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Nia Robinson, 20, from North Lincolnshire, has been on a placement at a low-secure rehabilitation hospital in West Yorkshire as part of her studies for a BA in Education Studies and Fine Art. She collaborated with service users on several creative projects during this time with two named as finalists in the National Service User Awards. 

She worked with on several different creative projects including re-vamping the occupational therapy room, designing a booklet to help service users transition between wards and other hospitals in the Yorkshire region (which a service user dubbed the Road to Recovery booklet), and developing anti-bullying posters themed by the ideas from each ward. 

Nia said the hospital staff and service users were ‘incredibly supportive’ in helping her to learn more about various aspects of mental health and therapy. During the placement she was introduced to the Social Work, Advocacy and User Involvement teams at the hospital and their ideas for creative projects. This led to the Advocacy and Social Work teams asking Nia to lead discussions with several wards at the hospital on the subject of anti-bullying and to generate artwork from their ideas. 

She said: “I worked on a jungle themed mural, an idea formulated by a service user, in the Occupational Therapy room. A lot of the time, I would work on this project during Arts and Crafts Thursdays: a day where service users can request the room to explore their creativity. Two or three service users in this period added to the mural themselves and are still adding to it today.” 

Nia said: “I’m aiming to become a fully qualified art psychotherapist, so working in art workshop settings and creative projects with service users is a big step towards that goal. 

“Being able to go to each ward and hear their stories, journeys and ideas was incredibly sobering and an experience I will never forget. With that in mind, I created four digital posters that hopefully captured the essence of their stories. 

The anti-bullying scheme and mural project have now been announced as finalists in the National Service User Awards which celebrate the large number of service user projects in inpatient services nationwide and recognise the good work and benefits involved.  

She added: “Even if we don’t win I am so proud to have had the opportunity to work alongside service users and staff at the hospital and that our work is being recognised. I’m look forward to attending the finals ceremony in Nottingham alongside staff and service users in September. 

“During my placement, I have observed the power of visual artmaking as a form of therapeutic expression. Sometimes we struggle to find the words to clearly explain what we are going through, and sometimes we might not know ourselves, so this visual way of working can ease us into exploring our emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stress and boost self-esteem.”  

Nia’s tutor, Dr Helen Eadon-Sinkinson, said: “Nia has worked hard to create such an impact within her work placement and truly deserves recognition for her efforts. She is a credit to the Education Studies programme and her work demonstrates the creative approach that is encouraged on the degree. Nia is a dedicated student and will no doubt achieve her dream of working in psychotherapy.”

Dr Paula Hamilton, Senior Lecturer, said: “This project was an excellent opportunity for Nia as she wishes to progress into this type of work in the future. I am really looking forward to supporting Nia with this exceptionally creative and participatory research study for her year three dissertation.

“It is great to see our undergraduate students making such an excellent impression in the workforce and embarking on initiatives which have the potential to support individuals who face challenges and burdens in life.”

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