This week we have a guest blog from Imogen Godwin at York Mind. Imogen tells us about her experience delivering Arts Award to young people with a range of mental health issues, and the positive impact this work has had.On a Thursday night in a meeting room at York Mind I am lucky enough to be a volunteer Arts Award assistant to a group of charming, bright and creative young people. York Mind is a charity that provides support for people with mental health problems in the York area. One way that we are doing so for young people is via Bronze Arts Award for ages 13-16.
A lot of the young people that we see are involved in mental health services and all have some kind of mental health issue – be that diagnosed or undiagnosed anxiety problems, depression or high levels of stress. Through Arts Award we introduce these young people to different art forms. Some are well aware of where their artistic interests lie even before the first session, others we help to find their creative muse over the weeks. We are currently on the third intake of the 16-week course.
As a facilitator one of my favourite parts is near the beginning, when we give each young person a notebook of their own along with a folder for their evidence. We stress how the notebook is not to be considered as 'work' and that they can use it as a private space to do whatever they wish.
Myself and the young people's co-ordinator, Rab, are not therapists; we don't psychoanalyse what young people say in the group and we don't ask leading questions about mental health. We aim to provide a space for young people to achieve and have a break from whatever problems they experience outside the sessions. For us, Arts Award offers the perfect framework to achieve this. We have discovered that when given the space and the like-mindedness of other young people many participants will open up to each other about their difficulties in pairs or small groups. One of the previous groups even stays in contact with each other via WhatsApp despite their Arts Award journey with us ending.
To date we have tried all kinds of art forms, inviting local artists with a range of specialisms to run workshops. We have done a lot of work on photography and visual art but the young people have also lead us to work with clay, origami and the written word. We have even painted on ice! It is amazing to be able to introduce young people to all these art forms, especially as many of them start with us believing that 'art' only refers to paint and canvas.
The Arts Award group has been incredibly popular amongst our young people, so much so that some of our past groups have recommended us to friends who are struggling. Arts Award offers so many beneficial aspects to participants – social skills, development of artistic skills and increased self-esteem. It promotes to our young people that the arts are always there for them regardless of what problems they may be facing in life. The arts are a great outlet for difficult emotions, and the Bronze award introduces the young people at York Mind to the many ways they can use arts to deal with whatever struggles they may have.
The most important thing? It is great fun, and that alone in my opinion is enough to improve anybody's mental health!
For more information on York Mind, visit www.yorkmind.org.uk