Students and female prisoners at Hydebank Wood College with mental health and addiction issues are turning to music and song as part of their rehabilitation.
A project which encourages the young men and women in custody to participate in joint sessions has been introduced at the College by the South Eastern Trust and The Right Key Music group. Presently, more than a dozen students – male and female – join the Voice of Release group on a weekly basis to express themselves in music and song.
Highlighting the project during Prisons Week, Hydebank Wood College Governor Richard Taylor said: “So many of the young people and the women who come into Hydebank Wood are addicts or suffer mental health issues. When occupational therapists on site highlighted research of the health benefits of singing, we decided to explore the idea. The project, initially with the women and then jointly with the young men, has been embraced across the facility.
“The women have performed for their children at a family day and since the launch of the aptly named Voice of Release project we’ve brought together the women and men for various events including the All-Ireland Nursing Conference.”
Bria Mongan, Director of Prison Health Care in the South Eastern Trust said: “Voice of Release has been a very successful project in providing meaningful and purposeful recovery based activity for some of our most vulnerable and at-risk students. There have been recognisable and visible improvements in health, mood, stress and even aggression for many of the individuals involved.”
A spokesperson for The Right Key which use music for health, recovery and well-being, said: “We work with people who are in any recovery process - people recovering from addiction or any hurt or brokenness, which really is most people at some point in their lives. We use music and song with compassion and support, and it’s a lovely mix for recovery.
“We all have reasons for ending up in the situations we find ourselves in. But we have some of the most amazing recovery stories.”
The project won the Health and Social Care Award at the Safety Quality Experience finals and with the financial assistance from Awards For All, they have also recorded their first CD, entitled ‘Outside the Gates’ which showcases their song-writing and poetry.