Tuesday, 06 February 2018 00:00

A need to knead - reducing anxiety and depression by baking

No matter your age, whether you suffer from a chronic illness or are dealing with some sort of trauma – depression and anxiety are common conditions which affect much of the population.


The team at Bethlem Royal Hospital recently embarked on a rather ‘out-the-box’ approach to understanding and bringing social awareness to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

The therapeutic exercise of baking, and making your own bread, to be precise, has proven to be an activity which has had outstanding success on patients at the Bethlem Royal Hospital.

The Bethlem Baking Buddies initiative has been found to improve levels of happiness, creativity and overall self-worth in many of its participants. The campaign also brought those within the patient circle closer – creating a sense of social and community support.

Importantly, this successful baking initiative helped participants to feel relaxed and far less anxious - a positive step in the understanding and management of depression and anxiety.

Baking for therapy

Each session of the Real Bread Campaign was hosted and facilitated by Gaye Fisher of the Sticky Mitts Microbakery School in Surrey. Jenny Shaieb, occupational therapist at Bethlem Royal Hospital, drew on her experience as a chef to guide the project alongside Fisher.

The first week saw participants learning to make a simple white dough, formed into bread twists. Subsequent sessions built on these basics with participants being given the opportunity to let their creativity flow.

Co-ordinator of the campaign, Chris Young, believes therapeutic baking is deserving of further study, funding and wider availability in a bid to turn the tables on depression and anxiety.

Head Occupational Therapist at Bethlem Royal Hospital, Young expressed his excitement about this initiative:

“This wonderful project confirmed what we intrinsically believed: that bread baking has tremendous potential as a therapeutic activity which can also foster and enhance community engagement and cohesion.”

Who would have thought that the simple task of baking bread could prove so therapeutic in the treatment of depression and anxiety.

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