A USW lecturer and graduate have been using art to help support the mental health and wellbeing of vulnerable people through the Covid-9 pandemic.
Heather Parnell, Lecturer in the MA Arts Practice (Arts, Health and Wellbeing) course, and Kira Withers-Jones, a recent graduate of the degree programme, both have their work featured in a film commissioned by Wales Arts Health & Wellbeing Network (WAHWN), showing how groups across Wales have been working to provide support to those struggling with mental health problems during the recent period of lockdown.
Heather, who is also Capital Arts Manager for Swansea Bay Arts & Heritage for Health Team – part of Swansea Bay University Health Board – commissioned artwork for field hospitals that were set up to create extra bed capacity in response to the pandemic. Artist Louise Shenstone created panel and hoardings artwork, while artist Johan Skre created an immersive nature installation.
Heather said: “The project manager of one of the field hospitals had a very specific request from the nursing team to create spaces that would offer support for their staff, and that would also send a clear message to the loved ones of those patients that were being cared for in the field hospitals, that they were being looked after with respect, compassion and dignity.
“At the same time, the Chaplaincy had contacted the arts and health team and said that they also wanted to support staff by creating spaces for prayer as well as contemplation in each of the field hospitals, thus having places where staff could go to step away from the intensity and emotional difficulty of working in this current situation.”
Kira works as a service user engagement officer for Inside Out Cymru, an arts and mental health charity delivering arts workshops and activities across Gwent.
She has sent out 45 creativity kits to those participants most in need, to encourage them to stay creative during lockdown.
Thanks to emergency funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, and materials donated by the Asda Pillgwenlly store in Newport, the boxes have helped provide ideas for the participants to get involved in a range of art projects.
She said: “To help those who might not have as many ideas at the moment, we also put in some art worksheets provided by community artist Rhian Anderson and a list of how to find us on social media. While we can’t meet our participants face-to-face right now, it doesn’t mean that we have forgotten about them.”
To find out more about what the various projects have been doing, watch the video in full here: