Get to the art of mental health

There’s nothing more satisfying than allowing that inner child to let rip with a fist full of crayons and a blank sheet of paper. That’s my opinion, anyway. And members of the York community seem to be of a similar mind. They’ve decided to set up a new art and crafts group specifically for people with mental health problems, which will meet from 11 September.

Sarah-Jane McKenzie and her art teacher sister, Helen, are masterminding the project and their aim is for the artworks created to be sold on a stall in the refurbished York market, once a month.

Sarah-Jane knows, from personal experience, just how isolating mental health difficulties can be. She hopes to create a forum in which people can reach out to others and come to understand that they are not the only ones who suffer. She explains:

“Because the group is aimed at people with mental health problems (or people who have in the past experienced them) we won’t feel any need to pretend or put on an act, or hide the details of problems we’ve had…”

She maintains that encouraging participants to make art and craft will, itself, prove therapeutic and promote renewed inspiration and motivation for those whose lives have been disrupted by mental ill health.

Some formal instruction will be given, but participants will be encouraged to bring their own projects and ideas and to shape the direction the group takes. Any money made on the York market stall will be ploughed back into funding for more materials, and any excess over and above this will be shared among the group. (More detail and contact information here.)

There has been growing interest in arts-in-health initiatives where ‘the creative process’ is seen to have therapeutic value in promoting wellbeing. The UK Mental Health Foundation claims on its website:

“International and UK research has found that many people with mental health problems find arts therapies helpful, either on their own or as part of a range of therapies, which may include medication and talking treatments.”


Written by Jacqui Hogan