“This is the best therapy available”: Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week is a good reason to celebrate the impact the work we do has on supporting people’s mental health and well-being.

The people we work with are some of most vulnerable to mental health concerns in our society; prisoners, former prisons and young people engaging with youth offending teams and/or not in education employment and training.

Our programmes bring positivity, hope and new skills to people’s lives, enhancing their well-being and helping them to envisage a more positive future.

“Music helps with your emotions. Let it all out,” Making Tracks participant

Our mental health credentials:

Royal Society for Public Health Arts & Health Award

We are a Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Arts & Health Award winner! The RSPH Arts and Health awards recognise the excellent work the arts play in improving health, from mental health to health inequalities, to promoting the health and well-being of children and young people.


Whenever possible we welcome external evaluation of our work so help us learn and develop, as well as highlighting the successful elements of our programmes. Past evaluations have acknowledged the impact we have on improving participant’s mental health:

“… a lift in motivation, hope and self-esteem, a clear sense of achievement and a positive use of time … a sense of professionalism and pride. Taking part also contributed to re-building positive family relationships and being seen in a more positive light by others.” Evaluation of the Irene Taylor Trust’s Sounding Out Programme, J. Cartwright. 2013

“Besides bringing a sense of accomplishment and meaning, the project contributed to the participants’ wellbeing through also eliciting positive emotions. Both groups mentioned experiencing joy, satisfaction, surprise, enthusiasm and awe throughout the project. Some participants also highlighted a sense of peace, freedom, gratitude and strength. The moment when the participants’ heard their lullaby being played for the first time and the final performance were pointed as the emotional highlights of the project. The process of writing the song was emphasised as a fruitful space for both expressing and processing a wide range of emotions. This included negative emotions, such as sadness and regret, in a process which enabled a sense of relief.” The Lullaby Project: Areas of Change and Mechanisms of Impact, Sara Ascenso, 2017

“The men’s experiences of the project, particularly their feelings of encouragement to try things without judgement and to work together on a venture, clearly facilitated the development of their individual competencies and self-esteem. The individual competencies that men gained through the project may have implications not only for behaviour in prisons in the short term, but perhaps also for foundational aspects of selfhood and human capital (the capacity to co-operate, relate to others, negotiate and share, for example). These things can lead to improved outcomes once someone has been released from prison – for example, in terms of establishing relationships, confidence in one’s self, and abilities – all of which contribute to the development of social capital (opportunities, connections, and new horizons).” Beats and Bars: Music in Prisons, An Evaluation, A. Cox and L. Gelsthorpe, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, 2008


Our projects give participants an invaluable opportunity for self-expression through the process of writing and performing their own songs; this gives people a chance for self-reflection and for marginalised people to have their voices heard.

Boosting self-confidence 

In this short film, Making Tracks participant Steph talks about her experience of writing her song ‘Up for Love’ and how being part of the project increased her self-confidence: “Music helps me with emotions. I can really connect with some songs, and the lyrics will really mean a lot to me… at the beginning of this week I was really shy, I’m a really shy person anyway, but this week has really brought me out of my shell; it’s made me so much more confident. I was absolutely buzzing on the night of the gig… I definitely feel like it’s helped me a lot.”

Participant feedback

“Music is key for the soul! Music is always good for depression, anxiety, stress disorder. Music is life for the soul,” Prisoner working with our musician in residence

“Without this lesson I would not cope. It helps me express myself. Music is a way to release bad energy into good energy,” Prisoner working with our musician in residence

“I am really grateful to have discovered music to help me in my recovery. I really need every help to sort out my life and music has and will play an important part,” Prisoner working with our musician in residence

“You have helped change, in my case even save, lives,” Making Tracks participant

“Coming out of jail was hard, I was in a hostel and then moved into my flat and been staying home (alone) a lot … last week (on the project) was good, getting out meeting people, talking,” Sounding Out participant

“I’m happier now, I don’t want to do drugs and drink,” Sounding Out participant

“I hope this book is going to touch people’s hearts, that they can identify with the words. That some of the words might inspire them, put a smile on their face and give them hope in difficult times. Just like a guardian angel,” Music in Prisons Participant, A Picture of Me songbook project

Supporting positive personal growth 

“You feel it in your bones, in your soul… it’s just very therapeutic.” Our Changing The Record podcast series tells the stories of Patricia and Nic, both of whom we first met in prison and went on to support through the gate as they successfully rebuilt their lives on release. They talk about the importance of making music in that process.

Our Theory of Change is a visual representation of the journey we support participants along through our programmes.

Irene Taylor Trust_Theory of Change

Changing public perceptions

Inside Out

“This project has really inspired and touched me. I love the comments on the floor. It made me feel more open minded about prisoners and made me understand them more. They’re human beings with needs, passion, creativity. Music; it’s a fantastic way to channel people’s emotions and energy – well done!Inside Out exhibition visitor

Our projects usually involve performances which are open to the public. This can have can have an important humanising impact on audiences, who may previously have held stigmatised views of the people we work with.

When we have been unable to perform live (such as in 2020, for obvious reasons), we have found alternative ways to deliver work and provide a platform, such as our 25th Birthday Show, which features specially recorded performances.

Find out about the various ways you can support our work here.

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