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A creative programme is combating isolation and championing mental health in the region.

The Central Otago Creative Wellbeing Group, an initiative under the Creative Arts Trust, launched weekly creative sessions in Alexandra, Cromwell and Wanaka last month.

The programme aims to support anyone 18 years or over who is struggling with their wellbeing – whether it be isolation due to Covid-19, or mental health challenges – by helping them to be creative and connected with others in a similar situation.

It was successfully piloted in the Waitaki district last year and funding from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has allowed it to extend into Central Otago

Run by St Bathans visual artist and musician Janie Shaw and peer support worker Fiona Fairbairn, the sessions focus on creativity as a form of self-expression and self-care, rather than artistic skill.

“We will provide accessible activities to a wide range of individuals, from paint to clay to craft,” Shaw said.

“There will be something for everyone.”

Fairbairn has previously championed free counselling in the region and will provide wellbeing support to attendees.

She said being able to talk with those who had “lived experience” of mental health challenges was a powerful tool for people.

“Personally, I have found being connected with other people and being involved in creative pursuits has been helpful in my journey.”

The programme is free to attend and does not require a referral from a health specialist

Anyone interested can email central@artsenta.org or get in touch via its Facebook page by searching Central Otago Creative Wellbeing.