I became interested in post-traumatic stress after finishing my MA. My own experiences growing up were much less severe than those who have suffered abuse or been involved in conflict, none the less it had a profound impact on my life.
PTSD can start after ANY traumatic event, where you are in danger, your life is threatened, or where you see other people dying or being injured. The condition was first recognised in war veterans and has been known by a variety of names, such as 'shell shock'. But it's not only diagnosed in soldiers – a wide range of traumatic experiences can cause PTSD. BUT on average it is 16 years between the trauma and seeking help. None of us like to talk about upsetting events and feelings.
- We don't want to be thought of as weak or mentally unstable.
- We may feel uncomfortable if we try to talk about gruesome or horrifying events.
- People with PTSD often find it easier to talk about the other problems that go along with it - headache, sleep problems, irritability, depression, tension, substance abuse, family or work-related problems.
I think Art can help to break down some of these barriers. For the next 6 months I will be working with the Institute of Mental Health in Nottingham to create a series of paintings that bring to life all aspects of trauma response. This work will be exhibited from September 2018 at the IMH and then other locations in 2019. I will be working with accounts of trauma from a wide spectrum of sources; abuse, birth, accident and conflict etc. Some will be based on existing personal accounts from past therapy and some from talking directly with people to understand their experiences.
My hope is that the exhibition of moving and thought-provoking depictions of what it is like to suffer and recover from mental health problems will raise awareness and consciousness of the issues surrounding trauma. Providing new insights into people’s experience of a wide range of types of suffering from birth trauma to war trauma. As well providing potentially positive therapeutic outcomes for those directly involved.