Burst of colour raises awareness

There has always been a powerful link between creativity and mental health.

This is according to Dr John Parker, psychiatrist at Lentegeur Hospital and director of the Spring Foundation, who explains that creative therapy provides an effective alternative to traditional therapies.

“Creative therapies often aid children and adolescents who struggle to relate to traditional therapies, due to their trauma or psychological state,” says Parker.

The Spring Foundation, a registered non-profit organisation (NPO) and public benefit organisation (PBO) located at and affiliated to Lentegeur Hospital, aims to enable patients to rebuild their mental and physical wellbeing by funding creative therapeutic projects implemented at Lentegeur Hospital­.

“We organise psychosocial rehabilitation and outreach programmes for patients of Lentegeur Hospital, in order to re-establish a sense of hope and recovery,” says Parker.

The foundation recently partnered with Arting Health for Impact (AHI), a collaborative public engagement project that explores health science communication, collaboration and partnerships as health engagement methods in South Africa, Botswana and India.

Nabeel Petersen, South African country lead for AHI, says the pilot project involved 25 outpatients from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service at Lentegeur Hospital.

“This project specifically sought to forge collaborative partnerships between community members – youth who use mental health services, scientists – clinical staff and street artists,” says Petersen.

Providing specialised services to the largely underprivileged Cape Flats and Overberg areas of the Western Cape, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service at Lentegeur Hospital is a tertiary mental health unit that manages and treats children and adolescents with a diversity of complex psychiatric and psychosocial disorders.

Project participants attended interactive workshops during June and July, focusing on various creative exercises such as drawing, devising story maps, public speaking, spray painting, music and poetry.

The participants identified a mural as their preferred method of expression and found a suitable space at Lentegeur Hospital where it was painted on Saturday 11 August.

The event was attended by members of the organisations, families, staff and the patients­.

“We decided that the mural would be best suited to a bare practice wall at the tennis court on the premises of Lentegeur Hospital. This is an ideal location as the completed mural would be visible by the community via Highlands Drive. Participating in this project and the mural enables participants to feel pride in their journeys to health and to associate positive memories with their healing journey. It allows them to reach out to the community and to feel supported. It breaks down the stigmatised view of mental illness,” says Parker.