The Men’s Shed is a woodworking group run by the Bethlem Royal Hospital’s Occupational Therapy Department and supported by the Maudsley Charity. It provides a regular, welcoming space where men can socialise, learn woodworking skills and manage their mental health.
The group, called the ‘Shedders’, have been meeting every week for the past two years. They work on practical and personal projects, from trellises, bird boxes and planters for the Bethlem Occupational Therapy Garden, to decorative boxes inspired by the history of the psychiatric hospital.
Supporting men’s health through creative occupation
Chris Oldfield, Project Manager says: ‘The movement began in Australia where the therapeutic value and benefit of men having this type of space began to be recognised. The movement has since grown worldwide. Our project is focusing on men’s health through meaningful occupation.’
He continues: ‘The Maudsley Charity funding has created a valuable turning point in our service, we can now offer more opportunities by maximising use of our facilities, not only for in-patients, but also service users living in the community.
‘We now have a dedicated group of Shedders made up of staff, new volunteers and participants with a wealth of experience to share, as well as the opportunity to enhance the health benefits of occupation. We are also able to upgrade our facilities and equipment which is improving the service for everyone who uses the OT workshop.
“Everyone’s equal in the Men’s Shed”
Service user Terri enjoys the camaraderie of the group and interacting with others. “Everyone’s equal in the Men’s Shed.” He continues “It has been a real boost to my self-confidence. It’s been revitalising to pick up tools that I haven’t used in 20 years, and to learn new ones”.
The group “provides continuity and structure, and a sense of achievement”, Chris Oldfield, Project Manager says. People develop “transferable skills to apply for jobs, and the group acts as a stepping stone to move back into the community.”
Recently the group were commissioned to make bee boxes for Chartwell, a National Trust property in Kent. They were invited down for tea to say thank you, and have been asked to make some RSPB approved bird boxes next year.
“Tangible signs of progress”
Luke first started coming to the Men’s Shed when he was 17 years old and on the Adolescent ward. His talent is for pyrography or ‘fire writing’, which is a way of embellishing wood by burning intricate decorative drawings or patterns into it.
He enjoys the calm environment and the communication with others. Because he’s been in the hospital for a long period of time, he especially values “the visible, tangible signs of progress – that you can see what you’ve made and be proud of it”.
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