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Special exhibition showcases artist's journey through therapy

​A Norfolk artist who received “astronomical” support from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to overcome challenging behaviour within her family is exhibiting a series of works charting her journey through therapy.

Katherine Gilmartin, who lives in Norwich, is holding the “Finding a Voice” exhibition in collaboration with NSFT Art Psychotherapist Jan Goldsworthy. It will be held at the city’s Nunnsyard Gallery, until Wednesday (19 July).

The 32-year-old is displaying large drawings, water colours and illustrations which show the “good, bad and ugly of parenting and mental health”, as well as Jan’s artistic response to them.

It comes after Katherine and her son Finley received around 18 months of support from NSFT’s Compass Outreach Service to help them manage the 11-year-old’s increasingly difficult behaviour.

Run by NSFT in partnership with Norfolk County Council and the Benjamin Foundation, the service works with families with looked after children or who are on the edge of care and helps stabilise them and return children from out of county placements back to their homes.

It provides joint health, social care and education assessments and tailored support to address their individual needs. For Katherine and Finley, this included talking therapies and innovative ways to help them communicate, such as by building dens in the garden or during days out, in turn improving their relationship.

“The exhibition shows my journey with Compass,” explained Katherine. “The pieces include stages where I was going through lots of talking therapy and chart the nitty gritty of vulnerability, anger and the different emotions I was experiencing.

“Some feature quite dark humour and violence and express a period where I was coming to terms with how my brain copes with things, while others look at my relationship with Finley. Some people find it difficult and uncomfortable to look at some of the pieces, but for me creating them was a very cathartic experience.

“Looking back at my processes, installations and drawings, I can see what I wasn’t willing to say – it’s like an inner monologue silently screaming. This exhibition marks several transitions, and I hope the work I have chosen to display can create further dialogue surrounding mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk and what services look like throughout the UK.

“I am also showing the works as a way of thanking Compass for the help we received. I found it very difficult to know how to manage at times with Finley as changes in our home situation set us both off on an unsure path.

“The support the team provided helped me massively – gigantically – astronomically! They were really flexible and responsive, and the service meet the needs of the family as a whole, as well as those of individual family members.

“We have now been discharged and Finley is much better. I have a much greater understanding of family culture and can now look at the bigger picture. I’ve gained the confidence to make my own decisions and support my son the way he needs to be supported.”

Jan, who works with the Compass service, said: “Katherine’s work powerfully encapsulates the visual feelings of being caught in a monologue of disturbing experiences that wear into everyday life for many people, particularly women, who are affected with mental health difficulties. Our theme focuses on womanhood and the internal conflict of being a mother.

“The statistics for 2017 on post-natal depression present as 3.1%, or 15.7% if you have a traumatic birth (NSPCC and NICE guidelines 2017). Many women are undiagnosed and do not come forward with difficulties of traumatic birth for support.

“We are hoping this exhibition helps bring awareness to mental health issues and can help others to find their voices also.”

Finding a Voice will run at the gallery, which is St Augustine’s Street, from 10am until 4pm until next Wednesday (19 July).

Katherine is inviting people to post their responses to the exhibition on social media using the hashtag #findingavoice17

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