Art with BA students, Community Mental Health & AOD issues

The BA Community Mental Health, Alcohol and other Drugs course at Chisholm Berwick Campus provides a theoretical as well as practical base for trainee Community Mental Health and AOD workers.

During 2nd semester I led the 1st Year Community Development and 3rd Year Working with Children and Youth students through a creative journey to make a collection of mosaic heads with wonderful headdresses and mirror faces to bring life to the Berwick Campus Library.

Apart from enhancing the newly renovated library, the project had a number of other purposes :

To develop skills in students:

learning creative skills

creating as part of a community

working collaboratively

working to a deadline

breaking tasks into manageable parts

To bring their awareness to:

the pleasure of creating art

the benefits of creating art to growing self-esteem

the feelings of calm and focus whilst creating art

the conversations happening across an artwork

how conversations start and stop during creative practice and how that differs from counselling, and where that may be useful

the role an artist takes in the creative process

the role a mental health/AOD worker has in supporting participants and making a project work well

how to negotiate with another person without causing hurt

how to encourage participants to have a voice in the project development and creative process.

the intense personal relationship makers have with their work – and that creativity and the work must be treated respectfully.

to a wide range of interventions that are available and useful in recovery from Mental Health and AOD issues.

Many 1st and 3rd students have had  little involvement in the creative arts since their school days, and like many participants in the community projects I facilitate, some have for a long time, carried negative feelings of “not being creative” and of how others had responded to their artwork in the past.  It was challenging for some to be involved at first, but by the end, all were surprised by their creations and felt the process had been very enjoyable as well as useful in developing relationships with other students and awareness in how creativity could be utilised in a recovery program.