Welsh National Opera opened their pilot programme, Wellness with WNO in November 2021. Utilising operatic singing and breathing techniques to meet the needs of Long-COVID patients across Wales, the aim of the programme was to support physical rehabilitation, restore emotional well-being, and reduce anxiety in a relaxed, informal, non-medicalised and sociable environment. Thirty-one people aged 30+ took part in four separate six-week courses between November 2021 and February 2022. Following referrals from partner health boards across Wales - Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health University Health Board - participants were invited to join a weekly session via Zoom which were led by an experienced WNO vocal specialist.
Wellness with WNO participant
I have felt close to tears in a good way. I’m in a place where people are caring for me and validating my experience. It is a great approach. It doesn’t feel medical, it feels that you’re tricking people into doing something that’s good by having fun. That’s the best way of teaching anything.
The most reported physical health outcome was improved breathing with 94% of participants reporting that the breathing techniques were effective or very effective.
Wellness with WNO participant
Without Wellness with WNO, I’d have been in hospital. I tried the breathing exercises when my oxygen went dangerously low. Within half an hour I was able to do the humming technique and got out of the danger zone and averted hospital admission. Knowing that I could do that and help myself was amazing
Wellness with WNO helped to increase shared experiences and connections with others, with participants valuing peer to peer support.
An important theme from the data collated was the improvement in emotional wellbeing. These weekly sessions gave participants time for themselves, allowing them to have some pleasure within their challenging daily circumstances. Changes to mental health included increased positive emotions and confidence and reduced anxiety, depression, overthinking, and panic. Many participants even decided to join choirs and re-start karaoke following their time on the programme. This special programme, based on English National Opera’s Breatheproject, has been supported by the Arts Council of Wales: Arts, Health, and Well-being Lottery Fund, to specifically benefit the people of Wales. The programme will be expanding to reach a wider number of people across further health boards in Wales in 2022/2023.
Emma Flatley, WNO Director of Programmes and Engagement
These results show us, the health boards and health professionals the huge benefit of the programme and we hope that, with the necessary funding, we can continue to use these techniques to improve the lives and health of more people without the need of medical intervention or as part of their overall treatment.
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