A student-led creative well-being group has been set up by psychology students at Aston University, with the help of their tutor, to connect student participants through art and help enhance their well-being.
The Aston Creative Wellbeing Group, which showcases its creative work on its Instagram page, was so well attended in the autumn term – with more than 120 participants – it is now planning another nine sessions meeting weekly during the spring term to continue its mission to bring students together and support wellbeing.
With some initial funding from the University welfare team to purchase “start-up” materials, the group ran a range of sessions including rock painting, making postcards, learning to crochet, painting and drawing and making festive decorations during the autumn 2022 term.
Dr Kate Nicholls, senior personal tutor and teaching fellow in psychology at Aston University, explained why she supported the group to set up.
Kate said: “I was keen to develop some student-led initiatives to support health and wellbeing in the School of Psychology. I also hoped it would help the students develop their professional skills and the practical application of their psychological knowledge.
“It was art making and creative activities that sparked interest from some final year psychology students and the Aston Creative Wellbeing Group was born. The group wanted to use the arts to enhance well-being, using creative activities to explore sense-making, aesthetic appreciation, and provide entertainment and friendships.”
Karla Hitchins, a final-year psychology student who set up the group, said: “Running the group slides in nicely with my interests in art psychotherapy, but I also really enjoy arts and crafts in my own time. It has been great fun to facilitate this group.
“The aim of the sessions is for people to have a safe space where they can connect with their creative side, as well as with other students. At the University, there are well-being and counselling services, but I don’t think there is anything quite like this.
“Having somewhere to express your feelings, or to just have a creative outlet is incredibly important and I hope that eventually there will be more arts-based interventions for mental health and wellbeing at all universities.”
Psychology student and group facilitator, Molly-Emma Taylor, said: “I’ve experienced a few mental health wobbles during this term, so having the well-being sessions has helped me a lot.
For example, the painting session was an amazing way to let out some pent-up feelings and it gave me time to connect with friends. I don’t think I would have got so much out of it had I simply painted alone.
“I think that the theme of everyone banding together every two weeks and making art, in whatever form it may be, is pretty awesome. It’s always fun to see what everyone makes.
“The social media aspect of the group on Instagram is nice too, because it means even if someone wasn’t able to make it to a session they can still feel like a part of a group and see what other people created.”
Jacqueline Maloney, a mental health specialist at Aston University said: “As a mental health specialist at the University, I have been thrilled to help promote and support our psychology Students’ initiative to provide creative well-being activities for our students.
“I am a big believer in the therapeutic potential of the arts and through participation in these sessions, I have witnessed students relaxing, laughing, trying new crafts, and enjoying time in creative endeavours. I am so pleased that this session will be continued into 2023.”