The Da Vinci aims to target those people who have severe and enduring mental health problems and who have either undergone higher education or worked their way up in corporate or business life and have intellectual interests. Such people often find themselves isolated with their interests and level of education.
The Da Vinci Group was set up specifically to help in two main areas.
The first is the intellect. Many people wrongly assume that suffering from mental illness affects a person's intelligence; the reality is that this part of a person still functions and needs to be activated. Da Vinci’s aim is to reinforce people's strengths and help to rekindle interests or develop new ones through discussions, speakers and outings. Da Vinci members are encouraged to spend time during the week researching topics for the discussions and this too helps structure the week in a meaningful way.
The second area of focus is on socialisation. People who have been unwell often suffer from the lack of opportunity to meet like minded others and experience a lack of confidence to form or sustain relationships. The group encourages growth in this area in a structured way and, with the use of individual reviews, the Da Vinci staff feed back progress and set new goals for each member.
The Da Vinci Group can be used flexibly. For some members it is the first group they attend after a hospital admission. For them the group helps them to re-structure the week, build concentration levels and re-integrate back into the community. For others it may be used as a stepping stone towards educational courses or work, many taking voluntary work prior to paid employment. There are also members who use Da Vinci as a support while working on a part time basis.
The Da Vinci Group uses the Direct Payment system to enable service users from other boroughs to attend.
CNWL (Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust) has almost 7,000 staff providing integrated healthcare to a third of London's population, Milton Keynes and areas beyond.
Suzanne Clinton-Davis, St John's Wood Library, 20 Circus Road, NW8 6PD