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Patients get creative and colourful at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital

At the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, patients and staff have been balancing the negative impacts of COVID-19 by finding unique, creative ways to brighten their surroundings.
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​One example of this is a new mural created by a team of talented patients, with support from the health and wellness department and other hospital staff.

The bright, joyful mural is located on a busy corner between the high security units and the rehab department at the hospital and depicts local nature, landscapes and landmarks from the area. It was created to increase the sense of community among staff and patients during the pandemic, and to make the area more welcoming for people passing through.

“This mural is an example of people from different backgrounds coming together to collaborate on a large-scale project and it has brought a real sense of positivity to our patients and the space.”

One patient, F.C., expressed how much it meant to be involved. “I was really happy to be invited to participate in this initiative as I love painting. I enjoyed every moment of it, particularly the opportunity to work with great staff. After all that work its really pleasing to stand back, see ‘the bigger picture’ and feel proud of what we’ve achieved as a team.”

“With restrictions in place such as physical distancing and limitations on visitors to the hospital, we have all been feeling the effects of COVID-19,” said Gavin Wallace, the director of allied health at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. “We wanted to find something fun that patients could be a part of while brightening our environment at the same time, creating something tangible that we could all look back on, fondly and proudly.”

The mural is one of the first things families and visitors see when they come into the hospital, and it certainly makes an impact. 

“We’re all about creating a healthy or therapeutic milieu for our clients,” Gavin continued. “Art therapy is so important to our patients and this mural on the cinder block wall helps to create that positive, therapeutic environment, especially for people coming into the rehab department.”

Art therapy as a way to connect with ourselves and others

Therapeutic art-making is a proven form of care for people with mental illness. It allows for safe creative expression that can positively impact self-esteem, confidence and achievement, while also reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. This is especially important during COVID-19, when feelings of isolation and loneliness can be heightened. 

“This mural is an example of people from different backgrounds coming together to collaborate on a large-scale project and it has brought a real sense of positivity to our patients and the space,” said Raman Dhesi, a health and wellness counsellor at the hospital, and the lead artist for the project. “The partnership between staff and patients is something really special. It has given us an opportunity for connection, something that many people have been lacking of through the pandemic. Even more so, it has given patients a sense of ownership over the space in which reside — something they can be proud of when they walk by it every day.”

Raman Dhesi, health and wellness counsellor at the hospital, was the lead artist for the project​.

Raman and her team asked patients to select the images, symbols, and colours they would like to see in the mural, to draw up the design and to help them prepare the wall surface for painting. From there, things took off, with around 12 patients driving the project over a six-week period, with a little help from staff.

Devon Silvers, a clinical counsellor at the hospital, can also attest to the positivity of the project and how enthusiastic staff and patients were to work alongside each other.

“Not only did this provide a community experience; it was almost equalizing. The area we worked on is so high-traffic that sometimes staff would pass by and ask if they could add little pieces here and there. They would get to see and interact with patients as they painted, building bridging opportunities between the staff members or physicians that would not typically engage with patients in such a fun way. This made it truly collaborative and there was always a hum of activity at the wall.”

Keeping up the creativity

The patients at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital come from all walks of life and, as this mural shows, are a talented group. The hospital team was blown away by the passion and talents of those who participated and Devon hopes to see more of these types of projects in the future. 

“It has been a beautiful experience to paint with these amazingly talented people. Some of the patients we worked with have artistic backgrounds, and one of them even said she felt more human being able to do what she is naturally inclined towards. The more we can unlock these sorts of feelings in our patients, the more positive their time with us will be.”

Learn more about art therapy at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.​

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