The new pilot project, sponsored by Wex Photo Video, will be offered as part of the government’s social prescribing programme
“Photography can be so much more than a hobby; it’s a powerful tool for conveying emotion. By giving people with mental health difficulties access to masterclasses, equipment and ongoing support, we want to connect them to a wider community; help develop their self-esteem and give them a channel for self-expression." Paul Wareham, marketing director, Wex Photo Video
Photography has been made available on prescription for people struggling with their mental health, as part of a new pilot project.
The new photography on prescription programme will enable patients and community groups to access camera equipment provided by the firm Wex Photo Video as well as receive photography masterclasses, with the aim of improving their mental health.
The project is part of the social prescribing scheme, by which a GP refers a patient to a link worker who helps them take part in activities that can boost mental wellbeing, such as gardening, painting or cycling.
Research suggests that taking part in creative activities such as photography can help people suffering from depression, anxiety and even PTSD by boosting self-esteem, reducing stress and helping people feel less isolated. The idea behind social prescribing is that it can be a good alternative to traditional approaches such as medication or therapy. It has been shown in some cases to reduce GP consultations by an average of 28% and A&E attendances by 24%.
Paul Wareham, marketing director of Wex Photo Video, said “Photography can be so much more than a hobby; it’s a powerful tool for conveying emotion. By giving people with mental health difficulties access to masterclasses, equipment and ongoing support, we want to connect them to a wider community; help develop their self-esteem and give them a channel for self-expression. Whilst photography will never be the total solution, we hope that this project will help some people who are currently struggling.”
Three community groups have already signed up to be a part of the programme: Arts Network in London, creativeShift in Bristol and START Centre in Greater Manchester.
The programme will include:
Dr Alex George, an NHS doctor and mental health ambassador said: “Social prescribing can boost self-esteem and improve your mental wellbeing. Having recently taken up photography, I can say first-hand that there is something truly remarkable about being behind the camera. Many people with mental health issues struggle to express their thoughts and emotions with words, which can make it difficult to convey how they are feeling and what they need. The saying goes that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ – that’s exactly what makes photography such a powerful outlet for self-expression.”
Charlotte Osborn-Forde, chief executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, said: “Social prescribing typically involves a GP or other healthcare professional referring a patient to a link worker who works closely with that person to understand the issues that are affecting their health and wellbeing. From there, the link worker supports that person to develop a plan, which could include getting practical support for housing or debt, or taking part in activities like gardening, dance, cooking, painting or, thanks to initiatives like this, photography.
“A key part of the NHS’s Personalised Care programme, social prescribing can make a huge difference to people experiencing loneliness, poor mental health or a wide range of physical health conditions.”
The first masterclass was held at Arts Network on 26th September and focused on the theme: Who am I? Using the Canon cameras, participants captured images to tell a story about their identity. Feedback was positive, and one participant said she felt “more motivated than ever to use her camera to express [her] emotions.”
The number of people in the UK with mental health problems has increased steeply in the past few years, putting pressure on NHS services. Long waiting lists for therapy mean that people’s condition can deteriorate while they are waiting for help. Social prescribing is a valuable way of helping people with mental health difficulties by bringing them together with other people, enabling them to find creative expression and boosting their self-confidence. Existing social prescribing activities include art, gardening and dance. This new initiative to help people learn photography skills is a valuable addition to the activities already on offer, and we hope it continues beyond the pilot stage.