The Caring Together Art Journal Project – https://caringtogetherproject.com

Mental illness does not play fair. It sucks hope out of the air and turns people against each other. It attacks everyone who might be able to take its power away – consumers, carers, families, friends and practitioners too.

 

Mental illness is felt by all of us, and the only way we can beat it is together.  We need to strengthen and support one other and work together as partners in recovery. We all need to care for ourselves as well as others – and most of all we need to create an environment where hope thrives.

In 2009 I founded a website called the Caring Together Art Journal Project, aiming to create the safe and supportive environment I imagined. It used a collection of stories and illustrations to explain different viewpoints, share coping strategies, support practitioners to work with families and inspire change.

I met some really amazing people through this project. They contributed stories, artwork, videos, the joy factor, or a gentle poke in the ribs when I felt like giving up. In particular the collaboration with Broken Hill’s Intangible Storytelling Project comes to mind – yes, I’m looking at you Tanya Clifton 🙂

As at 2020 the website still exists on the request of the mental health community, but I am no longer adding to it. I am gradually removing pages as they lose relevance, but aim to keep key stories, illustrations and videos available.

Over 10 years I developed more than 120 illustrations and supporting narratives to share the experience of mental health carers. My aim was to promote wellbeing, recovery and partnership with consumers and health practitioners. I created and shared illustrated educational resources, including posters and videos. I taught myself web development, so that I could design, create and manage the website and online content with over 550 subscribers, including over 80 health services. 

Although this was largely a self funded project which I began in order to create change, it attracted commissions from health services to create resources and run workshops, as well as funded invitations to present my work at local, state, national and international conferences. I was especially surprised when I found myself in Paris! The response to my project was overwhelmingly positive and supportive.

This project was truly a labour of love, and I’m very proud of what I achieved. Feedback suggests it succeeded in helping others, but it also helped me through a tough time myself. I emerged much stronger and a little wiser. 

Related posts

Artwork from the Caring Together Art Journal Project

I created over 120 illustrations as part of the project, so this is just a small collection that are currently available as prints. If you are looking for anything in particular that isn’t here, please contact me.

Feedback about the project

Absolutely exquisite website, comprehensive, fun and such an enjoyable and provoking journey!

Over the past couple of years I have continually returned to the website as it’s one of the most useful and inspirational working tools that is available online. I often facilitate staff training and include a copy of your flyer in all staff education resource packs. I hope this has steered a flood of new users to your website 🙂

I can’t speak highly enough of what you’ve achieved through this website and encourage all staff to have a look for themselves and also refer carers too!

I love this website … and I haven’t even really explored it yet. As a website, its design is elegant and simple. I really look forward to “checking in” on the site from time to time. The information and messages are so beautifully presented in a colourful and uplifting environment it woos you back!!”

As someone who works with young carers, I see a lot of beauty in your work and so do they. I share some of the pictures with them as they are extremely honest and affirming. There is a lot of strength gained by caring and it’s lovely to use art to help the kids realise their own strengths.

Thoughtful and honest writing punctuated with illuminating expression. Carers count. Thank you for your personal thoughts, feelings and observations.

Thank you for this beautiful slideshow and putting such a supportive and useful website together I’m passing it onto everyone I can.

This is a wonderful site – like no other! I am looking forward to further collaboration as I can see 100s of opportunities.

I found out about your site yesterday and was privileged to watch the slide show. It was inspirational, emotional and triggered many ideas to improve my contact.  Thank-you for sharing and allowing me to learn.

Good morning. I am so blown away by your beautiful art work and thoughts. I too am a carer. At present I am working as a Project Coordinator of a Program in NSW Mental  Health which promotes carer participation; the development of strategies, resources etc and educating mental health clinicians regarding issues for carers and to ensure they are included in all aspects of the consumer’s journey.

I have used your slideshow (with permission) when educating staff just recently. It is so meaningful and says so much in such a short time. To date, everyone is really impressed with the slideshow.

I think your idea for a “carer’s plan” is brilliant. As you and I know, all care plans are for the consumer – everything is focused on the consumer and carers are often overlooked. So any ideas on how to actually assist/support carers is very much welcomed. With your permission, I would like to take this idea of a carer’s plan and develop it for the Program.

And I absolutely loved the Lighthouse. I have used this to help myself. So thank you so much.

I just luv the art work, the words, knowing what I feel and my experiences are understood without me having to justify, qualify”

This is a wonderful slideshow. Gets the message across in a very positive way. Thank you so much for doing this.

Sharing stories to draw carers and clinicians together …. A standout paper I attended at the conference was the joint presentation by representatives from the Intangible Storytelling and the Caring Together Art Journal Projects.

The aims of these projects are to ‘enable carer voices to be heard, use them to educate and inform services, support other carers so they feel less alone, and allow these experiences to be seen and discussed in a wider context.

Carers Voice (Carers ACT) e-bulletin

Review: If there is only one website you view this year – this should be the one.

The Caring Together Art Journal Project is not only packed full of information but visually takes you on a colourful, thought provoking and moving journey.  Art journals and mindmaps are the inspiration for this site. The website aims to share the carer viewpoint in a creative and personal way, with the hope that this will be a springboard to discussion between carers and clinicians, encouraging the sharing of ideas.

Trying to summarise this website into one paragraph just can’t be done … please take the time to have a look at it. If you don’t have access to a computer, remember there are computers available at your local library or contact the F&CMHP team in your area.

To Helen Wilding, the creator, artist, mother, carer (the list goes on) – you are inspirational. Thank you for sharing your journey, expertise, wisdom and talent. A Gandhi quote comes to mind “we must become the change we want to see in the world”

Family & Carer Mental Health Program Newsletter, Far West & Western Local Health Districts, NSW

Meaningful and beautiful work – as a worker I continue to be in awe of and inspired by the stories, creativity, strengths and determination of all carers …. Thank you for sharing your stories. They are such powerful tools and together I hope we can continue to advocate for inclusion and participation not only within services but across all of our communities.

Thankyou for sharing your wonderful art work – it gives such a strong message on the impact for carers in mental illness and is also very beautiful and warm and positive. We would like to get in touch with you further in the near future about being able to use some of your art if you will allow us in order to help with our training for clinicians on family collaborative work.

“This is amazing! Congratulations – what a wonderful way to connect carers and clinicians together. Thank you!

I find this very inspiring. I’m trying to come to terms with letting go of my daily caring role and starting to find me again. Hearing your story gives me hope that my family and I will get through these changes and find new ways to flourish too.

While we do not know each other personally I feel I certainly ‘get your world’ as a carer for my elderly mother with dementia…whilst the ages might be different, the symptoms and impacts so much of your extraordinary journey moves me so very much.

Thankyou for baring your soul, psyche and wounds & gifts for us all to feel more ourselves. I received this with permission from you and I have shown it now several times to our clinicians, carers, ward staff and again tomorrow to a group of clinicians doing a professional development day here at our campus.

Every time I show it (and I have watched it now myself at least 20 times) I am moved to tears along with those who watch it and, for me, that is its power – to teach through the heart. Thankyou again …really no words will ever be able to fully express the gratitude, honor and respect I have for you, your journey and this great work you created and share.

This is an amazingly fantastic resource. I will share this link with as many people as I can!  Thank-you for putting it together!!

I love your website. It is so inspiring and has so many positive articles on it. So many real life stories that I as a carer can relate to. Your drawings express many of my feelings as I worked my way through the mental health maze. Some made me smile while others made me cry. I have been a carer for 8 years.

We presented the ‘complaints presentation’ to the Governance Committee of the Ballarat Health Service Mental Health Service yesterday. The Committee were very impressed by the presentation and the message that it conveyed.

The Governance Committee of the Ballarat Health Service Mental Health Service has asked me to convey their sincere thanks to you for the presentation. The presentation provoked a lot of discussion, as a result I will be presenting the presentation to all of our teams (CAMHS, adult, aged, inpatient and residential) across the organisation.

I am looking forward to it as the message of the carer experience is so powerful. Thank you for the work you have done.”

Family/Carer Consultant, Ballarat Health Services Psychiatric Services 

Such a refreshing site to bring hope to carers in a sensitive and meaningful way. The illustrations are wonderful and the thoughtfulness given to developing one’s understanding of the caring journey is outstanding. Thank you for providing such an insightful approach to the caring role. You have given hope to encourage and strengthen one’s caring for another on a new level. One has a way out of the ‘maze of uncertainty’ in appreciating the depth of feeling that can overwhelm one when trying to make sense of things.

Helen, another piece of beautiful art. I can appreciate every single word in your commentary and did lots of ‘yes’ ‘yes’ out loud as I read through your thoughts.

Very powerful slideshow, images are incredible and it comes from the heart of a thoughtful caring person. Great resource for use with carers and also health professionals.

Thankyou for sharing your beautiful poster dedicated to all our carers..

Used your powerpoint today – it worked fabulously and I let the carers see your website tour as well! They thought it was beautiful and thought provoking and very moving!! So so many comments and such an amazing discussion forum – we ran out of time and everyone wants more …

We played a little with mapping the impact of caring, the positives and negatives – we just let the conversation that flowed after looking at your website lead the discussion and we decided to start with ‘feelings’ and impact. It was so darn awesome!!! One of our carers took the lead in the ‘mapping’ and the coloured textas – it really was one of the best sessions we have done!!!

Can’t wait for you to come and give us some art journaling workshops – are there any easy to read books that you would recommend about art journaling? Thank you so much for letting us show and use some of your work!! You certainly are making a difference in the ‘caring’ world.

I just watched your full length slideshow and I felt you were writing the experience through my own lived experience except my experience was with my daughter, bless you in the work you are doing to make sure the voice and experiences of carers is heard.

Thank you for yet another timely and beautifully presented moment on the journey to recovery and greater understanding for all.