In a world where mental health challenges, postpartum depression, and systemic racism continue to affect countless lives, creating safe spaces for dialogue, support, and healing is essential. Recently, I had the privilege of facilitating a workshop at the renowned Bethlem Royal Hospital, part of the NHS Trust (June 19, 2023.). During this transformative experience, we delved into critical topics and embarked on a creative journey by introducing a mental health journal.
After the workshop, as I sat on the train, I began to think about what I had just experienced. As the night fell and my home was quiet, I made a calming tea infused with Valerian root, Lemon grass, Chamomile and lemon oil. I then picked up my pencil and notepad and wrote my reflections.
This blog sheds light on my journey, the empowering impact of the workshop, and the essence of a creative journal.
Bethlem Royal Hospital.
Bethlem Royal Hospital, a renowned institution with a longstanding commitment to mental health care, provided the perfect backdrop for hosting a workshop to address the multifaceted nature of mental health, postpartum depression, and systemic racism. We recognised that fostering creativity and self-expression could be powerful tools to support individuals on their mental health journeys.
Walking into that hospital felt so peaceful, and the grounds filled with roses and orchids and the wind blowing gently, I Instantly felt safe.
Facilitating the Workshop:
In the workshop, Daniel Regan (an incredible artist working on anti-racism projects) and two psychologists - Georgina and Laureen - supported me. They were warm and kind and were my anchor in the workshop.
Drawing upon my experience as a mental health advocate and facilitator, I approached the workshop with compassion, empathy, and an unwavering belief in the transformative power of creative expression. Together, we explored various aspects of mental health, postpartum depression, and anti-racism and introduced the participants to the concept of an innovative mental health journal.
Exploring Mental Health: The workshop began by diving into the complexities of mental health, aiming to destigmatise it and create an open dialogue.
I began by sharing my personal story as I suffered postpartum depression and experienced racism after I relocated to England. It was all new to me and the country I grew up in; I had never experienced it, I was surrounded by a community of people where we were equal, and I was not discriminated against. We explored various coping strategies and self-care techniques and emphasised seeking professional support.
Understanding Postpartum Depression: Recognising the unique challenges new mothers face, especially black mothers and the stigma around speaking up, we delved into the realm of postpartum depression. Combining personal anecdotes, expert insights, and evidence-based information, we fostered an environment that validated these experiences while emphasising the significance of support networks and early intervention.
Confronting Systemic Racism: Addressing systemic racism in healthcare requires introspection, empathy, and actionable strategies. We explored biases, power dynamics, and the importance of cultural competency. By examining how racism intersects with mental health, we aimed to build a foundation for inclusive and equitable care.
Introducing the Creative Mental Health Journal:
In parallel with the workshop, we introduced a creative mental health journal as a transformative tool for self-reflection and healing. I was so happy to see everyone write their thoughts and express themselves sincerely.
Participants were encouraged to document their thoughts, emotions, and experiences, utilising various artistic mediums such as writing, drawing, and collage. The journal provided a safe space for self-expression, promoting self-awareness and fostering resilience.
Participant Engagement and Impact:
The workshop’s success lay in the active engagement of participants, including healthcare professionals, individuals with lived experiences, and support workers. By integrating the creative mental health journal, we witnessed the participants harnessing their creativity to navigate their mental health journeys and explore new ways of understanding and expressing their emotions. The journal became a cherished companion, enabling personal growth, self-empowerment, and healing.
The Importance of Creative Expression:
The introduction of the creative mental health journal highlighted the value of self-expression as a form of healing and self-discovery. We fostered a sense of agency and ownership over their mental health narratives by providing a tangible outlet for participants to reflect, express, and process their emotions. Through the creative process, individuals gained a deeper understanding of their experiences, paving the way for personal growth and resilience.
Facilitating the mental health, postpartum depression, and anti-racism workshop at Bethlem Royal Hospital was a profoundly fulfilling experience that highlighted the transformative power of creative expression. By combining open dialogues, education, and the introduction of an innovative mental health journal, we witnessed a remarkable impact on participants.
The workshop provided a safe space for individuals to share their experiences, challenge societal norms, and nurture personal growth. Participants engaged in meaningful conversations about mental health, postpartum depression, and systemic racism, gaining valuable insights and expanding their understanding of these complex topics.
The creative mental health journal catalysed self-reflection and self-expression. Participants could externalise their thoughts and emotions through various artistic mediums, fostering a deeper connection with their mental health journeys. The journal became a trusted companion, supporting individuals in their quest for self-discovery, healing, and resilience.
By empowering participants to take an active role in their mental well-being, the workshop instilled a sense of agency and ownership over their narratives. It encouraged individuals to challenge stigmas, advocate for themselves, and contribute to a more inclusive and compassionate healthcare system.
The power of creative expression in mental health cannot be understated. It allows individuals to navigate their emotions, find solace in their unique words, and connect with others who may share similar experiences.
The creative mental health journal became a tangible reminder of the transformative journey participants embarked upon during the workshop, serving as a testament to their growth and resilience.
As we move forward, let us continue to recognise the importance of open dialogue, education, and creative expression in addressing mental health, postpartum depression, and systemic racism. By fostering supportive environments and providing tools for self-reflection, we can create lasting change within ourselves, our communities, and the healthcare system.
I hope for a world where Black women feel safe and okay to be vulnerable and soft and share our stories without the stigma and fear of being alone.
May the seeds planted during this workshop continue to blossom, inspiring individuals to embrace their power of expression and advocate for a world where mental well-being, postpartum care, and anti-racism are prioritised, understood, and supported by all.
It was a beautiful and intimate moment we shared. It was a safe space, and my heart was whole.
Deep breath… 1.2.3