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Shining a spotlight on the link between recovery and art

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) service users for whom art plays a significant role in their recovery are to showcase their work at a special exhibition in Ipswich designed to give them a voice and help them tell their stories.

Called “Recovery – How art helps us”, the exhibition will feature paintings, sculptures, sketches and textile pieces made by 25 people who have received inpatient treatment from NSFT or who work with Ipswich-based arts charities Inside Out Community and LockArts. It will also include work by people who have joined an art group run by NSFT’s Ipswich Integrated Delivery Team, which helps service users improve their wellbeing by making art in a social setting at Ipswich Library.

The exhibition has been organised in partnership with the University of Suffolk (UoS) and takes place at their Waterfront Gallery between 1 and 17 May. It has been designed to show how creativity can support recovery from mental health problems and improve wellbeing through finding meaning in art-making.

The project has been supported by evidence which demonstrates that taking part in the arts and having access to artwork can improve clinical outcomes in mental and physical health.

“Engaging in art can be a very meaningful part of recovery, both in hospital and afterwards,” said Maggie Batchelar, Art Therapist with NSFT. “We have encouraged some submissions from people who have had admissions to NSFT’s Woodlands Unit in Ipswich, and for whom art-making is playing a significant part in their recovery. We’ve had a brilliant response and are really looking forward to showing the work to a wider audience.

“The exhibition will include a range of work in different mediums, and we’ve invited the artists to write a short description of why, how and where they made their artwork to convey what creating the piece meant to them.

“We hope that the exhibition will help give people a voice to communicate their experiences, which will contribute towards an increased understanding of mental health issues and challenge assumptions. We also hope it will encourage staff working in mental health to think about finding different and creative ways to engage with people to help them better understand their stories.”

Simon Sparrow, Associate Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at UoS, said: “This is a wonderful collaboration between NSFT, the artists themselves and the UoS School of Health Sciences.

“Our student nurses are encouraged to work alongside service users to develop therapeutic relationships, which are often initiated and enhanced through creative and artistic interventions. This exhibition of artwork helps to demonstrate how recovery can be enabled and maintained through art.

“Our new mental health nursing curriculum begins next year, and will include a ‘creative interventions’ module. Therefore, this exhibition is very much in keeping with the humanistic values in our mental health nurse education programme.”

A second exhibition shining a spotlight on work carried out at the Woodlands Unit by arts charity Hospital Rooms will open at the UoS in June. For more information about the project, visit

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