How did you first get into the arts, and what sort of work do you do?
I’m a mental health nurse by background and I was fortunate enough to be involved in the decommissioning of Whitchurch Hospital and the commissioning of Hafan y Coed at University Hospital Llandough. In the new mental health unit we utilised art to provide a stimulating environment and to engage with artists who had lived experience of poor mental health, or who used art to aid their recovery and/or participated in arts to maintain good mental health. The arts programme at the unit received positive feedback. At the same time, I was part of a small team who drove the agenda to build and deliver an art gallery on the UHL site, the Hearth gallery. I was also asked to manage the arts curator for the Hearth gallery.
My current role is as Head of the arts for well-being programme and team. My role includes driving forward the Health Board’s Art strategy, which promotes utilising arts in the staff well-being, social prescribing, and other health agendas.
I am in awe of the artists we work with at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and see the positive difference the arts bring to clinical settings. I am very proud of the art team and what we have achieved with the support and funding from the Arts Council of Wales and Cardiff & Vale Health Charity.
How is the association between the arts and mental health relevant to you?
As a mental health nurse, I am acutely aware of the arts as a way for people to express their feelings, imaging their future and bring some comfort. I have seen how engaging in, observing or discussing art can create a different mind-set that produces a much more positive outcome for individuals.
I see the difference that takes place when individuals engage in art as providing direction, self-worth, confidence, a voice, expression, joy and affirming their feelings.
As humans, we often crave connections and arts is able to provide that in a safe and structured arena
How important do you think it is that the arts can help prevent mental illness?
I have experience of people utilising arts as a method of preventing relapse in their mental state, practising self-management and developing arts practices as a solution to maintain their ability to function and deter any existing problems getting worse
What would you like to see done better, or differently, that could help artists, practitioners, or arts organisations in Wales?
I would like to see more monies within health boards to ensure that good quality arts projects can be delivered to support patients, staff, and our communities. We are in a unique position to engage and access so many people and can influence the choices they make about prevention, self-care and maintaining good mental health, therefore, we have the opportunity to work in partnership with artists, art organisations and third sector organisations to make a difference but this requires time, commitment, good governance and financial support.
What are your hopes for the future, in terms of your own work and of the arts in general?
My hope is that arts becomes a central component of health and well-being for the Health Boards within Wales and is fundamental to our Health Board’s vision of keeping people well. It would be great if the arts in health is part of an approach that builds confidence and connections so that people can better face life’s challenges