We applied to Elevate because we wanted to provide help to two different groups; one for women experiencing menopause and one for those with social anxiety/ASD. We wanted to support both groups to learn crochet or knitting skills to help them with symptoms of anxiety/stress or depression. We hoped the project would help address the sense of isolation felt by these groups and the health inequalities they can encounter because symptoms prevent them from talking to others (including their GP) about their ongoing issues.
We worked with both groups on a pilot basis. Since we finished the ASD/Social Anxiety sessions we have been approached by several parents who wished they had been aware of the sessions and who feel it would be good for their teenage children. This age group seems to have been significantly affected by Covid-19 and many who already encountered anxiety are experiencing worse symptoms now. We hear this through a range of mediums both on social media, in questionnaires and in face-to-face conversations. The menopause group didn’t want to stop their sessions when the time came as they really got a lot out of being able to meet in an informal setting, learning something new and being among a supportive group who knew what they were going through.
As an organisation we have increased our confidence in approaching other community organisations. We know we do something unique, niche and valuable and that can compliment other services out there. We have been able to reach two distinct and difficult to reach groups. Both presented significant concerns around attending and we were able to work with these concerns to reassure people there was no requirement to continue if they felt uncomfortable at any stage. We also invited people to come along and meet with us before the sessions started so they could see where they were going and would know who to expect to be there when they arrived. In the case of the social anxiety/ASD group this really helped to settle some initial reservations about attending. Evaluations revealed an increase in confidence was evidenced across both groups, as was reducing feelings of loneliness/isolation. Many felt more equipped to make doctor appointments about symptoms that were causing them concern and felt more reassured they were not the only one encountering these symptoms/feelings. Across both groups we noted very low self esteem in the beginning, with many saying they can't do anything creative. Taking part in the Project helped to boost people's self-esteem by supporting them to choose to learn a new skill/technique and commit the time/focus needed to complete the project. Many found it particularly rewarding when they were then able to help someone else within the group when they struggled with a technique.
We benefited greatly from mentoring as it enabled us to meet other organisations in the local area, and discuss ways our organisations could meet local unmet health needs within our communities. We have more confidence as an organisation to liaise with other community groups and feel now that we can improve the offering within the area rather than feeling as if we may be stepping on the toes of existing provision. We have met two other fantastic mentee organisations. We are already now working with The Be Kind Project to provide sessions for carers and we hope to work with Jam 'n' Ire perhaps on a heritage project at some point in the future.
We have been gifted the time as a team to sit down together and work through the impact of each group and to consider how we would deliver these sessions in future and are able to now implement this learning with menopause sessions in a different project we are offering. In the menopause group many chose to continue into other groups and at least 3 from the social anxiety/ASD group will continue with other services we offer. Many across both groups have been able to meet others that they will continue to engage with, and some from the groups joined our social groups which we run weekly so we know that they have enjoyed the sessions enough to return.
"Being able to have this time as a team to consider our place in our community and explore how we can address health inequalities has been invaluable. It will strengthen our collective approach to how we deliver our services to meet community needs."
Claire Anketell, Director of Services, Inspiring Yarns