Acacia Unit uses ready-made activities to benefit staff and patients

Acacia Unit Creative Wellbeing Workshop


Acacia Unit, Park House, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust (MMHSCT) have been using Start2 on the ward in a weekly creative activity group.


Acacia Unit is an all male, rehabilitation and recovery ward based at Park House (Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust).


Individuals may stay on the unit from anything between 12-18 months, dependent on the individual. Acacia Unit works with an individual on a recovery-focused care plan and aims to make a person’s stay as therapeutic as possible. As part of this service, alongside other activities, Acacia Unit is using Start2’s creative activities and occupational therapy exercises in weekly creative sessions with patients. This ‘Art Group’ not only gives social and meaningful activity whilst on the ward but, provides a tool that people can use at any time whilst there, and crucially, a resource which they can use to maintain wellbeing once they have moved on.


Michelle Bennett, Acting Clinical Practice Lead, Acacia Unit says:


“The great thing about Start2 is that you can use it and adapt it to suit any client group and the environment that you work in. Given the nature of our service we have new client groups coming in, so we use activities again and again. 


Everyone’s different, so we’re also able to think of activities to benefit individuals. The collage and creative writing activities are great, as they use minimal resources, but are really enjoyable and effective. What struck me about Start from the beginning was that a lot of the things were really simple, but also really effective.  Patients really enjoy doing the Start2 activities and have got quite a lot out of something that can start with just a piece of paper, some scissors and a pencil.  You don’t need huge amounts of money or resources and that’s of benefit to anyone who’s running activities on a ward.


It was really good to have Start2 come in and run a session for us to start us off, it gave the team the confidence to continue running a group.  We’ve adapted the way that we run the group to suit our service needs.


Whilst we don’t have a computer that patients can access directly, we don’t see that as a barrier.  Staff members can register easily, and we’re able to download and print off the activities and resources. We don’t limit the activities for use in the ‘Art Group.’  When a patient comes and expresses an interest in something, like doing some creative writing, or an interest in starting a course, we’ve been able to think about what’s on Start2 that might suit them. We can print it off and give it to that individual, to do as and when they like.


Ideally we’d like to be able to use Start2's Wellbeing Thermometer online with patients, as it’s a great way to log wellbeing and what activities people have been doing to benefit their wellbeing, and also be advised on the best Start2 activity to benefit areas of need.


We do have some patients who’ve got their own laptop and dongle, which is great as we can introduce them to Start2.  They’re then able to use online features like the Wellbeing Thermometer as an effective part of their recovery, getting to know patterns of their wellbeing and finding activities to suit their wellbeing needs. We tend to explain the Wellbeing Thermometer to patients who go to the library to use the internet, and for those leaving the service. We also give patients the Start2 cards when they move on from the service.


Given that our client group tends to have low attention spans, we didn’t want to overwhelm them with too many things.  We found the Reflective Diaries (found at the end of each activity) good to do at the end of the session, and an effective tool for evaluating the group, and what individuals were getting out of it. Patients begin to create a ‘Wellbeing Workbook’ which is essentially is a folder of their work and diaries, which they can refer back to. They might choose to do the activity again, or make note of what they particularly enjoyed, so they can begin to see what works for them and how doing a particular activity regularly can benefit their wellbeing.  Some patients chose to put their work up, as they each have a notice board in their room.


We run a Recovery Group as well which promote healthy lifestyles, and have educational themes. We’ve begun to link in Start2 activities with these themes too. For example, the ‘Can you Bottle Happiness?’ activity was a really popular with patients, and emphasizes a lot of things that we focus on in the group, such as hope, positive thinking, opportunities for the future, which allows people to feel more in control of their recovery.


Running the ‘Art Group’ has given patients the opportunity to offer ideas and bring other inspiration to the group too.  Prior to Start2 we had a artist come in and do some work with patients. Some patients have said, “Can we do the (Start2) activity but can we do it ‘this way’” or ‘can we use a bit of this and do it in a slightly different way’. This has been a good way of giving the people freedom and encouragement to offer their opinions, and to come up with ideas based on what they like. Therefore it isn’t an issue if we’ve gone off track slightly or haven’t quite completed the Start2 activity exactly as it is given, because of what individuals in the group have got out of the experience.


We’re quite open in our approach to running the ‘Art Group,’ at times when it’s really busy on the ward we’re unable to staff the group.  However the activities on the Start2 resource are written as such that anyone, not just a dedicated member of the team, can pick up and use at any time.


It’s been great to know about the resource. Start2 has given us somewhere to go to get resources and ideas. The structured activities are easily followed and give us confidence to run groups, with minimal planning, as it’s all there for you.


I’d definitely recommend other wards to use Start2. The acute wards might struggle with time, but the Start2 activities are something you can pick up and use at any time, with minimal planning, as it’s all there for you.”


Richard Drake, Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist and Senior Lecturer says,


“The Start2 resource is immediately impressive. It is well designed to give people a choice of attractive, easily used interfaces, with a welcoming tone and carefully thought out activities. I’d encourage staff to help patients to give it a try. We all know how important it is to make as many interactions as possible between services and users about quality of life, not medication and must-do. We also all know how valuable to people’s sense of self and sense of hope it is to have meaningful activity. These activities also seem likely to stretch people cognitively in subtle ways, which might well carry over into their ability to manage daily living. I’m really hopeful people will derive a range of benefits.”


A patient on the ward who took part in the Start2 creative workshop stated,


“I really enjoyed the creative session.  I wasn’t sure what we’d be doing and if I’d be any good, but now at the end of the session I feel confident and I enjoyed myself."

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