Artistic Mural to Change Negative Perception of Mental Health | Western Cape Government


Artistic Mural to Change Negative Perception of Mental Health

11 August 2018

There has always been a powerful link between creativity and mental health. This is according to Dr John Parker, Psychiatrist at Lentegeur Hospital and Director of The Spring Foundation, who explains that creative therapy provides an effective alternative to traditional therapies.

“Creative therapies often aid children and adolescents who struggle to relate to traditional therapies, due to their trauma or psychological state,” says Parker.

The Spring Foundation, a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) and Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) located at and affiliated to the Lentegeur Hospital, aims to enable patients to rebuild their mental and physical wellbeing by funding creative therapeutic projects implemented at Lentegeur Hospital. “We organise psychosocial rehabilitation and outreach programs for patients of Lentegeur Hospital, in order to re-establish a sense of hope and recovery,” explains Parker.

The Foundation recently partnered with Arting Health for Impact (AHI), a collaborative public engagement project that explores health science communication, collaboration and partnerships as health engagement methods in South Africa, Botswana and India.

According to Nabeel Petersen, South African Country Lead for Arting Health for Impact (AHI), the pilot project involved 25 outpatients from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service at Lentegeur Hospital. “This project specifically sought to forge collaborative partnerships between community members (youth who use mental health services), scientists (clinical staff) and street artists,” explains Petersen.

Providing specialised services to the largely underprivileged Cape Flats and Overberg areas of the Western Cape, The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service at Lentegeur Hospital is a tertiary mental health unit that manages and treats children and adolescents with a diversity of complex psychiatric and psychosocial disorders,

Parker highlights that more than 140 children and adolescents are admitted to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service at Lentegeur Hospital annually, the majority being male patients. “Many of the patients admitted to the unit often suffer psychological challenges such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders, Schizophrenia or substance induced psychosis. Patients are often reclusive and struggle to communicate,” says Parker

He explains that creative therapy encourages self-expression, self-discovery, and emotional growth in a non-judgmental atmosphere. “Creative therapy offers a safe, supported space to allow a person to process difficult emotional issues. We decided that young people would be most suitable to participate in the pilot project as creative therapy approaches are already an established part of the adolescent program at the unit,” explains Parker.

Project participants attended interactive workshops during the months of June and July. “They were exposed to various creative exercises including drawing, devising story maps, public

speaking and sharing, spray painting, music, poetry, expressive playing, team building, exploring street art and other forms of science communication,” says Petersen.

“The workshops aimed to develop a collective understanding of what the participants experienced during their health journey, from admission to becoming an outpatient, and improve communication between clinicians and patients. Ultimately, these findings would then be used to develop a piece of artwork that expresses a message they would like the community to receive,” explains Petersen.

The participants identified a mural as their preferred method of expression and found a suitable space at Lentegeur Hospital where it will be painted. “We decided that the mural would be best suited on a bare practice wall at the tennis court on the premises of Lentegeur Hospital. This is an ideal location as the completed mural would be visible by the community via Highlands Drive.

“Participating in this project and the mural enables participants to feel pride in their journeys to health and to associate positive memories with their healing journey. It allows them to reach out to the community and to feel supported. It breaks down the stigmatised view of mental illness,” explains Parker.

The mural was completed by experienced and professional muralists during a Mental Health Engagement Event. The completed mural focused on relaying messages of support, recovery and hope. “We hope this initiative will aid the communication of health issues, challenge stigma and change the perception of mental health as being one of hope, creativity and interaction, rather than about being enslaved and taking medication,” explains Parker.

Participants showcased increased levels of confidence, public speaking and sharing. “Using a participatory, inclusive process with youth positioned them as active agents for change, and we feel that this played a big influence in assisting them with accepting the project as their own and also in their confident participation in decision-making,” concludes Petersen.

Should you be interested in partnering with the Spring Foundation you can contact Ricardo on or landline: 021 392 1747, Mobile: 073 669 1799.

Media Enquiries: 

Bianca Gilbert (Carls) 
Communications Officer 
Western Cape Government Health 
Landline: 021 483 3245/ 9241 
Mobile: 083 644 3383