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Exhibition shows power of art along journey to hope

​Mental health is the focus of an exhibition at Great Yarmouth Minster next month as artwork by service users, volunteers and staff at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) goes on display.

'Journeying With Hope' is the brainchild of NSFT Chaplain Julie Warren and Anna Heydon, Development Worker at Imagine Norfolk Together. It aims to promote the benefits of creative expression along the path of recovery and mental wellbeing.

The artwork, which will be on display from Friday, 5 October to Saturday, 6 October, 9.30am-4pm, includes inventive, thought-provoking and inspiring paintings, drawings, photographs, verse, music and a table collage of encouraging words and images.

Natasha Reynolds is one of the many service users across the Trust who have contributed to the exhibition. She said: "It helps me to bring out what I feel inside. I love art. I've loved art since I was 11. My grandad taught me how to paint and I have been painting ever since.

"I had a breakdown when Nan and Mum died and I gave up everything, including my art, but Dad encouraged me to get back into it and it's been a big part of my getting well again.

"If your mood's low, doing art lifts your mood and lights up your day. It's something to concentrate on and helps me to cope with problems. It's very relaxing."

Staff and volunteers in the Trust's Spiritual and Pastoral Care team have been supporting service users in expressing their creativity.

Julie said: "We want to show how creative expression, such as through art and verse, music and photography, is important to mental wellbeing, recovery from mental illness and to spiritual care.

"Spiritual and pastoral work is all about sitting alongside someone when the meaning of their life shifts, when belief systems shift during illness, and helping them to create a sense of meaning, purpose and identity for themselves.

"We find that people will often open up about things while engaged in something creative, and work through whatever feelings they are dealing with, people who struggle to talk about their feelings find they can express them artistically, and others enjoy the freedom it gives them from what's going on inside."

Imagine Norfolk Together is a partnership between the Diocese of Norwich and the Church Urban Fund.

Anna said: "Julie and I have been working together on ways in which local churches can support the work of NSFT among people experiencing mental health issues, and has included organising this exhibition.

"Art is a gift which, through its creation and appreciation, can allow us to express and explore our emotions and understanding of life.

"This exhibition is particularly a chance to explore the relationship between hope, faith and mental health."

Revd Simon Ward, Team Rector, Great Yarmouth Team Ministry, said: "We're delighted to welcome 'Journeying With Hope' to the Minster. So many people in our community struggle with issues of mental wellbeing and it's vital to highlight this and explore the part art can play in supporting people. I have seen first-hand how important art can be to help people express feelings which they struggle to put into words."

John Dashwood, who designed the stained-glass windows of The Haven (formerly called The Chapel) at NSFT's Hellesdon Hospital, was also commissioned to do work at Great Yarmouth Minster.

The main aims of NSFT's Spiritual/Pastoral Care team include: 

  • Making sure that service users and carers have an opportunity to discuss their spiritual needs as part of assessment and care planning;
  • Working with service users to understand their spiritual needs so that appropriate services can be provided;
  • Supporting the spiritual needs of Trust staff;
  • Working with faith communities to improve understanding of mental illness and strengthen their capacity to support people with mental health problems.

Caption: ​Dawn Li, Spiritual Support Volunteer, Natasha Reynolds, contributing artist, Chaplain Julie Warren and Veronica Rackham, Assistant Practitioner, with some of the artwork.