Change Minds: history and mental health in North Norfolk

Change Minds history and mental health in North Norfolk

Aims and Objectives
Change Minds (2015 – 2018) is a pilot project engaging around 30 people who live in North Norfolk and have complex mental health and housing needs. They investigate local heritage, mental health and identity using 19th Century Norfolk County Asylum Case Books. Change Minds is intended to have positive outcomes for participants in terms of New Economic Foundation’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing:
• Connect. People connect with individuals in the past and present. They make friends, reducing life-threatening isolation and strengthening resilience.
• Keep learning. People acquire transferable skills and a certificate and references for employers. They contribute to the historic record, affirming personal worth and overcoming negative attitudes to education.
• Be active. People get out fortnightly, travelling to new places. Term 7, our outreach programme, is challenging; properly supported, people can achieve things they never thought possible.
• Take notice. Research and creativity unlock curiosity, concentration and imagination in a demanding but safe way. Change Minds’ attentive intellectual, social and environmental experience gives people the security to risk trying new things.
• Give. Co-produced and evolving through continuous learning, CM participants are on the Project Board, become peer volunteers, feedback routinely and run public workshops. Exhibitions, digital outputs, oral histories and our book are gifts to families, friends and the community.
We want Change Minds to influence the way that publicly owned assets like archives are deployed for wellbeing. Communications and research will hopefully evidence social, heritage, clinical and cost impact and effectiveness so that the pilot can be developed further.

Heritage Lottery Fund (£89,700) with a research grant from Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (£3,000). Norfolk Record Office and Together for Mental Wellbeing provide contributions-in-kind in staff time and venues (£44,000). It costs around £3,000 cash per participant for 20+ 3-hour sessions.

Timescale and delivery
• Development and preparation February 2014 – September 2015.
• Cohort 1 September 2015 – June 2016. 15 sessions, fortnightly with gaps for school holidays. Term 1, Research at Norfolk Record Office. Term 2, Creative writing and art at Belfry Arts Centre in North Norfolk. Term 3, Oral history and consolidating research and creativity, celebration, awarding certificates. Ongoing independent monthly meetings at Norfolk Record Office.
• Cohort 2 September 2016 – June 2017. Broadly the same, adjusted in response to feedback and research.
• Cohorts 1 and 2 September 2017 – December 2017. 5 sessions of exhibition, events and book preparation and delivery, culminating in a House of Commons reception hosted by Norman Lamb MP.
• Research and follow-up with participants, publication of the research report (January 2018 – September 2018).

Norfolk Record Office, Norwich. Belfry Art Centre, Overstrand. Other locations include Gressenhall Museum, local libraries, the Forum Norwich Millennium Library, House of Commons.

Description of the arts activity

Term 2 (18 hours over 5 sessions) explores madness then and now. Creative writing facilitated by poet Martin Figura helps participants respond imaginatively to the case record they have researched. Visual art facilitated by artist Nora Gaston helps people make books, vividly combining words and images. Poems are printed, and Norfolk Record Office makes bespoke archival boxes for each book. Cohort 1s artwork is now displayed at Norfolk Record Office in a pop-up display. The final exhibition may include performance, music, sound art, photography, archives, spoken word, a collaborative quilt; we are beginning to curate it with Cohort 1 now, but the final result will be devised by the whole group of participants, volunteers, staff and creative facilitators.

Details of the project participants

Around 30 clients of Together for Mental Wellbeing’s North Norfolk Floating Support Service, commissioned by Norfolk County Council. Together supports adults with severe mental health problems and complex needs to access and maintain accommodation. Participants are recruited by Together wellbeing workers and enrolled by the Coordinator. Wellbeing Workers and Peer Workers support participants throughout their engagement with Change Minds. North Norfolk is fifth highest of all English councils for the percentage of people living in villages, hamlets or isolated settlements, with pockets of deprivation masked by a veneer of prosperity.

Project management

A Project Board comprises the partners, researchers, Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) Inspire Service users, Head of Community Libraries, a Psychiatrist and two participants. It meets every 6 months.
The Project Manager (Director, the Restoration Trust) reports to the Board. The Coordinator (a mental health professional) is employed by Norfolk Record Office. Artists, designers and researchers are contracted by the Restoration Trust.
A Reflective Practice group for staff, board members and volunteers led by an NSFT clinician meets three times.
A Research Group meets quarterly and reports to the Project Board.

Evaluation methods and findings

The Research Group includes Dr Victoria Scaife, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology, University of East Anglia; Dr Corinna Hackmann, Research Clinical Psychologist NSFT; two NSFT Inspire Service Users; Project Manager and Coordinator. The group meets quarterly to oversee and review research that measures heritage, social and clinical outcomes by the following methods:
Literature review; psychology and heritage

  • Questionnaire including Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, GAD-7, PHQ-9, Goal Attainment Scale, Positive and Negative Affect Scale. Administered by researchers three times per consenting participant (beginning, end of year, end of project). Follow-up 6 months after project ends. Each participant receives an information and debrief sheet.
  • Focus groups (participants) at the end of Year 1, Year 2 and project.
  • Reflective practice groups (staff) during Year 1, Year 2 and at end of project.
  • Interim research report to inform project development end of Year 1, end of Year 2. Final report.
  • Interim findings from Year 1 suggest improvement in mental wellbeing and inform Year 2 but are not conclusive. Comments included: ‘I’ve talked more to people on this project than I have in years” and “it is good to reawaken the bits that are not lost in the mental illness.’
Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England