The 25-year-old has cerebral palsy and has suffered with anorexia, depression, bullying and domestic abuse for years. Art therapy has transformed her life by giving her a way to express her emotions instead of turning to unhealthy coping methods such as self-harm. Emily, who lives in Guernsey, said: “Art has been a huge tool for my mental health and as an act of self-care. I do a lot of painting and a lot of drawing. “I had a lot of trauma in my life. I suffered with anorexia when I was a teenager and recovered, but then unfortunately relapsed in 2015. I was a victim of domestic violence and suffered bullying, bereavements, family breakdowns.
“I’ve spent two years out of hospital now which is a big achievement, and art has helped me throughout this entire journey.”
Emily first began using art as a way to communicate during an inpatient stay for her eating disorder. She now enjoys weekly sessions with a local artist where she can release her feelings with the stroke of a brush.
“I couldn’t really talk in my sessions or group work but as soon as I sat down and had a piece of paper in front of me and some paint or some pens it was like I’d go into another world,” she said.
Emily loves drawing colourful butterflies as a reminder that she can be free from past struggles. She said art is a “powerful tool” and many more people could benefit from engaging with creative therapy.
“Whether or not you’ve got mental health problems, everybody should do art. You just go into another world and disconnect and feel free.
“Doctors are so quick to just prescribe tablets and drugs, which in some cases you do need, but actually if you prescribe art that can be another tool of support for people.”
Crafternoon will see thousands of people in England and Wales come together to paint, sketch, stick and sew across the country to raise funds for mental health charity Mind. Events last year raised almost £100,000 – enough to fund 16,000 calls to the charity’s infoline.
Karen Bolton, head of community and events fundraising at Mind, said: “It’s so incredible to hear how Emily has used art therapy as a way to express herself and manage her mental wellbeing.
“This type of therapy can be beneficial for a wide range of mental health conditions and we would encourage anyone who has been inspired by Emily’s story to check in with their GP to see if they can access a similar service.
“We would like to say a massive thank you to Emily for taking part in Crafternoon and wish her the very best with her event.”
COMMENT BY RACHEL BOYD
Anyone with a love of arts and crafts will tell you that there’s nothing like taking an afternoon to get creative if you need a moment of stillness.
But beyond providing general wellbeing benefits, art and specifically regulated arts therapies are increasingly being recognised as an effective treatment for mental health problems.
In art therapy sessions participants, under the guidance of a therapist, will use art materials to communicate experiences or emotions that may be difficult to put into words.
Often these activities aim to help participants resolve or find a way to live with these feelings.
In general, arts and creative therapies provide participants with a safe space in which they know they won’t be judged. There’s no need to have any art skills or experience to be able to take part.
However, you can enjoy the wellbeing benefits associated with arts and crafts without necessarily taking part in art therapy.
There’s evidence to suggest that activities such as knitting, when done on a regular basis, can improve mood and increase feelings of relaxation.
The act of sitting and repeating simple actions can be almost meditative and help you to switch off from day-to-day pressures.
Some creative hobbies can be done with others or in groups, which can help to strengthen our support networks.
Today, 20 July, thousands of incredible fundraisers up and down the country will be taking part in ‘Crafternoon’ events which raise vital money for the mental health charity Mind.
These craft-based fundraisers can be held throughout summer – all you need to do to sign up is visit www.mind.org.uk/crafternoonregister.
Whether you’re a knitting novice or a paper folding pro, the money raised through your Crafternoon will help Mind to ensure that everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets the support and respect they deserve.
Rachel Boyd is Head of Information Content at Mind