The Caring Together Art Journal Project – https://caringtogetherproject.com
In 2009 I founded a website called the Caring Together Art Journal Project, aiming to create a safe and supportive environment for mental health carers. It used a collection of stories and illustrations to explain different viewpoints, share coping strategies, support practitioners to work with families and inspire change.
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 mental 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.
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 2021 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.
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.
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.
Prints of 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
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 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.
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
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.
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
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.