An exhibition of art by patients on Stepping Hill’s mental health wards Arden and Norbury.

Saturday September 30th – Friday November 10th 2023.

Engaging in arts activities for wellbeing is about the process, not the result.

When a person engages in art their brain releases dopamine regardless of whether the resulting work is any good or not. It is the process of creating something that gives the benefit, not the end result. Engaging in the arts improves brain plasticity and increases neural connections.

Arc has been delivering creative wellbeing activities at Stepping Hill since the mid 1990s, engaging hundreds of patients since then. Arc has a long history of providing weekly creative writing sessions for patients on Norbury and Arden, two 24-bed adult acute in-patient wards for males and females aged 18-65 experiencing a deterioration in their mental health. Other past projects include artist residencies in the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, developing artwork for the garden space and collaborative pieces that decorate the walls. Creative activities play a key part in patients’ experience at the hospital. Working closely with the Occupational Therapy team, Arc has been able to provide activities which can distract and engage, provide a calm creative space, and also signpost patients to Arc’s Wellbeing Programmes on discharge.

“Studies have shown that expressing themselves through art can help people with
depression and anxiety. And doing so has been linked to improved memory, reasoning,
and resilience in healthy older people”. 
-The Healing Power of Art’, Harvard University


Ward staff see the value of this work and now facilitate a huge range of creative activities themselves, to the benefit of their patients. Taking part in art activities is relaxing, mindful and meditative. It can be cathartic and expressive. It can develop new skills or rekindle old ones. It can unlock skills they didn’t know they had. There are lots of very practical reasons why we might use arts activities to observe and gain insight into a patient’s illness and the level of their occupational performance. The staff like to utilise arts in all its forms; painting, drawing, creative writing, photography, music, sculpting, printing, collage, graffiti, exploring as many techniques as possible enables patients to find something they enjoy. Not only is this a continuation of developing new-found skills, but it helps continue their therapy and aid in avoiding relapse and readmission to hospital.

Obviously, art isn’t for everyone. But one thing is for sure, when we let go of the desire for a perfect end result and simply get lost in the process, that is where the real magic happens.

Join us on Saturday September 30th from 11:00-15:00 for the launch event, where you can view the exhibition and try creative, family-friendly Saturday Art Club activities inspired by those that patients try on the wards.

The exhibition continues 10:00-16:00 on Thursdays and Fridays until 16:00 on Friday November 10th 2023.

Creative process can help patients;

reduce anxiety,
connect with each other, 
inspire conversation, explore imagination,
encourage them to look beyond the hospital experience,
do something constructive,
address the boredom of being in a ward environment,
make or create something beautiful,
express how they are feeling and share this with staff and other patients,
discover something about themselves,
develop a skill,
have fun and laugh,
be reflective,
improve focus,
increase confidence and self esteem.

Zeilig, West, Hackmann, Plant and Handley, Baring Foundation report, 2022.