Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) and Scottish Opera have joined forces to develop online singing classes for people living with aphasia, which is caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls language, and in some cases leaves some unable to speak at all.

These new CHSS and Scottish Opera sessions coincide with Aphasia Awareness Month, which runs throughout June. This year’s theme is #AphasiaTogether, emphasising that those with the condition do not need to deal with this on their own.

This new strand of creative music making with CHSS — Scotland’s largest health charity working to help people with chest, heart and stroke conditions live life to the full — expands upon Scottish Opera’s pioneering Breath Cycle project, designed to support those with a range of conditions affecting lung health.

Following research and development sessions with medical educators, CHSS staff and people living with aphasia are working with Scottish Opera to provide supported communication and aphasia training, and help deliver the therapeutic singing, song-writing and breath control sessions. The aim of these workshops is to improve the mental wellbeing and confidence in communication of those with aphasia and respiratory issues including COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), across the country.

Earlier this month, CHSS launched a report about the impact of aphasia on those living with the condition which revealed that:

· More than half (52 per cent) of people with aphasia say their condition affects their mental health

· Nearly half (48 per cent) with aphasia said they experienced loneliness as a result of their condition.

· 43 per cent of people with aphasia said it impacted on their ability to work as before

· A third (34 per cent) of people with aphasia reported being treated negatively due to their condition

Karen Maclver and Jessica Leary from Scottish Opera performing at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland's No Life Half Lived Parliamentary event

Karen Maclver and Jessica Leary from Scottish Opera performing at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland's No Life Half Lived Parliamentary event

CEO of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, Jane-Claire Judson, commented: “Working with Scottish Opera to unlock the therapeutic benefits of singing and song-writing to people living with aphasia is a fantastic opportunity to tackle real issues facing people across the country.

“We regularly hear from the people we support that living with a communication difficulty following stroke can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness and have a negative impact on mental health.

“We look forward to bringing people together to experience the joy of singing with others whilst exploring the benefits of singing and song writing to their communication skills.”

Jane Davidson MBE, Director of Outreach & Education at Scottish Opera said: “Following on from the increased awareness of our Breath Cycle II programme in 2020, which was designed for people living with Long COVID and other respiratory conditions, Scottish Opera is excited to partner with CHSS to support people with aphasia.

“The work that CHSS undertakes each year with hundreds of thousands of Scots has set really high standards in the positive integration of mental health and well-being initiatives with clinical intervention. As Scotland’s largest performing arts company, we feel that the values of both our organisations are beautifully aligned in this new collaboration that seeks to enhance the quality of people’s lives across the country.”

Composer Gareth Williams, who along with writer Martin O’Connor, mentored the most recent online song writing Breath Cycle sessions said: “Our encounters with the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland team, and our first conversations with our participants who have aphasia have been so inspiring. Our challenge is to help people find and connect with their voices again, both their physical voices and their creative voices. There are incredible stories to tell in this community, and together we will find them and share them through song.”

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