The Saint-François Newspaper | Art invites itself to psychiatry

The Saint-François Newspaper |  Art invites itself to psychiatry
Written by TEWSV

Communicating our thoughts and feelings to others can be a challenge for anyone. But it is even more so if you live with mental health problems. Patients admitted to psychiatry at the Anna-Laberge hospital in Châteauguay use art to question themselves and share their experiences.

What does your mental health mean to you? Here is the question that was recently posed to users of the psychiatry unit in an art therapy laboratory. Their task was to respond by illustrating their ideas in painting on a styrofoam head. The findings, displayed near the hospital canteen, consist of a dozen colored heads, some also bearing words and objects.

Maïilly Strauss-Fillion’s work, admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of anorexia, represents the head of a woman with brown hair, sunken cheeks and gray dark circles. Under her ears, scooped out with a spoon and covered in black paint, we see drops of blood. A bloody chain hangs over her neck.

“I wanted to express where my life has taken me,” he explains. Then, the pain I felt inside, I tried to represent it through my head. For the ears, I was very black in my head.

Ms. Strauss-Fillion poses with her artwork. (Photo: The Sun – Paula Dayan-Perez)

The chains represent his illness, then the tired look on his face “how much it can affect the body”. Looking at her work, she realized that she would not like to go back to this state now that she is better.

Ms. Strauss-Fillion likes to make her visitors guess which of the works is hers.

“A lot of times people can guess right on the first try,” he says. [Par la suite], I explain to them everything I have done on the head and everything it represents. It makes it easier to put my illness into words for others who don’t really understand. “

Cancel the exclusion mechanisms

It was Malyka Diallo, a special education technician in the psychiatry ward, who came up with the idea of ​​developing this business when she saw the Styrofoam heads in a Dollarama store.

“Art is used to externalize what we have inside and then what we have difficulty verbalizing,” he explains.

Creative Labs can play several roles in the patient recovery process. The educator uses it to develop bonds of trust with them and to “soften a little the hospitalization, which is often a critical situation”.
The two ladies are delighted that the works are exhibited near the cafeteria. It allows visitors, users and hospital staff to get to know people who are often invisible or misunderstood. It helps break taboos, which can also be present among health workers, says Diallo.

“These are things we see in people’s eyes, looking up when the person arrives, or being afraid,” he explains, stressing that it can also get in the way of addressing patients. .

Maiilly Strauss-Fillion discovers that art therapy helps her find words about her illness to explain to others. (Photo: The Sun – Denis Germain)

Providing assistance in a different way

Art therapy workshops have become more and more frequent since Diallo joined the mental health unit in October 2021.

His position was created during a pandemic to increase the number of professionals around patients because they could not leave the unit, says Karine Fouchet, director of the mental health unit at Chateauguay hospital.

For now, the team is operating with less than half the staff needed due to the manpower shortage.

“Patients may feel a little less alert. Sometimes it is more emergencies that will be treated as a priority, says Ms Fouchet. [On aimerait] develop more outings with patients, provide assistance, but in a different way from the biomedical one. We would like to encourage them to develop more in support groups, in discussions ”.

Ms. Diallo is the only educator on the team. An intern is expected to join her towards the end of September.

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