31 May 2022

Creative outlets can have many benefits for people experiencing mental health and wellbeing concerns.

An exhibition of multimedia art works by clients of Mind Australia’s Melbourne Early Intervention Psychosocial Support Response (EIPSR) program has showcased how they have used self expression through art to advance their mental health recovery.

“Creating art is healing,” said Nikoo Chamani, a Mind Community Mental Health Practitioner and registered art therapist, who has been working with the exhibiting artists.

“The part of the brain [Amygdala] that processes emotional regulations is activated when processing art or sensory material, so creative practice can help you feel calm. Art can have important contribution in helping people to regulate emotions when there is a history of trauma.”

Three of the participants whose work appeared at the exhibition shared their thoughts on the personal benefits they have experienced from their art practice. Renee told us her creative writing is a helpful distraction from her mental illness and other things impacting her wellbeing. Dorian found that being able to learn new skills has helped boost his confidence. Photography and song-writing has also “helped me navigate a challenging situation in my life”, he said. Shane said his Mind Australia art groups have helped him to better connect with other people and build relationships.

Nikoo agrees that art therapy helps people connect. “When we are talking about a group setting; you’re also able to connect better with others who are also exploring their emotions. A lot of the walls we create for ourselves mentally, but in an art session, most of the time there is no wall, we become more comfortable with vulnerability and we get comfortable with each other.”

When people come to Mind for support, they are often feeling lost or lack hope for the future. Nikoo says exploring creative outlets can inspire and engage clients and help them to move towards a psychological state more conducive to recovery, and provide a sense of purpose.

“In art groups we provide the materials, but not a lot of direction. We facilitate a safe space and clients find themselves being attracted to one or two mediums, which they often develop further skills around. Finding an outlet to reflect a sense of self, may later turn into an identity such as a ceramist, a fine artist, a musician, or a photographer – this can give clients a new purpose in life. That is healing.”

Art and creative groups that help support mental health recovery are commonplace throughout Mind services across Australia. To learn about Mind support services near you contact Mind Connect on 1300 286 463.

Woman standing with framed poem