Arts Health News

Posted: Feb 15 2017 - 12:00pm

Liz Atkin is an internationally acclaimed visual artist and advocate based in London, whose life has been dominated by her compulsive skin picking for more than 20 years.

But recently, Liz has found a way to channel her compulsions using art – by re-imagining the body-focused repetitive behaviour of skin picking into photographic-artworks, charcoal drawings, and performances.

40-year-old Liz, from South London, has been suffering with compulsive skin picking – or Dermatillomania – for more than two decades. Describing it as ‘more than a bad habit’, Liz said: ‘Picking at skin is a very normal human behaviour, but CSP is categorised by the repetitive picking at skin to the extent that significant damage is caused, and it impacts on a person’s daily functioning.


Posted: Feb 14 2017 - 12:00pm

If you were to peek into a therapy session at Wheelhouse Workshop, you’d be surprised to see a room full of wizards and elf princesses.

The kids who arrive are usually struggling with life-challenging issues related to autism, ADHD and social anxiety, but you wouldn’t know it based on their behavior.

That’s because they’ve taken on new identities in a game of Dungeons and Dragons and their fantasy characters are collaborating to solve problems together.

It’s a creative way to help troubled kids practice good social skills and it’s proven to be extremely effective.  At the Wheelhouse Workshop, therapy is quite literally fun and games.


Posted: Feb 13 2017 - 12:00pm

Like many musicians, Robb Nash’s arms are covered in tattoos. But the words on his skin aren’t lyrics or quotes -- they’re the names of young people who were so touched by his songs about mental health that they handed him their discarded suicide notes as gestures of perseverance.

“They’re still here and they’re conquering the world around them,” Nash told CTV News.

Nash’s struggle with mental health began at the age of 17, when a car crash on a Manitoba highway shattered his skull. The injuries were so severe that Nash was initially pronounced dead on the road. He was resuscitated and eventually recovered, but the lingering pain and trauma from the accident manifested as suicidal thoughts.


Posted: Feb 13 2017 - 4:10am

A pilot program at Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences is testing whether incorporating visual art into support programs for people with dementia can be helpful for their caregivers too.

The program, the first of its kind at Baycrest, sees people with memory issues attend an arts class while their spouses take part in a caregiver support group. The couples are reunited in the last half-hour of the two-hour weekly meetings and are also given small arts projects to work on together in between.

“What we’re hoping to see in this group, is whether this model of caregiver support is more effective, because of the arts space component for spouses, than traditional groups that caregivers are a part of where they just come to a group on their own,” explained Baycrest’s arts and health program co-ordinator Melissa Tafler, who helped put the new program together.

“(We’re using) art to get the couples to relate together in new ways, to promote meaningful activity in the home that can be challenging when spouses are spending so much time caring for their partner … to kind of explore new ways of having fun together and sharing a new interest and hobby and development of a skill that they both could do.”


Posted: Feb 13 2017 - 3:36am

For many young people overcoming the effects of trauma and abuse, speaking to a professional may not provide the emotional help they need.

In an effort to give youth another outlet, Boost Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, not-for-profit charity Unity and others have teamed up to develop a new dance-themed program called Sole Expression: Trauma-Informed Dance Intervention for Youth Who Have Experienced Child Abuse and/or Domestic Violence. The program is geared toward helping young people deal with the effects of violence and trauma.

Launched at Ryerson University on Thursday, Jan. 19, Sole Expression will run as a five-year pilot project thanks to $1.1 million in funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“Many of the kids we see at Boost have not only witnessed family violence but have experienced some sort of trauma themselves,” said Boost president and CEO Karyn Kennedy. “They need ways to express their feelings and for a lot of them, trauma-focused talk therapy isn’t always effective.”