Art therapy project transforms outdoor space at Basildon Mental Health Unit

Patients and occupational therapists have combined art and therapy to transform the outdoor space at Basildon Mental Health Unit.

Adult inpatients across four wards have created five huge art installations which now hang in the exercise courtyard at the facility run by the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT).


The Occupational Therapy team came up with the idea of using art to brighten up the area in the grounds of Basildon Hospital as part of a therapy intervention designed to stimulate motivation and participation and improve self-esteem and confidence.


Over the period of a month, patients who felt able were encouraged to play a part in creating the displays by ‘making their mark’ however small.

The installations feature hearts, butterflies and flowers as well as colourful representations of moods, personal goals and aspirations for the future.

Jacqui Sullivan, Occupational Therapy Clinical Lead, said: “This art project has served so many functions. Not only has it much improved the outdoor environment we are able to offer, it has helped improve patients’ social and group working skills and provided them with a sense of ownership.

“Many of our patients come to us with depression, anxiety and other mental health diagnoses. They often have difficulties in maintaining levels of motivation, lack confidence in their own abilities and have low self-esteem.

“Encouraging patients to get involved in projects like this helps sew a seed of positivity and productivity, resulting in improved mental wellbeing and an ability to cope with everyday challenges. Being able to show friends and family what they have created also promotes a real sense of achievement.”

Jared Davis, Mental Health Assessment Unit ward manager, said: “The courtyard was dull, uninviting and intimidating for patients who come to us in times of distress and crisis.

“The improvements are a real positive step. Patients are happier and more responsive. They are taking pride in the area and asking to use it more.”

The art sessions are just one of the ways the Occupational Therapy team works with patients with mental health needs. They hope to add to the art work on show in the future.

Mick Ferris

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