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Write way to basic skills

PEOPLE suffering from schizophrenia, depression and anxiety are taking part in creative writing sessions to improve basic skills and help them tackle their mental health problems.

In a partnership between Doncaster Mind and Dearne Valley College, near Doncaster, two lecturers from the college teach creative writing and basic skills.

Over the first eight weeks the learners' interests and abilities were assessed. Group members share their poetry, plays and songs with each other.

The writing expresses personal experiences and becomes a form of group therapy. Although the work is individual, it is conducted in a group setting providing mutual support.

The high quality of the work achieved and its success in addressing the social inclusion agenda has been widely recognised. Retention and achievement rates are comparable with mainstream essential skills workshops.

Following the success of the first year's programme at Dearne Valley, the course is now running in Doncaster and Rotherham. A Drama for Fun programme was also run this September. Information technology is also being offered along with creative writing.

Several Mind students are now accessing mainstream colleges. Helen Ruddock, leader of the college's student and learning support department, says the courses help to build confidence and self-esteem and challenge the idea that an individual's illness prevents achievement.

Many students achieve Open College Network certificates for their work - offering a step towards national qualifications -and several have had work published. The initiative has been copied in Warwickshire and Southampton.

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