Introducing art making activities on an ongoing basis was well received by mental health stakeholders in Fiji, who attended regular art making sessions, and were engaged in the art exhibition.
The project aligned with Ministry of Health and Medical Services programs and commitment to improving access to, and provision of, hoslistic treatments for people with a mental illness, which meant the program was sustainable alongside existing resources in the government mental health services. There were several indicators that the art making activities reduced stigma and discrimination experienced in this area, including the engagement with main stream media and positive coverage from Fiji Times, Fiji National Broadcaster, as well as within health organisations.
This Project was initiated through the Australian Awards Fellowships, providing the opportunity to build links between Australia and Pacific countries in mental health services. FAMH members Thelma Nabukavou and Salochana Chetty visited St. Vincent’s Mental Health in March 2018.
The program engaged with Latrobe University’s Faculty of Art Therapy, with shared interests in cultural understandings of art making and recovery from a mental illness. La Trobe University’s Patricia Fenner and St. Vincent’s Brigid Ryan visited with FAMH in June 2018, to follow up on training interests, and to provide support for implementing new strategies with FAMH and other stakeholders such as St. Giles (CROP and OT program), Psychiatric Survivors Association, Empower Fiji, and Salvation Army. The art making workshops aimed to build capacity for people to work with consumers, carers, health professionals in art making in health settings.
Over the following 12 months, weekly art making sessions were held at CROP, YMCA, and St. Giles, inviting members, survivors, families and mental health staff to participate in the art activities as a health approach, with skilled facilitator Ms. Thelma Nabukavou.
Partnering with St. Vincent’s Foundation has also provided further resources for both the art program, and a research project to begin in June 2019, with Chief Investigators from Fiji National University and La Trobe University.
The engagement and feedback from participants indicates that this program can value add to healthcare being provided for people with a mental illness.
Brigid Ryan (St. Vincent’s), Salochana Chetty (CROP), Patricia Fenner (La Trobe University) and Thelma Nabukavou (FAMH)
This project was supported by Australian Awards Fellowships, St. Vincent’s Thomas Trauer Grant, St. Vincent’s Pacific Health Fund as well as partnerships with La Trobe University, Fiji National University and Fiji Alliance for Mental Health