Magic: Mental Health

Our successful Breathe Magic programme focuses on how magic and the art of performing can help boost confidence and emotional wellbeing. We have adapted it to pioneer a new way of improving communication, social skills and self-belief for young people with a range of mental health problems.

HOW THIS PROGRAMME BEGAN

In 2013, in partnership with GO Create! at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH), we ran a pilot scheme offering young people at the Mildred Creak Unit (a specialist mental health unit) the chance to participate in a series of bespoke Breathe Magic workshops.

Following its success we were invited to design and deliver a further bespoke 8-week programme. We did this in collaboration with Magic Circle magicians, clinical staff working within the inpatient mental health unit and young mental health service-users. The response from staff and patients was overwhelmingly positive.

It’s been really good for their confidence and in terms of them coming together as a group. Having a project to work on together has been fun and also very educational. [Learning magic] helps them encourage and support each other, which is a lot of what we try to teach on the unit.

John Forrester, Staff Nurse at Mildred Creak Unit, Great Ormond Street Hospital

WHAT DOES THE PROGRAMME INVOLVE?

This programme uses specially selected magic tricks and performing skills as creative tools which enable young people with mental health problems to engage with their health and wellbeing in a fun and playful way, while at the same time working on improving their social and communication skills.

Magic requires an understanding of human behaviour and the ability to communicate effectively, verbally and non-verbally. When presented with the subject of communication from an unexpected angle, the young people were far more intrigued, engaged and willing to learn.

They learn magic tricks that are simple, but not easy. They take part in exercises and games that are fun, but not trivial. Each of the tricks have been selected for the wider purpose of helping them understand the science of communication, often a key problem for those struggling with mental health difficulties. Working in this creative and playful way opens their minds to the significance of communication in daily life.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE PROGRAMME?

The programme helps participants to understand not just how they themselves communicate, but also how to better interpret other people’s communication styles. Achieving this understanding is very empowering and is a direct outcome of learning the science of body language through magic.

When it comes to the magic, learning something that first appears to be impossible is deeply satisfying. Getting to the stage of sharing these new skills, and understanding how to do so in a positive way, is exhilarating. The release of endorphins and adrenaline has physical benefits, and the sense of achievement offers people with mental health problems the most profound emotion of all: pride in oneself.

The young people loved the sessions. Seeing the excitement and level of participation was quite amazing.

Sharon Phillips, Ward Sister at Mildred Creak Unit, Great Ormond Street Hospital

Watch the video to find out more about the Breathe Magic for Mental Health programme.