“You could have a skill you never knew you had”: voices from our mental health project with young people

creative tandem ceramics mental health workshop

creative:tandem is our multi-artform programme empowering children and young people who have a serious mental health illness.

For four years, we have been delivering creative arts projects at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit at Maudsley Hospital in South London. Snowsfields is an open adolescent unit offering mental health care for adolescents with a serious mental illness who require hospital admission.

Our professional artists have been using creativity to help these young patients develop their creative and social skills, which enables self-expression and increases confidence and self-esteem. This year, for the first time, we have expanded the project to young people on the Bethlem Adolescent Unit in Beckenham. Both hospitals are part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM).

creative tandem mental health ceramics workshop

Our artists have already led workshops in visual art, photography and ceramics since April, with music and jewellery-making to come in the next few months.

In January 2021, it was reported that children being referred to the NHS with serious mental health problems reached a record high, with 4,615 per 100,000 children being referred. This was reportedly up nearly 20% on the previous year. Our partnership with the incredible team at SLAM has never been more important.

After our recent ceramics project, we spoke to two participants about their experiences.

Meet Morgan

creative tandem mental health ceramics workshop

“We were making pottery with clay, and we could make pretty much whatever we wanted. We learnt different ways to make what we wanted. I made ‘autism bowls’, as well as lots of mushrooms and a soap dish. Basically, an autism bowl is a portion bowl. Lots of autistic people don’t like their food touching.

“Being creative is a good distraction. It’s fun. Sometimes it’s fun to do stuff with your hands instead of writing everything. It’s also nice to see new people. On the ward there’s a lot of drama at the moment, but because we’re just doing clay there’s not much drama here.

“I do creative things usually at least once a week on the ward, and then you can do your own stuff whenever you want. At home I made a lamp out of clay. It was a mushroom lamp. Do you know how expensive mushroom lamps are? Very. My mum had one because they were popular in the 1980s when she was growing up. She showed me and I was like ‘Wow they’re so cool’, and I went on eBay and they’re like £100. I was like ‘I could buy two packs of clay for £10 and make this’, so I did.”

Meet Jessie

“We’ve been learning how to use clay and different techniques like “quilling”, which is used to build bigger things. I’ve also been making characters.

“It was my first time. At first, I was a bit nervous but then I felt happier and more comfortable. The Create staff and artist were really nice and lovely so I enjoyed it. You made it more fun.

“At first, I didn’t really talk to one of the people in the group, and by making clay [together] we started to talk more, and then I guess we became friends.

“I don’t normally do creative things. It’s good to do something creative so you can express yourself through art, and you never know, you might be good at it. You could have a skill you never knew you had. I’ve learnt that I’m kind of good at making things with clay.”

Read our interview with Dr Richard Corrigall, consultant adolescent psychiatrist at Snowsfields

Read our interview with two occupational therapists at Snowsfields

Read two more case studies from creative:tandem

creative:tandem is supported by:

John Horniman’s Children’s Trust

The Fitton Trust

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