‘This group has been my saving grace’: Women’s crafty mental health group restarts

By Kate Baxter

25th Sep 2022 | Local News

This week Nub News popped along to a mental health support group which takes place each week at Thelma Hulbert.

It is aimed at women aged 18 or over who are living with or recovering from mental ill health. This could be from pregnancy or the post-birth period (the perinatal period) but it does not need to be - anyone is welcome to attend.

The Women's Mental Health Recovery Library and Drop In is run by peer trainers, all who of whom have been through a recovery process of their own, and they have their experience to share. 

The group is run by the Devon Recovery Learning Community (DRLC) which is a Devon Partnership NHS Trust mental health recovery college.

The weekly sessions offer general peer support in a relaxed, supportive, and non-judgemental environment. The group often undertake arts and crafts activities, but there is no obligation to – many women simply come along to meet others, have a cup of tea and have a chat!

Esther Waring works as a Peer Tutor for the group. She became involved in the work of the Devon Recovery Learning Community many years ago.

Esther suffered with her own mental health and experiences anxiety and depression, and she found mindful and creative tasks a valuable coping strategy. She then started to volunteer with the group before attending some of their courses and eventually became a paid member of staff.

Esther told Nub News: "The group is a place where women can meet others and, if they want to, get involved in some creative activities to help their wellbeing.

"I really love my job. It is part vocation and part therapy for me. It was important for me to give back to the community which supported me so well.

"We usually have about four people visiting us, which is intimate and not overwhelming. Everyone can just have a good chat! We've got Jenny* and her creative skills here today – we love being visitor led"

Jenny is a visitor at today's sessions. She used to be a psychotherapist and she lives in East Devon. She explains why the weekly sessions are so valuable to her.  

"I became a little reclusive after I became unwell, and I didn't know how to put myself in the world.

"This group was my first step out of my home. Everyone is so lovely and I was included right away. This group has been my saving grace."

When Jenny had to leave her job, she needed something to occupy her mind and keep her busy whilst at home. She decided to teach herself how to do craft activities. She used online videos to learn new skills, and now she shares them in the group sessions.

Last week Jenny made mandalas and this week she has helped the peer trainers, Amanda and Sarah, make decorative tiles using inks. 

Jenny has also started selling her crafty projects at local fairs, which she says is good for her confidence. "My artwork is perfect for the days when I can't get out of the house, and it really keeps me sane."

Sarah proudly holds up her tile for the group to see. She is recovering from breast cancer and, despite being there as a trainer, believes everyone in the group has something to offer: "The group is special because we are supported, and supporting, at the same time.

"Everyone has something to offer. It's amazing to be taught by Jenny – she is really talented."


Anyone who attends can access the library of books on mental health recovery and strategies, as well as a selection of mindful colouring resources.

Babies are welcome to attend and the group is a safe space for breastfeeding.

The session takes place at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery every Thursday from 10am – 1pm. There is no need to book and all materials are provided.

*Jenny is not her real name.

Read more:

Honiton Carer's Winnie Cameron: 'I've been surrounded by dementia all my life.'


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