New Project with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service

Recently we worked with young people and staff from NHS Lothian’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) on a three-day creative writing and illustration project.

For several years the Book Festival’s Communities Programme has been teaming up with the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity to deliver creative workshops at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh. Following a successful visit from author Alex Wheatle to the in-patient unit last summer, we began discussions with the CAMHS outpatient team about piloting a creative project for teenagers experiencing challenges with their mental health.

During the February half-term, we invited young people receiving care from CAMHS to take part in a creative collaboration with poet Leyla Josephine and illustrator Katie Quinn over three days. The sessions took place at the Book Festival office and the young people were supported throughout by CAMHS Occupational Therapists Bryanna Lazich and Aoife Merren. The aim of the project was to support the young people to work with a writer and illustrator to produce creative work as a fun, diversionary activity, which supported wellbeing by building confidence through learning new skills.

“It’s good to try new things and great if you see yourself as a creative person.” (young project participant)

Leyla and Katie co-created the project with the group over the three days, with the young people deciding that they would like to create a zine. To do this Leyla and Katie set out lots of creative writing and art-making challenges for the young people to take part in – lots of mess, lots of fun and lots of brilliant, insightful work was generated!

“Katie and Leyla were able to be extremely responsive to the young people’s needs. They interacted positively with them and were able to adapt in the moment and create a supportive environment in which the young people could explore their creativity.” (Occupational Therapist, CAMHS)

A few weeks after the project we invited the young people back alongside their family and friends so they could showcase the work and receive copies of the finished zine, which you can view here.

Our thanks to the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity and the NHS Lothian CAMHS team in particular Alison Shepherd, Bryanna Lazich and Aoife Merren. This project was made possible thanks to a generous anonymous donation to the Book Festival’s Community Programme.

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