MINISTER Micheál Martin was in the Cork School of Music last week to launch an evaluation report on a project initiated four years ago to improve the quality of service at mental health centres in the city and county.
The Ceol le Chéile music in mental health project originated in the Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture, when 32 arts projects took place in over 40 healthcare settings throughout Cork.
The former Minister for Health outlined how a number of people had made the point to him that they wanted the European Capital of Culture to be an event that all people could access.
"It's doubly pleasing to see that out of that there is a legacy in terms of more enduring projects," said Minister Martin.
Cork Arts and Development Programme developed out of the HSE South partnership with Cork 2005, and the music in mental health project was piloted in the Cúnamh Day Centre in Macroom, as well as the Adult Mental Health Unit at Cork University Hospital.
Music workshops for service users were conducted by county Cork based percussionist, Kevin Shanahan, and there were learning days for staff who continue to work the project themselves at the various centres.
"Music is far more than entertainment, and those of us involved in this work on a regular basis see that music opens so many doors, particularly for people in healthcare settings," said Kevin Shanahan.
Two service users at the evaluation report launch stood up and spoke, something they said the could not imagine doing before, of how the Ceol le Chéile project was of great benefit to them in their lives.
"The course gave me something to look forward to, and week by week I got more confident, I began to feel more at ease with people there, and made great friends," said Belinda.
"Ten years ago I could not imagine playing the bodhrán, and definitely not the African drums," she told the audience.
The author of the evaluation report on the Ceol le Chéile project, Mike White, who is a Senior Research and Development Fellow in Arts in Health at the University of Durham, says the retention of a part-time co-ordinator is important if the initiative is to remain energised, and that there is a need to establish musical instrument banks in each setting.