“Sometimes when you’re going through a hard time, you want to wrap yourself up in a cocoon. The Butterfly Garden reminds us that it is possible to break out of that cocoon and come out of the other side” says Katja Stiller, Senior Development Worker for Valley and Vale Community Arts.
With funding from the Arts Council of Wales, Katja runs The Butterfly Garden in Bettws, Bridgend, a weekly free, person-centred creative session for adults experiencing stress, anxiety and depression.
GPs and other professionals within Cwm Taf Morgannwg sign post patients to the sessions, which provide a relaxed, calm environment for adults to come together, practice mindfulness, relax and find their creative flow.
“In their sessions, participants become artists,” says Katja, “they leave their diagnosis behind, have fun and remember who they are. They also meet other people with similar experiences which helps them to not feel judged or isolated.”
Margaret has been attending the group for almost four years: “When my husband passed away I was very lost, I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was my daughter who suggested I come to the group.
“When I first came here I wouldn’t say boo to anyone. But it’s the best thing that has happened to me, getting to meet local people and people who live further afield and being able to talk to someone else is amazing. I get so much enjoyment out of it. Now, if I can’t come on a Wednesday, it’s like my arm has been chopped off. It’s hard to put into words how much this place means to me.”
Fellow member Chris agrees: “When you can’t come to class, you’re lost, you don’t know what to do.”
The group offers a strength based approach with the focus on wellness. Members support each other in finding their own solutions and by celebrating each other’s successes.
As well as learning self-care and mindfulness, the group is producing a creative workbook. They also take part in activities like baking, and theatre trips, make films and chat to their friends over a cup of tea.
Katja added: “Seeing people individually isn’t always as effective as a group. People can be stuck at home with negative thought patterns. We interrupt those thought patterns and give people meaningful, creative opportunities, and a safe environment to talk and to listen to others.
“It’s a consistent place. People might be going through illness, bereavement, separation but we’re always here on a Wednesday – it’s a solid.”
The group is supported by Bridgend County Borough Council. Kevin Mably, Local Community Co-ordinator for the Garw Valley helps to facilitate the group and supports people to become part of the group. Kevin’s role is to work with people in the local community to build resilience and to help address loneliness and isolation.
He said: “The group members have support outside of the group through the friends they meet in the group. They build their own support network.”
The Butterfly Garden is one of two Social Prescribing projects run by Valley and Vale Community Arts. Social prescribing describes the way health professionals can refer patients to support in the community, in order to improve their health and well-being.
For more information about The Butterfly Garden please contact Katja on [email protected]