EVEN the best mental health programs sometimes reinforce the fact that participants are experiencing a difficult period in their lives.
Support groups and counsellors can become a constant reminder that your mental health is fragile, and can push low self-esteem even lower.
But a new program targeting Queanbeyan mental health clients is offering relief through art, providing a place for people with mental health issues to be together and relax without focusing on their diagnosis, treatment or medications.
The group are collaborating with local artist Diana Quiggin to produce some 250 individually-crafted and decorated clay tiles which will be the feature of a new sensory garden in Ray Morton Park, next to the Riverside Cafe in Queanbeyan.
"The idea with sensory gardens is to engage as many of the senses as possible," Ms Quiggin said.
"This is particularly appropriate [for mental health], because often with mental illness you're disconnected from your senses. You're in a black hole," she said.
"More broadly, it's part of connecting with the community, the environment and Queanbeyan's history and future as I see it."
former geneticist for the CSIRO, Ms Quiggin knows the therapeutic and healing qualities that art can bring. She was forced to deploy her creative energy in a different field 15 years ago after she developed a muscular condition called Fibro Myalgia.
Interpreting the natural world through art was one of the ways she managed her chronic pain and developed a new career path.
"My science background is part of what drives me in exploring Australia's botanical flora," she said.
"I thought I'd lost the ability to do research, but doing this has engaged all that curiosity and experimentation that I enjoy."
The program has been funded through a grant from Queanbeyan City Council, and local mental health service providers including The Richmond Fellowship, Queanbeyan Mental Health, Home in Queanbeyan, St Benedict's Community Day Centre and Richmond PRA have worked together to develop it.
Katrina McLean of the Richmond Fellowship told
The Queanbeyan Age
that the participants were enjoying the chance to unwind and socialise during the workshops.
"This is an opportunity for our clients to come together when they're not being drilled about their medication or their diagnosis and do something enjoyable," she said.
"What I've noticed is that when peers get together like this, they socialise and they help each other after-hours and on weekends, which is what a lot of [mental health] organisations can't do.
Because mental health doesn't stop at 5.30pm when the office closes."
Some of the completed clay tiles will be on display at Ray Morton Park in Queanbeyan on Friday, October 12 between midday and 3pm coinciding with Mental Health month.
Members of the public are invited to come along and make their own clay tiles for the sensory garden on the day.