Art and Mental Health

I was really honoured to be able to go along to an art and mental health course with Lorna Collins from Time to Change Bucks.

As one with mental health issues myself, I get so frustrated at the lack of accessible services for those with MH issues. I do enjoy creativity and I know it does me good but I struggle to start it on my own. When I heard about a course about art and mental health I was keen to go along and find out more.

As I arrived, the first thing I noticed was Lorna had self harm scars on her arms. That immediately formed a link. This lady knows what it is like to have massive emotional pain. That was a huge relief to me. I felt this room was a safe place without judgement.

At the start of the session Lorna asked us to tell us a few things about ourselves and so find what we had in common with others. There were lots of fact shared and chance to get to know each other a little, Randomly, the biggest link we had with each other is that we listen to classic FM.

The group was a good mix of those with ongoing MH issues and those in the community trying to get an insight into this. As the session went on there was no separation at all. The walk to look for inspiration was also was a relaxed time to connect to others.

Hearing Lorna’s story was both heartbreaking and inspiring. As she spoke about the transformative power of art, how art became a way to reach out to her in a very troubled dark place. The way art became her voice and also her release was beautiful.

As we walked and explored the area we looked at what caught our eye and inspired us. I personally had a difficult time with lots of suicidal thoughts in the week before the course. I was drawn to the gravestones in the church yard, but surprisingly what caught my attention was a headstone that was carved to look like a roughly hewn wooden cross.

We were given a wide range of materials from pencil crayons and pastels to acrylics and watercolours. We had time and support to get our ideas onto paper or plasticine with a professional artist Vavra to help.

During the creating time the room was quiet as people went on putting their ideas onto paper.

The time to share our creations and ideas was a really personal time. Those of us who only four hours ago were strangers were sharing deeply personal thoughts with each other. It was a real honour to be trusted in this.

My picture to me spoke of life and death. That life and death are always together. They are interlinked. The stone cross I saw in the churchyard was actually budding with life. Death and life can exist together.

I found a sense of peace after this that I had not felt in a while, almost as if something shifted inside me.

The whole session was really beneficial to me and I sensed others felt the same.

My current experience is that the mental health system is not fit for purpose. I think the hope for recovery comes in finding your own way through, finding the things that bring you comfort and hope and for some art will be that thing.

I’ve put my name down as a time to change champion and will see what this brings.