Mental health patients being taught magic tricks to boost self-esteem

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Magic tricks are being used to help patients suffering from mental health issues

Mental health patients are being taught wizardry after nurses said learning magic tricks can boost the self-esteem.

The NHS is advertising for “volunteer magicians” to expand the Magic Therapy Project scheme across wards in the North East.

Nurses said patients’ lives have been transformed after they were shown how to amaze loved ones with little more than a deck of cards and an NHS magic wand.

Success stories include a man who had not spoken for four years who is now an accomplished conjurer and can now hold an audience spellbound with his patter.

The scheme was started by Eamonn McClurey, Community health and learning disability nurse with Middlesbrough-based Tees, Esk and Wear Valley’s trust.

Mr McClurey, 45, said: “I was always interested in magic as a child. I was shy and quiet and it gave me confidence because it is unique talent.

“I was working on holiday camps doing magic before going into nursing. I never thought anything about it until I saw a report about how card tricks could help with physio.

Mental illness | How to spot if your child is suffering

Signs/symptoms to look out for

While depression can show itself in many different ways, big changes in your child’s behaviour can be a warning sign.

If they are not wanting to do things that they previously enjoyed, not wanting to meet friends, sleeping a lot more or less than normal, eating a lot more or less than normal, or seem constantly irritable or upset, it’s important to take it seriously.

Next steps – how to open up the conversation and where to go from there

Trust your instincts

Parents often instinctively know when something is wrong, and if you’re worried about your child it’s really important to talk to them about how they’re feeling.

Don’t make any assumptions

Listen to what they have to say. Make sure they know that you love them and are proud of them, and that you’re on their side.

Ask them what they think

It can be a good idea to talk to your child about what they think would help, as they may have good ideas about solving their own problems.

Make sure that you look after yourself as well

And if you’re worried, try talking to your GP, your child’s school or to the YoungMinds parents helpline.

“So I thought why not try it with people with mental health problems. I saw how doing simple tricks can improve self-confidence and esteem if they do them for nurses and other patients. I did a magic workshop at a conference and people loved it.”

The trust is now advertising for volunteer magicians to entertain patients teaching simple tricks with coins, silks, and cards.

Mr McClurey is working with local conjuror Neil Armstrong, from the Middlesbrough Circle of Magicians.

He said: “We have seen some amazing results. A man with autism has really excelled at card tricks. He could not say his own name ten months ago. He now does card tricks for doctors.”

“It is about teaching them to do something others can’t which boosts the self-esteem of people who think they are not worth anything. It is amazing to see.”

“We think this is something that can really work and it does not cost the NHS anything.”

A trust spokesman said: “The use of simple magic tricks can be beneficial in many ways, including helping to improve motor skills and concentration.

“The biggest benefit we have seen through our group sessions is the improvement in people’s confidence and self-esteem.”


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