity explained how they wanted to target the rural areas of the county because they are worried that those in less busy areas are at a higher risk of isolation from society which could further impact their wellbeing and physical health.
Ms Swinton also explained how those in more remote areas have a lack of transport and can also suffer from bad internet connection, meaning they have further difficulties around accessing mental health support.
Whilst Creative Connections have found funding an “issue”, they have been working with the Dorset Partnership for Older People Programme (Dorset POPP) to help keep the group running. Bridget explained how she had to collect research for Dorset POPP to test the effectiveness of the work they do.
She said: “Some of the responses were very surprising.
“One woman went to the doctors every two weeks before joining and now she has only been twice in six months.”
The art group showcase their work in frequent exhibitions and have even made themselves some petty cash on occasions.
“Sharing it in exhibitions gives the artists something to look forward to, dress up for and show off about.
“I am passionate about not patronising them, but allowing them to share their authentic-selves.
“The craft of their work may not be quality, but the authenticity of it really gets people to respond to it. That’s what has been so wonderful. Art doesn’t have to be beautifully crafted, but it should be honest, people love that” explained Bridget.