70 Stories: Drawing for Wellbeing

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A Watercolour painting, ‘Celebrating Psychosis’

Kate Smith is an award-winning children’s illustrator/designer and a workshop leader, who has a diagnosis of  ‘Acute and transient Psychotic Disorder’ which was triggered by stress and anxiety in 2005.  Kate was encouraged to make Christmas cards by an Occupational Therapist from the Early Intervention Service in Derbyshire as a coping strategy.  This initial step also instigated a new way forward for Kate.

I gradually got more confident to sell cards at local craft fairs and design new ranges for seasonal occasions. Then I decided to do a free ‘ focussing on creativity course’, and I got a grant to start my own business. During the course I met a jewellery maker who introduced me to a creative director and I started up my own company. I’m now represented by an illustration company and have done freelance work for Moonpig, Igloo Books and Marks and Spencers.

During all this time, since 2005, I have suffered from four psychotic relapses and a few minor episodes. I have been lucky enough to be looked after by my husband and family. During these episodes, I forget how to eat and lose all track of time but I’m highly creative. I get obsessive in mark marking on paper, my senses are heightened, colour and sound become brighter and intense. I draw and record every moment with photography and in a doodle diary.

For me, drawing and creating is a release process.

In November 2012, Kate joined the ‘All Being Well’ Art group and later became the lead artist and facilitated creative workshops at the Hope and Resilience Hub based in the Inpatient Radbourne Unit in Derby.  Kate’s contributions were recognised by the Trust as she was awarded the Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust Volunteer of the Year Award in 2015.  This passion and commitment to engage others in using creativity is now central to Kate’s workAlongside her professional illustration/design practice,  Kate now leads and develops activities as a freelance artist to support and inspire others to use drawing and creativity for wellbeing in Derbyshire.  She is also an active Mental Health Ambassador, raising awareness of Mental Health challenges and works to reduce stigma. Kate has appeared on BBC East Midlands Today and BBC Radio Derby and has been mentioned on BBC Radio 2talking about her experiences, creative story, community work and artwork using the ‘Arts as Therapy.’

I really enjoy helping and being with people that have suffered similar problems like me, and I want to do more of this type of work. I get so much from helping others and I want to pass on what I have learnt through having this mental health condition to others. And I want to give something back as a thank you as I’ve been overwhelmed by the support the NHS have given me.

Click here to read more of Kate’s creative story co-produced with Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust  Recovery Stories Series 2016, which documents the significance of creativity in the process of her recovery.

Follow Kate’s blog Drawing for Wellbeing to read about her projects and to keep updated about her practice.

©Kate Smith 2019

70 Stories for 70 Years

These stories represent personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing. They have been collected by the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the NHS in 2018.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do get in contact at info@culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk.

We are publishing these stories as a collection on the new CHWA website, and will be promoting them using social media from the end of 2018 leading up to the first CHWA Annual Conference in March 2019.

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70 Stories: Sensing Culture

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Photo Credit: Wendy Daws

Sensing Culture

This story shares how The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge are working together with partners and their local visually impaired community to enable more meaningful access to creative and cultural experiences to boost wellbeing, raise awareness and create a more inclusive space.

” Being able to feel around the exhibit and get ideas from touch – this made a big difference for me.  Because you can’t see you do need to feel it and it’s surprising how much you remember from feeling it.”

Sensing Culture Participant

The free Sensing Culture creative group for adults with sight loss meets monthly at the Beaney.  It began as part of an HLF-funded RNIB project (Sensing Culture), also involving museums in Oxford, Portsmouth and Brighton – funding for the project ended in spring 2018, but there is a clear legacy for the partners. 

Beaney participants enjoy handling objects from the collections, tactile tours, and creating artwork. The artwork has led to exhibitions in 2017 and 2018 in the Beaney Front Room gallery (which showcases work by local artists and community groups as part of the health and wellbeing programme). The 2018 exhibition includes work by 2 professional visually impaired (VI) artists who had been guest facilitators in 2017 workshops. The exhibitions not only show off the amazing work done by the group, but also give our visitors the chance to explore visual impairment in its various forms, and feedback via the questionnaire Have You Got 20:20 Vision? (image below)  as well as celebrate the successes of others.  

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Have You Got 20:20 Vision? artwork

In the past 2 years we have also developed a highly experienced team of volunteers who work across all our health and wellbeing groups, and who have benefited from additional training in VI issues.

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Photo Credit: Wendy Daws

In addition, a separate music strand has been developed, working with VI  primary school children, in partnership with a local secondary school.  This has resulted in an Arts Award for the primary pupils, live public performances in the Beaney and the development of the Beaney Butterfly Music Machine which brings paintings in the Beaney to audio-life via the arm movements of participants.

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 Photo Credit: Wendy Daws

Participants also contribute as an informal focus group to help with development of greater accessibility at the Beaney for VI visitors. Informally, as well as in formal evaluations, group members regularly tell us of the empowerment and sense of ownership of the building that they have gained.

” It has ‘opened our eyes’ to seeing what’s available for visually impaired people “

Sensing Culture Participant

The Beaney is now working on a new access offer (advised by the group) which includes: a tactile trail; an increase in objects (such as the Epstein Red Dean) which are included in the Touchable Beaney umbrella; the commissioning of tactile replicas of precious objects on display; and a revolutionary iBeacon app to guide visually impaired visitors around the Beaney highlights using audio description and enhanced images. The latter meets the particular challenge that people with visual impairment won’t necessarily wish to spend much of their time in groups.

To find out more about the overarching Sensing Culture programme click here

70 Stories for 70 Years

These stories represent personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing. They have been collected by the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the NHS in 2018.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do get in contact at info@culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk.

We are publishing these stories as a collection on the new CHWA website, and will be promoting them using social media from the end of 2018 leading up to the first CHWA Annual Conference in March 2019.

70 Stories: Care to Dance

 

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Care To Dance

A story by Michelle, sharing the reflections of her family on the role of dance in Rita, her mother’s life, both before and after her diagnosis with dementia.

My name is Michelle.  I am the daughter of Rita and Trevor and have an older brother, Russell.  I’m writing this on behalf of us all; as a family.  Mum has always loved dance and music. When mum was young she learnt how to tap dance and I followed in her footsteps.  We all remember how mum would get up on the dance floor at family and social gatherings; she loved to enjoy herself and would always try to get us all to join in.  Music and dancing had such a positive impact on Mum’s emotional health and wellbeing; we loved watching musicals together and she was always listening and singing along to Billy Fury; her pop idol.

Mum was diagnosed with Dementia in August 2015; she was 71 years young.  A few years prior to the diagnosis, mum and dad joined a tea dance group at Stargaze Dance Academy, Alfreton, and they began ballroom dancing together.  I remember accompanying the tea dance group to the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool where they danced together to the famous Wurlitzer organ and I was amazed and proud of them both; memories I will cherish forever.  Mum and Dad continued to attend the tea dances until she struggled to remember the routines and didn’t want to go anymore.  This was very sad and upsetting for us all as we knew how much mum loved to dance.

Dad found out about a dance project, Care to Dance, organised by The Connection Space Community Interest Company, at Matlock, through one of the carers who came into help with Mum each morning.  The carer was extremely positive about the benefits that the classes could offer Mum.  My brother and I encouraged him to take mum along and he decided to give it a go and see if mum would settle without him being there with her. After Mum attended the first class, Russell and myself were thrilled when Dad said that it had been an extremely positive experience for Mum. Dad felt happy as Mum was settled and calm going into the class and was always happy and relaxed afterwards when Dad collected her.  Dad was able to have an hour to himself whilst Mum was in the class, and the activities offered provide stimulation and calmness for Mum; which is so important for them both.

I contacted Mary Derrick from Care to Dance asking for a little background into what Mum would do during the classes so that we could try to interact with Mum about it.  Mary explained that they used themes (eg colours, clothing, songs etc) during the classes. Mum cannot communicate verbally very much but when we talked to her about the theme she became very animated and tried to explain things to us; she would smile and laugh; which is fantastic as we know that this has had a positive impact on her and she is still able to enjoy dance and music.

Mum and Dad are our priority and seeing them both happy after these sessions makes us feel positive about it all.  Mum responds well to shiny, flowing material and also to classical music and Mary let me know of a song that mum loves and responds to.  Mary also gave Dad a CD on which she had recorded some of the music they use in the classes so that we can listen to it together.

We feel that communication is so important between families and friends supporting people with memory difficulties and Care to Dance provides the opportunity for this to happen.  We feel that this is so important and precious because we can interact with Mum and, more importantly, she can interact with us about something we know she is passionate about.

70 Stories for 70 Years

These stories represent personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing. They have been collected by the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the NHS in 2018.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do get in contact at info@culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk.

We are publishing these stories as a collection on the new CHWA website, and will be promoting them using social media from the end of 2018 leading up to the first CHWA Annual Conference in March 2019.

Developing a statement of values

The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance is a national organisation representing everyone who believes that cultural engagement and participation can transform our health and wellbeing.

We are developing a new statement of values and would like your help to answer the following questions:

  • What is culture, health and wellbeing for you?
  • What do you need from this alliance as a sector support org?

You might like to consider any (or none!) of the following keywords to frame your thoughts:

  • culture
  • diversity
  • partnership
  • inequalities
  • knowledge
  • context
  • environment

Please mail your feedback to victoria@culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk

70 Stories: Finding My Way Back

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Picture: Richard celebrating after completing the Great North Run for James Cook Neuro- Rehabilitation Ward 26, Middlesborough ( South Tees Hospital NHS Trust)

“The arts made me look forward, think, engage and stimulate and that had a wealth of benefits. I realised it was something to hold on to.”

During a cycling holiday in the Summer of 2013, history teacher, Richard McCann suffered a traumatic brain injury leaving him in a coma for over a month. Upon awaking he was faced with the challenges of learning to speak and walk again and find ways to rebuild his life.

Listen to Richard as he shares his inspiring story of how creativity and access to culture has supported his rehabilitation and shaped his response to his new-found situation. Being engaged and involved in activities, Richard shares how he took back control, found new coping strategies and is now developing a new sense of purpose through setting up his own community interest company, Learning and Wellbeing CIC.

 

70 Stories for 70 Years

These stories represent personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing. They have been collected by the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the NHS in 2018.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do get in contact at info@culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk.

We are publishing these stories as a collection on the new CHWA website, and will be promoting them using social media from the end of 2018 leading up to the first CHWA Annual Conference in March 2019.

 

70 Stories: A New Map and The Great Escape

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The Great Escape by Naomi

This story begins with an introduction from Naomi, who shares with us her experiences of being a full-time carer, Mum, nurse and painter and why now is the right time to share her story and her artwork.

When I was aware of the project going on to exhibit for the 70 stories for 70  years of the NHS it felt like the right platform to share an insight into the life not only of a carer and Mum, but someone who previously worked as a nurse.

I feel very grateful that we have the NHS to support us and I’m not sure how many of us would survive without it. Doctors and nurses do an amazing job including all the others behind the scenes.

I wrote ‘A New Map’ this year during a period where my sons health was poor.

It was an incredibly difficult time which thankfully we are coming out of, but as a single Mum to a special needs child writing was a way to pour out my heart and put pen to paper.

As the year has moved on I found the time to dip into my art due to being at home for long periods of time. Poached Egg daisies are now appearing.

A New Map

It’s only when you find yourself in a situation that you can truly understand the huge impact it can have on someone’s life.

Until my son came into this world I had some idea of caring as I was a nurse for 16 years.

During those 16 years I worked long shifts and most of the time really enjoyed my role. Then would see a patient being discharged to the care of the family, feeling our job was done and so I believed it was.

When my son came along it made me have some understanding what it was like to be in a life changing situation.

Don’t get me wrong I loved him the moment he was born, but life changed that day and as a child without difficulties is born into a family, you adjust and have different goals for the future as we did with our other children.

What never occurred to me as a qualified nurse was the impact on the family as a whole, plus the full time care giver.

If it was just a matter of the care side of things fair enough, but it’s not.

It’s the phone calls, the professionals, the asking for help to get the right support for the future.

The denial of the right support, or having to back down and accept anything that’s going. This is the demoralising part, the complete inability to prepare and feel that your child will be happy and secure in the future.

Needing to be listened too, but feeling you are not.

Each and every child is an individual, not clumped together into one diagnosis…oh it’s a girl..its going to be exactly like every other girl around…..with each and every one of our children they will all be different. The world would be such a boring place if we were all uniformly the same.

Each child with a disability will also not match every other child with the same so called disability, each child will most likely have other complex needs on top of the ones diagnosed.

Then comes the stigma of what diagnosis your child has.

Unfortunately we are still living in a world where as a parent of a child with a disability like autism comes the negative press on parenting. Autism parents are amazing by the way!

Its like mental health, its the hush hush lets not talk about it, or lets steer clear just in case its catching.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were all accepting of each other no matter our differences.

Thats when as parents we start to get segregated, pushed aside. Our needs as people are forgotten as we wade through the life changing experience in front of us.

Its fine for a parent of a new born baby to complain about feeling tired, usually support would be put in place as people cant resist the urge to see a newborn, but when your child turns teen and you are still having sleepless nights its accepted as normal for you.

I love my son! I have to manage! I no longer complain about sleepless nights, I’m  grateful for the good nights.

The diagnosis process is …a process of diagnosis which changes over time.

The files of paperwork I keep hold of and have to search through each time I have to ask for one more thing for my son really needs a pa to manage it!

I turn up with my son to an appointment where I am expected to reel off his list of difficulties, medications, illnesses and also professionals involved in his care.

Now at the moment if I had to turn up with all of this information I would need a trolley to take it along in.

All of these appointments and applications need preparation.

This is when we need the support from our friends which unfortunately we find may have slipped due to the inability to function as we once did, also due to self preservation knowing that any outing out will tire us out.

Thankfully the few friends who accept and understand the changes stay by you.

Then comes the benefits. The need to claim to lead a somewhat ‘normal’ life.

To claim PIP is a lengthy process to get the extra support. It isn’t an easy task.

If you get PIP you can then claim Carers allowance.

Carers allowance is a pittance compared to the amount of hours a carer can put into each day.

All at the same time you care for your child to your best ability and give the love they deserve.

Nobody takes into consideration the loss of wages that once in your dreams you would have managed to keep hold off.

You keep a household going unless you are in the position where you can go to work, which again is usually something just of dreams unless you have a good support network.

Unlike my other children I am not looking towards when my son can leave home and have independence. I’m trying to secure the right schooling, college and further support for his independence in the future.

My most important aim is wanting my son to be happy.

I’m striving to teach my son the simplest of tasks that you or I may take for granted.

All this I delve into my own experience as a mother and nurse for ideas on how to manage, plus advice mainly from other parents in-similar situations to myself.

I once again feel I’m under the glare of not only professionals, but also family members and friends.

My son should be independent by now. I know that! I have tried so hard I am drained by trying the same techniques, plus new ones.

This is where the autistic spectrum rears it’s ugly head with the wide range of other complex needs a child or adult can have.

Please remember this is not the parenting. Its the complexity of the disability.

Your goals in life change.

You live each day at a time and although you have no choice but to try and make long term plans for support, you can’t look too far ahead as life throws other issues in the way which soon change your plans.

In all of this people forget that you once held down a job, you had a life outside the parenting and caring role that unfolds in front of you and bit by bit, the person you once were seems to go in the back burner.

That person and parent is still in there somewhere.

Given the support and encouragement that your family need, that parent’s identity could be found once again, unfortunately this doesn’t always happen, especially when the support and understanding is not there.

One day in the future that person may reappear, but as each year passes it seems harder to claim that person you once were.

This doesn’t mean you are a lesser person than you once were, it’s just our maps have changed.

We now walk a different route.

Your child has mapped a new life for you, a new recognition of who you are.

I’m proud to be my son’s Mum.

 

The Great Escape

A painting of Poached Egg Daises and a story

Finally I am painting again.

Its only taken me goodness knows how long, maybe a total of 15 years to pick up a paintbrush again in the privacy of my own home and have a go.

The debilitating tremor that once took the brush out of my grasp has been pushed to a place where my freedom in art can start to shout out.

Life can be one huge rollercoaster and it’s in the troughs that amazingly my paintings, especially Poached Egg Daisies have started to emerge once again.

This painting is called the Great Escape due to the fact its been such a tough old time, but beauty has had a way of creeping back in.

I remember being taken for my first painting lesson by my Dad and a lovely artist John Henshaw.

My Dad Jeremy Ballard was already a wonderful artist , but we both sat and painted in the way we were taught.

John used to make his own paints which were so special to be able to use and I remember my Dad saying one year…always remember to use Yellow Ochre first.

So this painting has its base of yellow ochre and it has definitely brought the sunshine into my painting.

I was also told to sign in pencil by my father, something he only told me just before he died, so Im hoping this is a fresh new start where my Poached Egg Daisies have started to evolve.

Don’t forget to look out for the ladybirds and snails, these are now very much part of my style.

70 Stories for 70 Years

These stories represent personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing. They have been collected by the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the NHS in 2018.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do get in contact at info@culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk.

We are publishing these stories as a collection on the new CHWA website, and will be promoting them using social media from the end of 2018 leading up to the first CHWA Annual Conference in March 2019.

70 Stories: Creative Directions

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Image by James Mulkeen

Creative Directions

darts (Doncaster Community Arts) submission of a story that represents personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing.

Doncaster is lucky enough to have a Social Prescribing Service, commissioned through the Better Care Fund by Public Health and the Clinical Commissioning Group. The service has been delivered by South Yorkshire Housing Association following a pilot in 2014 and is now firmly embedded within GP’s practice with 47 of the 48 GP practices referring regularly to Social Prescribing.

Whilst the current model does not resource community based activity, Social Prescribing staff – and an increasing number of GPs – are well connected with creative programmes such as the ones darts (Doncaster Community Arts) deliver. One example is Creative Directions – a weekly opportunity for adults who experience mental ill health to engage in a wide range of immersive, enjoyable and meaningful creative activity. 

Laura* first met a member of the Social Prescribing team in 2017, having presented at her GP eight times in the preceding three months. At that point she had not left her home for twelve months (except to go to her GP), and was dependant on her husband to take their daughter to school and do the shopping.  Laura was socially isolated and had no social interaction with friends due to her fear of being judged for her physical appearance. She would not stand in her garden for fear of her neighbours seeing her.

Laura told her Social Prescribing Advisor, Sarah that she has suffered from depression for many years following a traumatic childhood and abuse from her parents. She was taking medication but had never accessed support services for her depression. Laura is described as morbidly obese and has been receiving treatment from weight management services at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. She had not been accepted for Bariatric Surgery and was advised to lose weight before she could be reconsidered. 

Based on Laura’s interests such as art, music and creative writing, Sarah introduced her to Creative Directions at The Point, run by darts (Doncaster Community Arts), where she took part in creative writing, art and music sessions.  Sarah accompanied Laura for six weeks whilst she became integrated into the group and made friends. Once she grew in confidence, Sarah withdrew. 

Here – in Laura’s own words – are the longer term impacts of attending Creative Directions:

As a person with mental health issues and a learning disability, going to a new place is always an extremely difficult process for me. I was apprehensive about my first Creative Direction session because I had been housebound for almost six months and the concept of being around other people terrified me. Upon arrival, I experienced a panic attack but the group’s leader (Jamie) came and spoke to me in a calm manner and I gained the confidence I needed to enter the room and meet the group. My anxiety was high and I struggled to relax fully but I found that the group were all friendly and welcoming, not to mention that the staff and volunteers were adaptive to my needs. 

As the weeks progressed I grew more comfortable and gained the ability to talk in front of a group, even finding the confidence to contribute ideas. On top of this, I’ve had the chance to discover new things, develop new skills and try things that I would never have otherwise.

I am now at a stage where Creative Directions is one of the most important things in my life. I feel comfortable and safe knowing that help and support are always available. The group has grown to feel like a family to me. I really have to stress at this point that attending these sessions has been fundamental in my recovery process. I have much more confidence and for the first time in years, I actually have something to look forward to. 

I want to thank all the volunteers, staff and funders that make Creative Directions possible. I really mean from the bottom of my heart that you are all amazing. I’ve been attending since March 2017 and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The group is exactly the supportive and relaxed environment that mental health sufferers need. It’s brightened my life up and I know it will brighten others too.”

Laura has told darts staff that coming to Creative Directions has had more of an impact on her mental health than any medication or other form of treatment. She said that before coming to Creative Directions, she was unable to leave the house and using public transport was impossible. She had a fear of touching other people and was not even able to touch her own daughter. She had to rely on her partner to dress her daughter, bathe her, play with her etc. and couldn’t even give cuddles. Since coming to Creative Directions she can do all of these things and using public transport is no longer an issue.

Laura’s partner also struggles with his mental health and used to spend a lot of time at home. When Laura experienced the positive impact of coming to Creative Directions, she gradually persuaded him to join her on occasion.

Laura has always enjoyed writing and posts a lot of creative writing online. Through Creative Directions she developed the confidence to share her writing with other participants and took part in the ‘progression sessions’ with darts’ film-maker, Jim, sharing her love of writing in a short film. 

Laura is now a regular presence at other darts events, bringing her daughter to family workshops regularly as well as volunteering to speak at sharing events – a huge leap forward. Laura has lost weight through an increased exercise programme, and although the fear of being judged on her appearance is ongoing, she is better able to cope with the anxiety that this creates.

The number of GP visits has reduced dramatically to just one visit in the three months following Social Prescribing interventions. 

*Name has been changed

Here is a short film sharing the experiences of people who connect with the Creative Directions project.

Further information about darts and their mental health work can be found here: https://www.thepoint.org.uk/how-does-darts-work-with-mental-health/

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Image by James Mulkeen

70 Stories for 70 Years

These stories represent personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing. They have been collected by the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the NHS in 2018.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do get in contact at info@culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk.

We are publishing these stories as a collection on the new CHWA website, and will be promoting them using social media from the end of 2018 leading up to the first CHWA Annual Conference in March 2019.