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Thursday 25 November 2021

“Life-changing” exhibition success

UCLan students and local mental health service users explore what it means to be human

A creative project involving University of Central (UCLan) students and mental health service users has been hailed a success after participants described it as “life-changing.

The Being Human exhibition at UCLan’s PR1 Gallery showcased the work of 40 BSc (Hons) Coaching, Counselling and Psychological Interventions undergraduates alongside services users and staff from Guild Lodge Secure Unit and Skylark Rehabilitation Centre, two of the Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust NHS’s local mental health facilities.

The students had to produce one piece of any type of art form as part of their studies while it was part of the occupational therapy treatment for the service users.

The project challenged all participants to consider what it means to be human and to explore new ways of expressing emotions through creative means. The results produced an array of paintings, drawings, sculptures, poems and films.

"If I want to help people deal with their own issues, then I need to allow myself the space and time to reflect on my own. I have found this module truly life-changing."

Coaching, Counselling and Psychological Interventions student Janet Reed

Student Janet Reed said: “I revisited three areas of trauma in my life. Although it was all consuming it also brought a sense of calm because I was dealing with grief in a new way. If I want to help people deal with their own issues, then I need to allow myself the space and time to reflect on my own. I have found this module truly life-changing.”

Another student, Hannah Beckford, added: “It’s wonderful to feel valued as individuals and I’ve enjoyed the chance to take a deep look into who I really am and what my core beliefs are.”

A service user from Guild Lodge has produced several paintings for the exhibition. He used the project to explore how his life was going in the wrong direction and led him to becoming very unwell.

"It’s allowed me to reflect on what happened and realise that there is still hope. "

A service user from Guild Lodge

He said: “It’s allowed me to reflect on what happened and realise that there is still hope. Prior to my time at Guild, I hadn’t drawn for pleasure for a long time and now I find myself enjoying it and hopefully this will take my life in a new direction.”

NHS occupational therapist Mark Love has led the creative sessions at Guild Lodge as well as working with the Skylark Centre. He said: “People communicate in different ways. Expression through artwork encourages interaction and gives our service users a sense of control and identity.

“This is the first time we have brought service users, staff and students together for an exhibition and we’d like to build on this for future projects.”

"This exhibition shows in so many different ways what it means to be human and hopefully challenges preconceptions about mental health."

Lowri Dowthwaite, Senior Lecturer in psychological interventions

Lowri Dowthwaite, Senior Lecturer in psychological interventions, added: “We’re incredibly proud of the work our students and service users have produced. They have all reached outside of their comfort zones to explore and express their emotions creatively.”

“This exhibition shows in so many different ways what it means to be human and hopefully challenges preconceptions about mental health.”

The exhibition took place in UCLan’s PR1 Gallery between Tuesday 23 November and Friday 26 November.

The Being Human exhibition in UCLan's PR1 Gallery01 / 12