The healing qualities of creativity

03.07.14 Categories: Art and mental health

Amanda Glynn volunteers at Bethlem art studio and helps service users express themselves through art.

Amanda's husband suffered a stroke in the autumn of 2012 and luckily has since made an incredible recovery, but the experience had a huge impact on Amanda.

‘It threw everything up in the air and made me evaluate my life,’ she says. ‘I thought about all the big questions: what do I want out of life?’

Amanda is a trained artist and after her husband’s illness she started to think about the healing qualities of creativity. This led her to get in touch with Isobel Mdudu, SLaM’s Volunteer Services Development Manager, and Amanda now volunteers two mornings a week in the Bethlem art studio.

The power of art and creativity

The light and airy studio is a place where service users from across SLaM can be referred. Those who drop in find volunteers like Amanda ready to help them explore the various materials available: everything from painting and drawing to printing and working in 3D. Amanda says she takes some time to find out about each service user when they first come in.

‘We talk about their art background, I give them a tour of the studio and show them some of the possibilities and then they take the lead. You never know what’s going to happen,’ she says. She loves being able to see the massive impact that time in the studio can have.

‘Some people are hesitant at first but after two hours they’re saying, “I’ll be back next week.” We talk through what they’ve created – making something gives people a sense of achievement.’

A continuing journey

As well as her regular sessions at the art studio, Amanda has also helped with some of SLaM’s one-off events, which she says have given her the opportunity to see amazing work produced by talented artists who have been service users. This has included displays at the Summer Fayre and an exhibition for World Mental Health Day. The studio has close links with the Bethlem Gallery and runs regular workshops for ex-service users who are practising artists.

Amanda says she has learnt a lot from her time volunteering and has found the experience to be really rewarding.

‘I love meeting the people – I don’t want to miss a session,’ she says. And for anyone thinking about getting involved, Amanda share this advice: ‘Just do it! It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.’ 

Find out more about volunteering for SLaM, or get involved by becoming a fundraising volunteer.