‘Delivering Music for Older People with Mental Health Problems’

Karen Balmer-CribbHertfordshire – Awarded £2,000

Karen Balmer-Cribb, when describing this project at a conference invited all the delegates to join her in singing ‘One finger, one thumb keep moving’ thereby amply demonstrating how simple it is to unite people in gentle pleasure!

‘Delivering Music for Older People with Mental Health Problems’ gathered spiritual music volunteers from a variety of Christian and non-Christian community groups in each of the Mental Health Services for Older People units across Hertfordshire.

33 volunteers including 5 service users have been recruited, specifically recruiting gifted people who can lead and encourage others to join in. The volunteers have a strong understanding of their own spirituality and it has been encouraging recruiting service users as they are growing in their personal confidence and feeling of usefulness.

Another indirect outcome of the project has been to find the project volunteer who gave Mental Health First Aid training free of charge to 12 volunteers (which can cost up to £300 per delegate). This was an excellent course, and as a result of the training, a further 2 volunteers from service users were gained to work in the Trust as Pastoral Visitors.

It is believed that the service users and carers are receiving a positive experience of life within the Mental Health Units for Older People units and feedback from the sessions has reflected this.

Understanding and working relationships between Christian denominations who have a specific interest in mental health and spiritual care are being deepened and the project is cultivating community involvement. The Mental Health Units for Older People have traditionally been separate and not accessible to the general public. This project is opening that up and encouraging Christians to get alongside those who are without a voice in society today.

What achievements are you most proud of?

The spiritual care team received second prize for Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, for staff team achievement.. The initiative of recruiting singing volunteers was a major factor in being nominated.

It is very nice to go into a unit and see the reaction of the service users, staff, and carers when a singer is there.

Who, do you think, has most benefited from your project?

I think the seriously ill older people are very much benefiting from meeting people who come in and demonstrate their love by their time commitment and singing with them, as they are often overlooked members of our community. Also their carers and family members benefit by seeing a response from a loved one who in many ways give very limited response.