Art created by people with lived experience of mental health is being displayed in Maudsley Hospital in partnership with Bethlem Gallery, South London, to promote the importance of art therapy in supporting mental well-being.
The exhibition, organised by national charity Ambient Support, runs throughout May to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) from 15 to 21 May.
Not-for-profit health and social care provider Ambient Support launched their ”Art for Anxiety’Anxiety’ workshops in several mental health services in London to provide safe and encouraging creative spaces for participants to explore MHAW’sMHAW’s 2023 theme of ”anxiety”.
In partnership with NHS Trust South London and Maudsley, the art created at Ambient’s Ambient’s sessions is being displayed in the Bethlem Gallery space in Maudsley Hospital to promote the value of art therapy for mental well-being and for all visitors and patients to view and enjoy 01 May to 31 May.
Carmel Woolmington, Art Strategy Manager at Bethlem Gallery and SLaM Trust, says:
“We are delighted to partner with Ambient Support for Mental Health Awareness Week.
As organisations championing greater awareness and understanding of mental health, we share an ethos to shape a creative landscape which encourages this awareness and supports artists with lived experience of mental health services.
“Drawing on this year’syear’s theme of anxiety, we hope this exhibition highlights the therapeutic impact of art practice; that art can be a powerful form of expression; and a way to respond to anxious thoughts and feelings.”
Anxiety is a normal emotion, but sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem.
The focus on anxiety for Mental Health Awareness Week will increase awareness and understanding. At the same time, research suggests that creative art activities can positively impact mental health.
Melissa Charlton, Ambient Occupational Therapy Technician, helped facilitate and coordinate the art sessions and observed the participant’s experience. Melissa says:
“Our mental health art sessions enabled the people we support at Ambient to tap into their inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences of anxiety through creative expression.
We encouraged them to talk about the images they created and to begin to look to themselves for meaning and insight.
“Combined with staff supporting the art sessions, it helped participants promote self-expression, increase self-awareness and self-worth, and decrease stress and anxiety.
All who participated emanated satisfaction and enjoyment.”
An Occupational Therapy Assessment evaluated the workshops’ impact and found that 92% of participants demonstrated emotional connection and focused throughout the art session, and 84% stayed engaged and focused.
In comparison, 76% sought to challenge themselves.
Some participants created artwork depicting their thoughts and experiences around anxiety, while others used the art session to work through stress.
Ambient created a video capturing the highlights of the art sessions together with some artists holding their newly created artwork. View it HERE.
“I enjoyed the art session very much; the painting that I did was in the moment. I think the art session helps to take your mind off any anxiety or problems you may have”.
Gary, a participant in the art group, says:
“The art session was therapeutic, allowing you to be artistic. My drawing of a skull surrounded by words depicts my anxiety and thoughts intertwined with mental illness; creating the artwork helped symbolise my thoughts and anxiety, which helps with my well-being.”
Considering the positive feedback from the art workshops, and the benefits gained by those suffering from anxiety, Ambient Support’s Support’s Occupational Therapy team plan to facilitate future art sessions to help further the people they support.
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