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Involvement & personalisation , Living life , Mental health

Reading groups and recovery at Equinox: Goldsmiths & Liverpool University research

24th February 2015

In 2014, Equinox Lewisham and Equinox Aspinden Wood service users were involved with a Goldsmiths University of London and Liverpool University research project.

Working with The Reader Organisation, this research is measuring the effects of reading groups on the health and wellbeing of people who experience a range of physical and mental health needs. The project is continuing in 2015.

Fiona Magee, Research Assistant at Liverpool University:

“This is a 2-3 year research project funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust taking place in South London. We are working with open community groups, users groups in school, people with physical health problems, people with mental ill health and people with addiction, as well as older people with dementia. We are exploring the impact and effect of shared reading on health and mental wellbeing.

“We run sessions for 24 weeks with each group, each session is up to 1.5 hours. All the sessions are filmed. I watch the videos to analyse what’s going on for people during the reading group. I interview participants at the end of the 24 weeks, using video clips for reference. We assess what the experience has been for them and the wider impacts in their life. We also offer free training to staff members or volunteers, so they can continue the groups after the research finishes.”

Mike Douglas, Equinox Lewisham activities coordinator:

Equinox Lewisham logo“Many of the residents at Equinox Lewisham are vulnerable to isolation, which is one of the main contributors to poor mental health and physical health. Taking part in this research project encourages people to come out of their accommodation and to do things as a group, reducing social stigma.

“The average attendance is 8 people (with 14 people from Equinox Lewisham services attending at least 1 group). We read poetry and short stories out loud. We discuss the story, including what memories and feelings have been stirred. It can be a rich discussion, drawing on people’s backgrounds and experiences. Sometimes people discuss their mental health, which may be related or unrelated to the story content. We will be carrying on the reading groups at Equinox Lewisham after the research is finished, because it has proved so popular.”

Arek Ciosek, Equinox Aspinden Wood team leader:

Equinox Aspinden Wood logo“From September 2014, between 2 and 4 people attended the weekly reading group sessions, which took place over breakfast provided by our chef. The central power of the reading is that it can have significant impact on self-esteem and relationships with others. It’s also particularly relevant to our service users here at Equinox Aspinden Wood, because it is a non-medical intervention for people with complex health issues and alcohol dependence, to improve their quality of life.”

Phil Watterson, Equinox Aspinden Wood nurse team leader:

“3 of our service users interacted very well with the reading group. The stories opened up glimpses of their lives in the past, which otherwise they don’t tend to talk about.

“For example, one week the story had a theme of winter. After the story was read, I spoke about winter as a child in Sheffield, then Sirkka opened up about her childhood.”

Equinox Aspinden Wood service user, Sirkka, aged 85:

‘I like it very much, reading the stories. They are interesting and we talk about the stories together. One of them reminded me of winter in Finland, which was very cold as a child. I grew up in a very small house in Finland. We used to do skiing on the snow and skating on the ice. I remember making snowballs and throwing them at my brothers and sisters.”

Equinox Aspinden Wood and Equinox Lewisham results 2014:

Spot purchase & arranging to visit Equinox Aspinden Wood:

  • Referrers and commissioners, to enquire about spot purchase at Equinox Aspinden Wood or to arrange a visit, please contact service manager Sharron Erinle.
  • Email: sharron.erinle@equinoxcare.org.uk
  • Phone: 020 7237 0331
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