A ray of hope for mental health patients

09 Aug 2018

The Royal London Hospital now has the first A&E in the country with a mental health room with artwork created for its users, by its users. The beautiful artwork is designed to calm and reassure patients who have come to the emergency department because they are struggling with their mental health.

Supported by £3000 of our funding, the mental health room at The Royal London's A&E has been filled with calming artwork that creates a soothing ambience for patients in distress. The art wraps around the walls and en-suite, culminating in its feature piece, the Hope Wall. This wall is filled with messages of support from former patients in a variety of languages. The team worked closely with service users to create art inspired by their experiences.

The project was co-ordinated by Rikke Albert, a nurse consultant at the East London NHS Foundation Trust, and Vital Arts, the arts organisation for Barts Health NHS Trust.

Inside the mind of the artist

Artist Mike Miles, founder of 'Visually Speaking', shares with us what the experience of creating this piece was like:

"Illustrators have the chance to draw what other people feel and tell other people's story. That is a great responsibility.

"I'm not in a position to draw what 'hope' looks like to a mental health patient in times of need. I don't think anyone is unless they have been through it. If I drew what I thought it was, without the service users' input, it wouldn't be as effective. It wouldn't feel genuine. It had to be a visualisation of their words and their thoughts.

“They had plenty of ideas on what ‘despair’ was and it was a real pleasure seeing them think what ‘hope’ was to them. It was hard for them to think about ‘hope’ and what it was, they struggled with the words for that. What they gave was very humbling and was the basis for the drawing.

“We started the questions and I asked a big quiet guy in a baggy suit what 'hope' meant to him. He stayed quiet for a long time... looking down at his notes and chest... Just as I was going to say it was okay and he didn't need to say anything if he didn't want to, he abruptly said, "Keys."

"Not freedom, friends, the future, travelling, sunsets etc. Just keys. Having his own keys meant he can leave rooms, have a home, have a car, be independent. Simply all he wanted was to have his own keys.

"I have never looked at my keys the same way since.”

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