What we do – Mental Health
The Liberty Choir programme was Highly Commended in the NHS-funded mental health awards, 2014*
*This was the Partnership Working Award, National Positive Practice Awards for the Positive Practice Collaborative for our work in the Forensic Ward of the Shaftesbury Clinic, under Dr Gill Mezey.
It is designed to help develop skills and self-confidence, open up the world of arts through singing and provide access to new social networks as the participants re-enter the wider community.
Volunteers from MJ’s four community choirs ( MJ’s Choirs) came into Shaftesbury Clinic to sing alongside the resident patients, staff and carers – this combination of singers is what is called Liberty Choir.
An evaluation report, of the Liberty Choir programme, in the Shaftesbury clinic of Springfield Hospital, Tooting, London.
Dr Gillian Mezey, MBBS FRCPsych, Consultant and Reader in Forensic Psychiatry Read full report
The following are extracts from her report.
She explains that between 12 and 16 patients took part in the programme “all had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder or personality disorder, and all had committed serious violent or sexual offences and all were legally detained, under the Mental Health Act, for the purpose of treatment. ……..Forensic psychiatric patients represent the most stigmatised and socially excluded of all mental health service users and they encounter high levels of fear and prejudice within society, which impede their recovery and rehabilitation.
Primary benefits included: improved happiness and wellbeing; reduced stigma; increased confidence and self esteem; greater emotional connectedness and communication.
Benefits were also reported for staff and community choir, in terms of wellbeing and negative perceptions of this population of mental health users.
[What was thought to be an] important barrier to recruiting patients to the choir, was the fact that the workshop coincided with the [patients] with their evening smoking break, which for most patients in secure settings is a much anticipated highlight in an otherwise rather uneventful evening schedule. A provision for a smoking break during the workshop during the workshop was eventually agreed, as a way of encouraging patients to attend, although in the end none of the patients opted to use this.”
Dr Mezey’s conclusion: ” The feedback from staff, patients and choir members who participated in the project was overwhelmingly positive. Despite the various difficulties patients may have been experiencing on the wards and in their lives, their attendance was surprisingly consistent. …..For two hours every week, the gym became transformed into a musical, therapeutic space which allowed patients, staff and community choir members to temporarily forget their daily lives. ….The patients were given a free choice over whether to attend or not, unlike many of the ‘therapies’ provided on the wards, and there were many patients who carried on attending the choir, even when they had disengaged with every other activity, or following a difficult week on the ward…..
“The physicality of the singing appeared to help patients to regain a sense of control over their voice and bodies…..and participation in the final concert [for patients friends and family members] instilled a real sense of pride, not only in the participating patients, but also in their family members and staff, who witnessed their achievement….
“The experience made many staff members question their occasional low expectations of, and aspirations for, this patient group.”