Dionne Monarch: an OT's perspective

The more projects we complete the more in awe we are of the extraordinary dedication and creativity of occupational therapists. Working with adults and children of all ages with a wide range of conditions, most commonly those who have difficulties due to a mental health illness, physical or learning disabilities, occupational therapists provide practical support to empower people and facilitate recovery and personal development.  Occupational therapy takes a “whole-person approach” to both mental and physical health and wellbeing, with the aim to increase people's independence and general satisfaction in different aspects of life and enable individuals to achieve their full potential. The huge breadth of work carried out by OT's in mental health units and the range of skills they demonstrate on a daily basis is truly incredible. We often work closely with OT's on our projects - this collaboration is central to facilitating meetings and workshops with artists, patients and staff and working out the practicalities of creating and installing artwork with as little disruption as possible to the daily running of the ward.

Earlier this year we completed a project at The Maudsley Hospital's Snowsfields Adolescent Unit, for young people experiencing severe mental health crisis. Snowsfields has developed a national and international reputation for innovation, pioneering the introduction of a comprehensive, all hours emergency admission service and supporting young people with a wide range of psychiatric or neuro-developmental disorders. DIonne Monarch is Snowsfields' occupational therapist. Dionne played a central part in our project at the unit, taking on different roles to enable the work of our commissioned artists and facilitate the involvement of patients and staff. We could not be more grateful for her tireless efforts to ensure the progress and smooth running of our project and her support of our work at every stage of the process.

Dionne recognises the importance of access to art, culture and creative activity and, as well as working with Hospital Rooms, has built partnerships with other creative organisations such as the Young Vic to provide unique opportunities for the young people at Snowsfields to explore creative self-expression. Her hard work and dedication to the adolescents at Snowsfields is an inspiration to all of us and she continues to be a valued member of our extended network.

 Sara Naim's 3-D photography and collage workshop for patients at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit, one of eight different Hospital Rooms workshops we ran during our time based at the unit. Workshops such as these would not be possible without the support of OTs such as Dionne Monarch. 

Sara Naim's 3-D photography and collage workshop for patients at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit, one of eight different Hospital Rooms workshops we ran during our time based at the unit. Workshops such as these would not be possible without the support of OTs such as Dionne Monarch. 

 One of a series of ten prints titled ‘Breathing Blue’ by Anish Kapoor installed at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit. The series, printed on a large scale directly onto dibond, has been installed in a number of different spaces on the unit, in sight of service users, staff and visitors. 

One of a series of ten prints titled ‘Breathing Blue’ by Anish Kapoor installed at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit. The series, printed on a large scale directly onto dibond, has been installed in a number of different spaces on the unit, in sight of service users, staff and visitors. 

 Tschabalala Self, work in progress, prior to installation in Snowsfields Adolescent Unit. Tschabalala is an exciting up and coming American artist who visited Snowsfields and met with Dionne and some of the young people there. She then created her artworks for the unit on a residency with Liquitex in London. 

Tschabalala Self, work in progress, prior to installation in Snowsfields Adolescent Unit. Tschabalala is an exciting up and coming American artist who visited Snowsfields and met with Dionne and some of the young people there. She then created her artworks for the unit on a residency with Liquitex in London. 

Here Dionne shares her experience of working with Hospital Rooms:

"This has been an amazing opportunity for Snowsfields Adolescent Unit. Young people have been involved throughout the process and the project has demonstrated the gold standard of service user involvement.

This kind of collaboration with outside agencies provides young people with essential contact with the real world and, in this case, also the opportunity for them to work with professional artists. This places a real value on the young people and allows us to get on with being clinicians.

The project has helped young people feel important and grow in confidence, knowing that their ideas are sought and respected. They have been able to discover new skills and interests and it has generated conversation about art and creativity. As a result, the arts have become more accessible to them. I often show young people, carers and professionals around the unit as part of my role and I now feel proud to do so. I see first-hand the positive impact the art has had on people’s first impressions.

I urge anyone given the opportunity to work with Hospital Rooms to go for it. It has been a wonderful experience."

                                                                                              - Dionne Monarch, OT at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit

 

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A Wall of One's Own 

As our project at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit got underway, Dionne came up with the brilliant idea of painting blackboards in all the bedrooms, so that each young person on the unit would have space to express themselves creatively in the privacy of their rooms. 

We liked the idea so much we bought some blackboard paint and got painting.

As a reusable blank canvas, the blackboard provides an opportunity to create and recreate, again and again; to write, draw, doodle or even note down lists and memos.

Thank you to Dionne for inspiring us with your creative ingenuity!

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This simple intervention acts as an encouragement to the young people to explore their own artistic identity, and offers a private space to vent thoughts and feelings. In the otherwise neutral uniformity of the hospital bedroom, designed predominantly with clinical needs and risk reduction in mind, which patients have limited freedom to personalise, the blackboards provide a means for individuals to take ownership of the space and mark it as their own for the duration of their treatment.

We believe that within the restrictive enclosed setting of an inpatient unit opportunities for free creative self-expression are crucial, providing a means to help one manage the challenges of living in such environment and potentially playing a key role in the process of healing and recovery.

 

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Channel 4 News

Our project at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit was included in a feature about Hospital Rooms on Channel 4 News. Two former patients from Snowfields contributed to the piece, sharing their perspective on working with Hospital Rooms and the difference art has made to the unit. The feature is still available to watch here.

 

Our work would not be possible without the generosity and support of Hospital Rooms’ friends and donors. With your help we can collaborate with more NHS trusts across the UK and give more people the opportunity to be touched and inspired by the unique and radical work that we do.

Your donations really do make a difference.