art therapy

A huge ‘thank you’ from Barking!

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A HUGE thank you to everyone who came down to our private view for the Mental Spaghetti group show in Barking last Friday, and to our ever-helpful and accommodating hosts, Studio 3 Arts.

An especially big thank you and congratulations goes to our featured artists!

The exhibition continues until Friday 24th July, so we aren’t putting all the photos online yet. Here are a few sneaky peeks for you!

We had a steady turn-out of folks over the evening, despite being situated off the beaten track, who all thoroughly enjoyed viewing the work by Lazz Ozerden, Jan Arden, David Feingold, Marie-Louise Plum and Faye Scott-Farrington. The sun was out, the garden was glorious and drinks were flowing. Oh, and Chipsticks. Essential!

A few snaps from the evening…










…and a digital postcard from Barking itself…

Hope to see you here before we head for pastures new in August!

❤ Mental Spaghetti

Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health

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Some time ago, Mental Spaghetti was cited as a resource for further reading in Roberta McDonnell’s book, Creative and Social Support in Mental Health. Roberta has recently got in touch to provide a summary PDF to readers of Mental Spaghetti as the book may prove useful. The book is available to buy, however it’s rather expensive, so this one is aimed more at mental health professionals and degree students, or people with flush wallets. An interesting and informative read, none-the-less, so if you can get hold of a copy, do get stuck in.

Roberta McDonnell worked in mental health nursing, then completed her BA and PhD in social anthropology at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland. She left her university research post to pursue interests in counselling studies and creative writing.

Download a summary of Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health.

There is a chapter available to read on Amazon, if you click the ‘look inside’ option and scroll through.

Read the book blurb, below…
“Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health explores service users’ lived experiences of mental health recovery within a day-centre setting where creative activity and social support were key aspects of the service. These two facets, creative activity and social support are established as conducive to mental health, particularly when in partnership with one another and when there is a venue in which to gather on a regular and frequent basis. McDonnell argues that the uplifting effects of creative activities such as art, music, and creative reading and writing (bibliotherapy), alongside the communality incorporated into the general ethos and social setting of many of the projects cited, are a positive force for change and that resource allocation and integrated care models should reflect this new paradigm. These findings are situated within a framework that takes into account current publicised debates on the nature of psychiatry and mental health care and suggests that creativity and social support are at least as important as mainstream medical treatment, especially within a recovery and health promotion model.”

‘Behold Continues to Retreat’ at Bethlem Gallery

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Face on Walk By Anthony Green

Curated by Mark Titchner
27 May – 4 July 2015
Including works by Albert, Anna Barriball, Anthony Green, Barrington, Chantal Joffe, Dan Duggan, David
Musgrave, David Beales, Ewan Gibbs, Matthew, Paul Noble, Peter White, Raymond, Sam Sakya.

‘Behold Continues to Retreat’ is an exhibition curated by Mark Titchner that combines artworks depicting uninhabited rooms, buildings and landscapes with a series of portraits and works that explore the representation of the face.

These distinct groups of works are presented in opposition to each other each occupying half of the gallery space. Portraits staring into landscapes and landscapes absorbing their gaze. The eye’s migration and back again. Bringing together Bethlem Gallery artists, renowned contemporary artists and works from the Bethlem Museum art collection the exhibition will explore the experience of creating, observing and being observed.

The gallery invited artist Mark Titchner to guest curate this exhibition, to bring together artists from different backgrounds and experiences to explore common creative ground and bring different communities of artists together on an equal footing.

Mark explains “In developing the idea for this exhibition I was struck by a description of the work of Bethlem artist Albert. Albert, whose work is included in the exhibition, produces stark, geometric pencil drawings which depict uninhabited spaces and architecture. One interpretation of these works would be that they depict threatening, institutional spaces but instead the artist’s intention was to depict spaces within which he felt comfortable and to bring them to life.”

These spaces are empty in order to invite us in to them.

Another Bethlem artist, Dan Duggan, again included in the exhibition and working with pencil, produces heavily rendered portraits that repeatedly depict the same rudimentary face. These faces appear in different stages of construction or disintegration perhaps missing a mouth or the crown of the head but always with glaring eyes fixing the viewer. These works do propose an interesting question…

How does one portrait stare more than another?

“If Albert’s landscapes long to be filled what do these eyes invite? Do they ask us to empathise or do they confront us? Do they beckon us in or warn us away?
It is this projection of the artist or the viewer into an imagined space or physiognomy that is the crux of this exhibition. Of what is projected and of what is left behind. What response does an empty landscape elicit in the viewer that is different from the experience offered by a depiction of a face? Do we respond specifically to individual works or do we follow predetermined patterns that these genres demand.

Does a landscape demand a pair of eyes upon it?”

“So with this in mind, my proposition for this exhibition was that each empty landscape should be offered the unblinking gaze of a portrait and in turn each portrait should be provided a world for those eyes to fill. Or : If an artworks nature resides in its completion by a notional gaze or space what happens when that notional gaze or space is offered by another artwork that in turn demands a notional gaze or space to complete it?”, says Mark.

Gallery Director Beth Elliott says “Mark has been supporting and promoting the arts at Bethlem for several years. He has had a long-term interest in the historic collections and holds our contemporary artists in high regard. It’s been a pleasure working with him on this project.”

The Bethlem Gallery is situated on the grounds of The Bethlem Royal Hospital, the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world still functioning today. The small artist-led team that runs the gallery works with individuals to develop their practice and professional opportunities, by making time, space, resources and support available.

Collectively we strive to develop the careers, experience and expertise of the gallery artists by creating opportunities for professional development during a person’s time in hospital and beyond. Our successful artist- in-residence projects also work with patients and staff on site to improve the experience of the hospital environment.

The gallery works with a broad range of artists and art practices. It provides a space for high-quality artwork and a platform for experimentation, collaboration and skills exchange. The exhibition will provide the setting for this year’s Creativity and Wellbeing Week, hosted by London Arts in Health Forum.

Gallery and museum open the first and last Saturdays of the month 10am – 5pm. Join us for a round table discussion with artist Mark Titchner and writer Iain Sinclair to launch Creativity and Wellbeing Week 2015 on Saturday 6th June hosted by London Arts in Health Forum.

Opening Event: 27 May, 3 – 5pm
Exhibition continues: 28 May – 4 July
Opening times: Wed – Friday, 10am – 5pm

Address: The Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital
Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent, BR3 3BX
Travel: Nearest British Rail: Eden Park / East Croydon
Contact: Beth Elliott, Gallery Director, 020 3228 4101


Cee Smith

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“I am a newly established visual artist,  tattooist and author. I always have been in touch with my creative side and have a passion for sharing my skills with the world. I was very good at art at school in particular drawing and painting were my two favourite subjects. I did not go on to formally pursue art at any point until now. It has always been my dream to become an artist and follow in the foot steps of legendary artists like Van Gogh who also became an artist in later on in life and has given me much inspiration.

I have Borderline Personality Disorder comorbidity with Bipolar II which gives me the ability to use my unpredictable emotions in my art. I also have dyslexia which helps much with my creative nature naturally I am a person of the right side of the brain. My goals for the future would be to keep improving and developing my art skills and become a recognised portrait artist/tattooist. This privilege of being featured on Mental Spaghetti will help to give people the opportunity to view my work and help to reduce the stigma and raise awareness for mental health.”

The profound value of arts in homelessness

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Guest article by Francesca Baker.
Image credit: SkidRobot Source: Huffington Post

It’s a narrow-minded assumption that the only thing that is needed to alleviate homelessness is homes.

Becoming homeless is a complex experience and is rarely just financial, with relationship breakdown, substance abuse, mental health issues and trauma often within the mix. As a result, it requires a composite and multi-faceted approach to solving. Support for those on the streets is not just about providing food and shelter, the alleviation of immediate physical problems, but improving the quality of life in the long term. The form this takes varies, but one area which has been shown to have significant positive effects is art. Be it acting, music, performance, painting, singing, film, writing or other forms, engaging in creative projects is beneficial in the path of rebuilding lives.

Homeless Link recently published a study exploring the place of creative arts in homeless communities, called Get Creative: Arts For All, and reported that ‘participation can be beneficial from a therapeutic and recreational perspective, as well as helping people to overcome wider issues and develop specific skills.’ It is this holistic and all-encompassing structure that makes working in the arts such a valuable pursuit for those on the streets. Katee Woods, Communications Manager at Create, a creative arts charity, says that ‘From the outside, food or shelter may seem like more important priorities but addressing social issues like isolation, self-esteem, and confidence play a key role in helping to break cycles of homelessness.’

Successful and long-term change is as much an emotional, social and psychological matter as a practical one.

The therapeutic benefits of art are well-documented, and with around seventy percent of homeless people experiencing some kind of mental health problem, arts offer a valuable tool. A space for inspiration and exploration is important for anyone, and can take on particular resonance for people who feel marginalised by society. Sarah Halsey, Learning Programme Co-ordinator at Providence Row tells me taking part in a creative activity provides people with the ‘opportunity to express themselves, their ideas and their experiences in a safe and welcoming environment.’

Being listened to and afforded the opportunity to tell your story is crucial to building self-esteem. Before Jack started attending Create he had lost all his confidence and was struggling with alcoholism. He said, ‘The workshops helped me get the difficulties of my life in perspective. They showed me that I am a valid person and that I’m allowed to have a point of view, and that even though I’ve had difficulties, the work that I was doing was excellent.’ Jack started running his own music workshops at the centre and is now training to be a counsellor.

Christoph from Open Cinema describe how arts help ‘create motivation, and inspiration’ and they see individuals ‘(re)connecting with a sense of purpose or vocation.’ This stimulation and sense of encouragement reinforces feelings of having a contribution to society, boosting confidence and having a profound effect on someone marginalised from society in so many ways. As well as providing an opportunity for participants to meet new people, spend time in a positive environment, develop interests, and distract themselves from immediate problems, and produce something new, there is a practical benefit to the capabilities being developed through participation.

All projects aim to help individuals to make and sustain positive changes in their lives, fostering skills that can be applied in the transition into a more stable lifestyle. Eventually most people on the streets want to be off them, and in work. Employment requires skills such as social interaction, communication, team work, presentation, project management and discipline, and many of the creative projects available aim to facilitate the development of such abilities. Providence Row integrate art to their Learning Programme, as part of the Recovery and Progression service which supports clients to increase their employability skills, improve their health and wellbeing, and reduce isolation and social exclusion. The organisers of the Homeless Film Festival measure achievement and success ‘if during a project we have managed to support the integration of marginalised and homeless affected people into a more long term secure lifestyle.’ It’s about life skills, developing confidence and resilience in the face of adversity.

Life can start to imitate art. ‘Taking on a new activity can be part of facing and meeting small challenges; small steps that result in facing bigger challenges in people’s lives.’ says Ellie Raymont, Marketing Manager at Streetwise Opera. ‘Coming to a session, singing, tackling opera, and singing a solo are all small challenges that can ultimately result in showing people what they are really capable of.’ There’s a pride which comes with producing something from start to finish, as well as a reassurance from the regularity and consistency of engagement from a group of people dedicated to working together. There’s a level of talent being exhibited, and some of Streetwise Opera’s productions have been critically lauded by The Times and other newspapers and shows ‘that whatever life throws at you, you can achieve great things.’

Whatever the creative pursuit and the artistic output it is this which is the real advantage of participation in the arts: the self belief and realisation of achievement. Pride in work and a sense of purpose are hugely important in envisaging a successful future and working towards that future.
– Francesca Baker

“Francesca Baker is curious about the world, eager to explore and experience it, and wholeheartedly believes that creativity helps the mind, soul and body.”
Click to read more articles on her website, and find her on Twitter here.

Image credit: SkidRobot Source: Huffington Post

Borderline Arts launches ‘Enigma’

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Art venture helps “break down significant stigma and shame surrounding an illness that kills 1 in 10 of those diagnosed” says project founder.

Vulnerable residents battling Borderline Personality Disorder have found new hope through an unprecedented art project in Derby, founded by an individual who has been close to losing her life to the illness several times.

Local Charity ‘Borderline Arts’ is excited to launch ‘Enigma’ – an art exhibition aiming to break down stigma surrounding a severe mental health condition called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This exhibition is made up of artwork created by people with BPD. The artists have worked with support artists from the local community to help create images, paintings, sculptural pieces and poetry. The artwork expresses many aspects of living with BPD which the artists felt important to share. There is also a collaborative interactive, installation piece made by several of the artists.

Sarah Eley (who founded Borderline Arts) said ‘Borderline Arts began as a small idea of using the artwork that I’d created to express how it felt to live with BPD to somehow help others understand the condition more. I’d experienced so much stigma because of having a diagnosis of BPD and all that went with it. I was often scared to seek help when (especially medical help), as many of the attitudes I experienced caused me to leave feeling more unwell than before. Many times, this lead to further self harm or attempted suicide. 1 in 10 people with BPD die from suicide and I believe that this number would be considerably less if people felt they were able to access support when they need it, without being judged.’

After exhibiting her own artwork at Artcore’s Gallery in Derby, Sarah felt like she had found a voice and she wanted to give other people with BPD the opportunity to do the same. ‘Enigma’ is a direct result of that. Taking part in this exhibition has been an empowering experience for many of the artists, who can often feel very isolated and misunderstood: ’Being involved in this exhibition gave me the chance to use creativity to understand my condition more. I got to meet others with the same diagnosis, sharing feelings and ideas. Being a part of the Enigma exhibition has enabled me to to become less isolated and to feel part of a team, whilst also giving me a chance to help achieve our common goal of raising awareness and reducing the stigma surrounding BPD’.

Steve Trenchard (Chief Executive of Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust) will be opening the launch evening on Monday 20th April from 7-9pm at Quad, Market Place, Derby. Wine and nibbles will be available to purchase from the Bar. The exhibition will remain open until 25th should you be unable to make the opening evening, but still wish to visit the exhibition at another time. The opening hours are: Tuesday 21st to Saturday 25th: 12am – 8pm. More information can be found on our website: or by emailing us at

The Daily Life Ltd needs YOU!

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Our friends and comrades in art and mental health, The Daily Life Ltd, led by Bobby Baker (not a man), have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for 3 new animations starring Dr Bobby, Roxy and Rudi. Together they will spread the word about their fantastic arts & mental health programme.

Can you help? Here follows a short broadcast from Dr Bobby…

And now some more information from the Daily Life Ltd. team…
Hello! Team Daily Life Ltd here – thanks for stopping by. We’re an arts organisation based in Stratford, East London. Our Artistic Director, Bobby Baker, is well known as an artist and as an ‘expert by experience’ of the mental health system. Our whole mission is to create powerful art that changes the way people think about mental health. We want as many people as possible to see surprising and beautiful work by artists with personal experience of mental health issues – and we need your help.


About this project: who we are and what we do…

The Roxy and Rudi Roadshow Local Wellbeing Research Unit, Shuffle Festival (2013) Photograph: Hydar Dewachi

Having produced Bobby’s art for years, we are now beginning to present work by many more artists who have lived experience of mental distress. This year we’ve raised money to tour exciting work by a group of talented poets, performers, artists and musicians in East London.

Here are some of our amazing lineup:

Selina Thompson, Chewing the Fat (2014)

Laura Jane Dean, This Room (2015)

Simon Raven, Cool Party (2014)

We’ll also be presenting work by artists from the wonderful Outside In at Pallant House Gallery and Bethlem Gallery:

Bethlem Gallery website. Screenshot: February 2015

Outside In National, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (2012) Photograph: Jason Hedges

We’re touring to East London venues like the pioneering Bromley By Bow Centre, Kingsley Hall, Shuffle Festival, and Queen Mary University, London.
Plus we’re planning another stunning Lightbox installation this autumn, building on the success of exhibition in Dalston last year – but this time in Newham.

The Expert View, Lightbox installation, Dalston Square (2014) Photograph: Andrew Whittuck

What we want to do now – with your help
The art is all sorted, as you can see, but now we need to make sure people know about it – locally and online. We’re a minuscule company, so we’re asking for your support to pay for our creative collaborators (Kate Bland, Cast Iron Radio, Pete Baynton, Radish Pictures, Bobby Baker aka ‘Dr Bobby,’) to help develop three more ‘Promo Cartoons.’

Thanks to Pete, Kate and the rest of our collaborators working with Bobby, our tiny, terrific and talented Roxy and Rudi Marketing Team have already been on the road on their mission to SAVE HUMANITY! Check them out on YouTube. As well as promoting new work, the cartoons are also a way of recording our activities and sharing them with people far beyond our East London stomping ground – Roxy, Rudi and Dr Bobby are a multitasking team!

A bit of background information

For those of you who don’t know us yet, and why we have such a passion for the arts and mental health, here’s a word from our Artistic Director Bobby Baker, aka ‘Dr Bobby:’

Bobby Baker, How to Shop (1993) Photograph: Andrew Whittuck

“Hello! I’m an artist and the Artistic Director of Daily Life Ltd. We’re a small Arts Council funded arts organisation based in East London.

I’ve been an artist for 40 years or so, making lots of work about daily life, being a woman, bringing up children, power, that sort of thing …How to change the world, basically.
Between 1997-2008 I had a period of serious mental ill health. I made lots of work about this experience. I had all sorts of treatment – some of it good – and in the end I got better. I’m now proud to describe myself as an expert by experience of the mental health system, and I’ve been Tip Top up Top for a decade or more. But there’s a lot of ignorance, fear and prejudice about mental health out there. This affected me very badly and still does, as it does others. Mental health is a subject that provokes strong feelings – people can get shouty, or boring, or bored or even more confused.

So that’s where the art comes in!

We know that powerful art changes lives and transforms thinking. We want more people to see great work by many people – many more voices, many experiences. We’d love your support to make the The Roxy and Rudi Roadshow Cartoons, so we can promote our fantastic 2015 programme to a wider audience.”

-Thanks, Bobby!

Bobby Baker, Pull Yourself Together, Trafalgar Square, London (2000) Photograph: Hugo Glendinning

Okay, folks, final word from team Mental Spaghetti – go help our buddies Bobby Baker and The Daily Life Ltd. raise what they need to animate their adventures! Thank you!