Members of an arts for wellbeing group are supporting each other through lockdown after taking their weekly sessions online. Members of RCT-based Breathing Space have been meeting via Zoom since the beginning of the Covid pandemic and painting, sketching, writing and even dancing and hula hooping in unison from the comfort of their own homes!
Usually held every Thursday afternoon in rooms above St Catherine’s Church, Pontypridd, Breathing Space is a creative group dedicated to enhancing wellbeing and reducing loneliness in Cwm Taf Morgannwg. While lockdown could have been a major setback for several members, the group moved online during the very first week of restrictions, proving a lifeline to those most at risk of social isolation.
While some regulars to the group have been unable to attend due to the digital set-up, the online sessions are proving an unexpected bonus for those who sometimes struggle to leave home due to anxiety and depression.
Coordinator Katja Stiller said: “Zoom is proving an extra stepping stone for some people who are anxious and allows us to be more inclusive. People who are not very well can join us without having to travel, or people who have moved away can stay involved.
“It’s the only date in the diary for some of the group who are shielding or self-isolating, and in the future we will continue to offer this option for members who are too ill or for some reason can’t come to come to the church.
“The group dynamics are interesting and the members have all been helping each other through lockdown. It’s such a good support system. We all have our ‘down’ days at different times, so there is always someone to pick us up. Art is the focus; we share our experience of lockdown and it’s important that everyone finds a way of expressing themselves and finds a way to process what is happening at the moment.”
The Zoom meetings have attracted a core group of six or seven members each week, with others joining in when they can. Members have written poems based on the themes of ‘In the Middle of the Night’, ‘Through My Window’ and ‘My Street’, listening to music and dancing and hula-hooping. Participants paint and draw individually during the two-hour session, while chatting if they wish to or otherwise just listening to everyone else.
Member John said: “Most of us are not sleeping too well at the moment, which is why we have written poems about the middle of the night. We’ve also been looking at surrealism, as some of our dreams have been so strange! I’m missing the friendship with some members who are unable to join online, but it’s a good way of keeping in touch with others.”
Joan said: “It’s been lovely to see how much we have in common. We have done some dancing and Katja sent us journals, pencils and brushes,” while Sarah added: “It’s been nice to see each other’s pets!”
The group, which was launched two years ago as a joint initiative between Taff Ely Primary Care Cluster and Tanio, the new name for Valley and Vale Community Arts, had been planning to stage an exhibition in September and now hopes to hold this online too.
Initially established as a 12-week project, Breathing Space is seen as a long-term solution in improving mental wellbeing and reducing social problems. Jointly funded by the health board, the Arts Council Wales and the Welsh Government’s Integrated Care Fund through the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Regional Partnership Board, the group has become a lifeline for people managing anxiety, depression and chronic pain.
Some members are referred by their GP or another community organisation, and individuals are also welcome to self-refer. There’s no obligation to attend every week, meaning members can dip and out as their health allows. For more details, phone Katja on 01656 729246.
Last week the Welsh Government issued new advice recommending face coverings are worn in situations where social distancing is not possible. We advise patients to check with their surgery before attending for an appointment as rules over face coverings may differ slightly in each surgery. If you do have a suitable three-layer face covering, we encourage you to bring it with you when attending your appointment.
Further information and advice about why face coverings are recommended and the types of face coverings suitable to use can be found on the Welsh Government website: https://gov.wales/face-coverings-frequently-asked-questions
Eye to Eye Young Peoples counselling service is currently offering online counselling to children and young people aged 11-25, living in the RCT area.
Despite the ongoing Covid-19 situation, there are still many resources available to help patients during these unprecedented times.
Free family wellbeing courses are now being offered in parts of RCT for young people and their parents or carers.
The Taff Ely Cluster, part of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board is teaming up with local wellbeing charity, Valleys Steps to run an 6-week family focused course promoting mental and emotional wellbeing for parents and young people. The course will be run online at this time.
The families 2gether 4 wellbeing course is free for young people aged 14-18 accompanied by a parent or carer. Participants must live in the Taff Ely areas of RCT or be registered with a Taff Ely GP Practice.
The course aims to provide a range of ideas and practical steps to improve mental health and wellbeing. It is also hoped the course will lead to better conversations about promoting wellbeing at home.
To book a place or for more information please contact Valleys Steps on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01443 803048 to register or for further information.
Support for people with mental health issues is on hand in Taff Ely through as part of a programme delivered by Mind practitioners.
The scheme, known as active monitoring, offers support for people with a range of mild to moderate mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, stress, self-esteems, loneliness, anger and loss and grief.
Active Monitoring is a guided self-help programme which is available through referral from a GP for those that live in the Taff area.
Once referred, a dedicated mental health practitioner from MIND will contact you directly with the aim to work alongside you to help improve your wellbeing.
The programme provides an initial 15 minute introduction to the service either online or on the telephone, followed by five weekly check in sessions. Participants can choose to explore on of the designated pathways such as depression, anxiety, stress, self-esteem, loneliness, anger or loss and grief.
Each week the practitioner will discuss tips, tools and techniques and set goals to review progress.
If you live in the Taff area, are over 16 years of age and think MIND may be a able to help, please contact your GP surgery.
If you are looking for advice on how to be more active whilst lockdown continues, a new facebook page is offering online sessions accessible from home.
The Be Active RCT facebook page offers a variety of online health and wellbeing sessions and activities which existing and new participants are welcome to join in with. Anyone living in the RCT area is able to join.
The Be Active project offers activities such as yoga sessions, walking groups and exercise classes from the comfrt and support of your armchair.
Be Active can also offer a more personalised service to sipport people with physical and mental health and members of the public can get in touch directly if they would like to learn more about this service.
If you want to get involved or know more then get in touch with RHA Wales by contacting email@example.com or sending a direct message on their facebook page.
First Minister Mark Drakeford and NHS Wales are appealing to the Welsh public to download a new COVID Symptom Tracker app to help the NHS response to COVID-19 in Wales.
People across Wales are being asked to log their daily symptoms to help build a clearer picture of how the virus is affecting people. The app is for everyone, not just those who are experiencing symptoms.
Developed by researchers at King’s College London and healthcare science company, ZOE, the COVID-19 Symptom Tracker is already being used by more than 38,000 people in Wales, and over 2 million across the UK. People are using the app to track their daily health and any potential COVID-19 symptoms. It is also being used by healthcare and hospital workers.
Data from the COVID-19 Symptom Tracker app will be shared daily with the Welsh Government and NHS Wales. It will give early indications of where future hospital admissions are going to be.
Scientists from Kings College London and the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank at Swansea University will work with the Welsh Government to analyse the data to inform modelling and understand and predict the developing situation of the disease in Wales
First Minister, Mark Drakeford said:
Having a range of evidence and data is crucial in helping us build a clear picture of how the virus is behaving and affecting everyone’s lives. Crucially this app can help us anticipate potential COVID hot spots and get our NHS services ready. I’m asking everyone in Wales to download the new COVID Symptom Tracker app, so you can help protect our workers and save lives. Together we can build the best scientific picture so we are better armed to fight this terrible disease.
The research team at King’s College London and ZOE are analysing the data to generate new insights about the disease. An interactive map allowing anyone to see the distribution of COVID in their area is available at covid.joinzoe.com as well as frequent science updates.
Lead researcher Professor Tim Spector from King’s College London, says:
Accurate real-time data is essential if we are to beat this disease. Without accurate and wide spread testing it’s essential that we have much data as possible to help us predict where we are going to see the next spikes in demand so that resources can be effectively deployed ahead of time to meet the needs of the patients. The support of the Welsh Government and NHS Wales is an incredibly positive step in the right direction and we hope to see other NHS groups coming on board in the coming days.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank every single person who is already participating, and would urge everyone else to download the app and check in every day, whether you are experiencing any symptoms or feeling fine.
The app is available to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play from the links at covid.joinzoe.com.
Daily symptom maps and other content are available via https://covid.joinzoe.com/blog
A social group in Pontypridd is working to combat loneliness during the COVID-19 outbreak by moving its presence online.
The Dewi Sant Men’s Shed, which was launched last year at Dewi Sant Health Park in Pontypridd is now operating on facebook, helping members to keep in touch at a time when many people feel lonely and isolated.
Men’s Sheds’ are social groups set up in local communities for the benefit of people in the area. The Dewi Sant Men’s Shed is a new group, set up in September 2019 and was the initiative of the Taff Ely Primary Care Cluster and in partnership with Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.
The idea was to establish the community group as a way to promote good physical and mental health.
Since its launch, the group has grown in membership and members have developed an action plan to provide activities such as gardening, walking rugby and armchair netball.
However, since the COVID outbreak activities have obviously come to a halt. Now the group are working to create a digital presence, using a facebook group to enable members to communicate and offer support if needed.
Paul Nagle, Shed Development Officer said: “Maintaining communication between our members is really important at this time when a lot of people might be experiencing loneliness. The detrimental effects of loneliness and social isolation have been likened to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, so it really is a major impact on a person’s health. Setting up an online presence thereby ensures that our group remains together, ready to meet again once the current health situation is resolved.”
Members use the group to post videos activities such as gardening and share useful information.
Dewi Sant Men's Shed secretary Dave Edwards said: "Because of the coronavirus outbreak we cannot hold our weekly meetings. However it is important that we all regularly keep in contact and Facebook enables us to do that. It gives members up to date info on what is happening and also the activities available while self-isolating."
The idea for Men’s Sheds’ originated in Australia 11 years ago and was developed by a health board to tackle growing concerns of social isolation amongst their male population in particular. They identified that high numbers of men had time on their hands, due to retirement, unemployment or illness and this often manifested in boredom, men suffering in silence with declining mental health and in the worst cases suicide.
Members of each individual shed decide activities that take place according to the skills and interests of the group. Activities might include art, amateur radio, model making or DIY.
Despite its name, the Men’s Shed at Dewi Sant is open to anyone, male or female, over the age of 18.
The group is continuing to take on new members at this time. To find out more search join the ‘Dewi Sant Men’s Shed’ group.
Support is available in Taff Ely for those that need it during these difficult times.
Our Wellbeing Coordinators are still on hand to provide support for people suffering from low mood, anxiety, depression, financial worries, housing or debt problems. Please contact your GP surgery by telephone if you wish to speak to a Wellbeing Coodinator or use the contact details below to book an appointment directly.
They’ve also put together a list of helpful organisations that can help during this period. Organisations based in the Taff Ely cluster can be found below and a full list of support services across RCT can be found by following this link:
Taff Ely Foodbank: Providing emergency support to those in crisis. Open at Bethel Baptist Church, Pontyclun. Monday - Friday, 9am-1pm. Offering deliveries of emergency food parcels to people self-isolating. Still accepting food donations (non-perishable) at local supermarkets and Bethel Baptist Church during opening hours. Contact Andrew Butcher on: 07900 557379.
Pontypridd Foodbank: Providing emergency support to those in crisis. Open at St Luke's Church, Rhydyfelin, Monday & Friday 2-4pm and Wednesday 10am-12noon. Offering deliveries of emergency food parcels to people self-isolating. Please contact your housing officer, Citizens Advice or a member of your local wellbeing team if you need a voucher. Still accepting food donations (non-perishable) at Sainsbury’s, Ponytpridd and St Luke’s, Rhydyfelin during opening hours.
Contact Mandy Haydon-Hall on 07562137392.
Llanharan Drop-in Centre: Providing childcare (6 weeks to 12 years) for key working families only. MUST be registered through local authority emergency childcare scheme.
Contact them on: 01443 229723 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salem Chapel, Tonteg: Team of local volunteers supporting those self-isolating or vulnerable with the following: picking up shopping, dog walks, calling for a chat, delivering foodbank packages for those in crisis, posting mail and any other essential support.
Contact Emma on 07581888006 or Rev. Rosa on 07807893373.
Liam’s Taxis: Based in Pontypridd, they are offering to assist with getting vulnerable people, NHS and key workers to supermarkets and to work. An 8-seater taxi but they will only take 4 from the same household at any time to abide by government regulations. Minimal fares will be charged to cover petrol costs. Call or text 07581006416 at any time.
Glyncoch Support Group: Providing practical help such as shopping, prescription pick up and welfare calls via volunteers.
Contact: 01443 540104, line open from 10am-4pm daily, leave a voicemail outside those times.
Tylagarw Community Support: Volunteer help with picking up shopping, urgent supplies, a friendly phone call and posting mail. Recruiting volunteers. Contact them on: 07395 157540
Your Taff Ely Wellbeing Coordinators
Hannah Furnish: 07730 431859 / email@example.com
Aminah Teague: 07515 166035 / firstname.lastname@example.org