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Making Well – a partnership for health and healing

6 December 2022

Two men working together to build a wooden stool

A partnership that embraces green handcrafts to improve the wellbeing of people living with mental health difficulties has been pioneered by The Fathom Trust and Cardiff University.

Funded by the Accelerate Wales innovation programme, the success of ‘Making Well: Health and Healing Through Green Crafts’ project was recently celebrated through a gathering at Penpont near Brecon.

Working with academics at Cardiff and Bangor universities over the past 18 months, Fathom Trust founder, Dr Will Beharrell, co-produced a programme of contemplative engagement in natural crafting activities.

Guided by local artisans and crafters, the eight-week Making Well course was designed to promote mental health recovery, emotional resilience and improved wellbeing.

The course was accessed through ‘Green Prescribing’ by local GPs, community mental health teams and the charity, Mind. Evidence suggests people benefit from Social and Green Prescribing, undertaking therapeutic activities such as wood-carving, basket weaving, gardening, habitat restoration, and dry stone walling.

Health economists at Bangor University’s Centre for Health Economics and Medicines Evaluation (CHEME), working on the Accelerate project, investigated the social return on investment of Making Well. At the same time, Dr Lucy Sheehan, Cardiff University School of Social Sciences, conducted a complementary ethnographic exploration of the programme. In all the research produced 3 fascinating public reports about the Making Well programme.

The Making Well project culminated with an event, hosted by Fathom Trust, where the findings were presented, with a short film about the myriad benefits of green crafting. Focus groups explored the opportunities and challenges of Green Prescribing, and considered future directions for similar non-medical mental wellbeing therapies.

Around 50 people attended, including some of the Making Well participants, senior health professionals, social prescribing specialists, artisan craftspeople, and academics.

One participant reflected: “I can’t speak highly enough about the positive experience I had attending Fathom last year. Activities allowed me to get involved with conversations. With no pressure to join in or expectation to achieve my confidence slowly returned. This support from Fathom was key to my recovery and gave me the drive to search out and return to work. Thank you, Fathom!”

Professor Phil Kloer, Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Medical Director, Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “I was delighted to join the Fathom Trust for its first ‘fathom’ event on green social prescribing.  I met all sorts of wonderful people with perspectives and skills very different from my own, which reminded me that health has many dimensions and requires many different types of attention. As a physician, medical director and deputy chief executive in the NHS, it is exciting to see this vital insight at the heart of Fathom’s work and at the heart of our common task of creating health and wellbeing and preventing illness.”

Fathom Trust was fortunate to have won support from Accelerate to evaluate its green social prescribing programme, working with Cardiff. This helped to give us a holistic and rigorous assessment of our work which will now be instrumental in helping the Fathom Trust grow into a financially sustainable enterprise.

Dr Will Beharell

Fathom Trust acknowledges the Accelerate investment has already begun to yield wider dividends, noting that a £50,000 investment over three years will create a social return of between £2m-£3m benefitting a community of 3,000 participants directly.

A Fathom Willow Craft practitioner described the ‘fathoming’ event.

“Talking with people from all different kinds of health settings was empowering. Fathom Trust connected me with so many like-minded people, many of them also working through their own personal circumstances. Being there made me feel very proud to be part of something special that speaks from the heart.”

Fathom is pursuing a long-term vision to develop a centre of integrated health and pastoral care. Cardiff’s research will help refine new programmes with partners across the community.

For further Fathom Trust case studies and films, visit:

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