An activity worker at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust who dedicates her spare time to helping vulnerable women in Kirklees express themselves through art has won a national award for her commitment.
Kelly Sykes, who works on Ward 18 on Priestley Unit at Dewsbury and District Hospital, was awarded a MIND Marsh award for her voluntary work with a women’s art therapy group held every Tuesday at WomenCentre in Huddersfield.
The MIND Marsh awards, run in partnership between the mental health charity MIND and the Marsh Christian Trust, recognise a group or individual who has made a difference to local people experiencing mental health problems.
In order to pick up the accolade, Kelly had to demonstrate how she provides a non-judgemental space to help people with mental health conditions to stay well, while promoting a sense of belonging and community and increasing the self-esteem and confidence of the group.
At the therapy group, women aged over 18 from Kirklees, many with connections to mental health conditions, come together to use art mediums to work through their difficulties and utilise the space and time to reflect on their emotions.
Kelly, who is a qualified art therapist, was nominated for the award by a member of the group who said the sessions had changed her life.
Kelly said: “When I found out I had been nominated for the award, it was amazing because it came from the group. It showed that my work had really benefitted the people who attend and it was a really good feeling.
“It was especially amazing because the lady who nominated the group actually announced in one of our sessions that we had won – everyone was so excited. It was the lady’s last session too as she was moving away so it turned her last group meeting into something positive and something to remember.
“Finding out I had won made everything worthwhile.”
A prize of £500 and a framed certificate was awarded to Kelly, who plans to use the money to buy more art supplies to improve the experience of the therapy sessions for the group.
The group begins with a talk among the women followed by one hour of creating art. The women then spend half an hour talking through their artwork, which is often inspired by the unconscious mind.
Kelly explained: “The women self-refer to the group and they have a choice whether they would like to come, but I’ve found that people tend to come every week because they enjoy it so much. Some come because it’s nice to have some quiet time, and others come because it’s a group they feel an important part of.
“It’s up to the women which art medium they choose to express their thoughts with. They might do a drawing but may not be sure why they have drawn in that particular way, but after a few weeks they start to see patterns and begin to understand it. Art therapy isn’t about the finished piece of work – it’s about the journey they take to create it.”
Kelly said winning the award had inspired her to work even harder, commenting: “I run the session voluntarily so winning an award for it completely justifies the time and effort I put into the group. Winning the money will also help us to expand and make the sessions even better for the women. Seeing the difference it makes to them is amazing.”