VISITORS and staff at the Borders General Hospital have a visually spectacular reminder that one in four people in the UK will, at some point in their lives, experience mental health problems.
That statistic inspired the formation of the One-In-Four art group at the Galashiels Resource Centre, the progressive and interactive mental health day service operated by NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council.
For the past six months, group members and their tutors have been dedicating much time, effort and creativity to producing a 72-tile collage-style mural which was recently unveiled at the BGH.
The large art installation is on the first floor, replacing a jigsaw mural which was on the wall outside the canteen for six years.
Co-incidentally, as with a jigsaw, the pieces on the new work can be moved around, to alter the aesthetic, and to reveal, on one in four of the squares, the image of a well-known personality – such as Stephen Fry or comedienne Ruby Wax – who has been affected by mental illness and open about its impact.
Based on the themes of recovery, hope, enablement, integration and involvement, the artwork aims to challenge stereotypes about mental health issues and replace them with more positive, optimistic and realistic perceptions.
“The service users in our group do not follow one single model of art therapy, but instead are encouraged to see art as a therapeutic activity and a means of self-expression,” said resource centre manager Andy Greenfield.
“They experience a relaxed, supportive and creative atmosphere in which friendships often form and they draw their inspiration from artists like Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Claude Monet, Mark Rothko, Richard Dadd and Edvard Munch, all of whom experienced mental illness and found solace in their work.”
After the mural was unveiled, SBC social work director Andrew Lowe told us it was symbolic of the fact that, although mental illness was all around us, it did not mean that opportunities should be limited or people hindered.
“Working on people’s strengths and abilities, rather than taking a negative view of the illness, is the way forward,” said Mr Lowe. “This is a hugely impressive piece of work by people who are working to do just that and I would encourage anyone visiting the hospital to take time to view it.”
John Raine, chairman of NHS Borders, added: “We have placed this amazing installation in one of the busiest spots in the hospital and I know staff and visitors will get a lot of pleasure from it for a long time to come.”