I recently attended the Critical Voices 2016 Conference aimed at connecting people, ideas, arts, medicine and health.
The day began with a short impactful presentation by Tulsi Vagjiani who told of being orphaned and suffering burns as a child in a plane crash. Her story is one of survival, hope and growing self confidence. Tulsi now works as a pilates Rehabilitation Specialist and volunteers for the Katie Piper Foundation as a peer supporter and motivational speaker.
During the day the audience of clinicians, artists, arts practitioners and service users heard stories of others' mental and physical health difficulties and the interaction with an art form that had provided a crucial factor in recovery or coming to terms with their illness.
These included Monica Suswin who journaled to her ill self from her well self to find an insight into her depression. She used expressive writing - poems and prose - and found she engaged with "healing inner resources."
Antonia Attwood is a film maker whose own anxiety and her mother's bi-polar illness formed the subject of her film, which led to a new way of talking between mother and daughter.
Daniel Regan, a photographer, used this art form to chronicle and manage his own illness. In 2014 he produced Fragmentary, a tantalising exhibition of images of archive self portraits paired with his mental health records.
This was a small but vital conference. I hope that next year there will be many more clinicians and stakeholders in the audience to witness the therapeutic benefits of arts in health.