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Community comes together to sing their way to better health

NHS staff, service users and carers join in song each week at St Pancras Hospital

31 August, 2017 — By Chloe Livadeas

Uplifting music is chosen for the weekly choir sessions run by Key Changes

A MENTAL health charity that promotes therapy through music is bringing together Camden’s community in song.

Key Changes set up the choir with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust a year ago and they meet at the trust’s offices in St Pancras Hospital every Tuesday.

Peter Leigh, director of Key Changes, said that the choir is a “really great way of bringing people into hospital grounds and destigmatising mental health issues”. He added: “It’s a very positive way of getting people together and addressing dis- crimination. There’s a focus on the notion of local community. Those suffering from mental health conditions can feel isolated and disconnected from mainstream life. Something like this can be the first step to recovery.”

The project brings together NHS staff, mental health service users and carers in song, and is open to all. It attracts around 20 people each week, and the songs chosen range from The Beatles to gospel and soul numbers – the focus is on uplifting, feel-good music. Simon Ramage, staff governor at the NHS trust, has attended every week since the choir began and said “users see this as something that they treasure”.

Key Changes also runs a weekly musical workshop at The Hive youth centre in Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage. The Hive is managed by health and wellbeing service Axis, a joint venture between Camden Council and NHS Camden Clinical Commissioning Group. It offers a range of support services to those aged 16-25. Services include guidance on anything from mental and sexual health to cooking and applying for jobs.

Key Changes’ weekly music sessions at the centre support users to make the kind of music they enjoy, from jazz to hip hop and R&B – although Mr Leigh says it is mostly R&B “and a bit of grime”. “We’ve been meeting a lot of young people from the area and seeing how music helps them to express their feelings in a way that suits them. “It’s been very impressive, as it takes quite a bit of courage to get up on the mic.” The sessions have been running for three months and attract around 15-20 young people each time. They are normally one-to-one and tailored to the individual.

Mr Leigh said: “Our approach is creative collaboration – we’re not there to teach and run courses. It’s about facilitating young people to express themselves creatively.”

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