As I entered TouchBase I was very quickly reminded that it was Halloween today – there were costumes everywhere! It felt incredibly underdressed, but as I had worn dungarees that day I felt I might be able to get away with dressing up as a farmer. Just about.
I was working with the photography class today. This was lovely as I got to meet some new people, and was introduced to an art form I know very little about. I gained some confidence in my signing abilities, introducing myself to new people with my sign name. Sign is incredible useful at Sense, and I’d love the chance to learn more. Makatan, a simplified version of sign language, is also used my a lot of service users.
Our task was to move around the centre, looking for and taking pictures of all the work that’s displayed for the open art week. This included Nessie (my fave!) and the painted people from sculpture class, alongside visual art and ceramic work.
One piece we came across was a ‘wish tree’ that seemed to have been created by siblings of service users. Sense takes the fantastic attitude that it is not only the person with a disability who may need support, but their families and carers as well. This attitude is present for many sectors, cancer support care for example, but it totally absent in mental health services. I feel this is an issue that needs addressing urgently, as mental health problems such as my own can massively affect those around a person, not just the person with mental health problems.
On closer inspection of the wish tree, I read wishes that expressed frustration at society’s treatment of their siblings. Comments such as “I wish people wouldn’t stare at my sister” were common. There were also comments such as “I wish my brother could speak”, reminding us that it isn’t only someone with communication problems that is frustrated at a lack of understanding but all those who want to have close relationships and connections with them. I wrote about this subject in more depth in last week’s theory post.
I was reminded how great computer games can be as I watched one of the participants use a game app on the Ipad she had been using as a camera. She was really engaged in the tasks in the game, and even raised her hands in a cheering air-punch when she completed the level. I’d never seen her this engaged or enjoying an activity so much, which just goes to show how games (often poo-pooed as time wasting and brain-rotting) are a creative and exciting way to engage people who may not engage easily with other tasks.
As I left, I noticed how tired I was. A small reminder of my depression and how difficult I find it being around people, especially those I don’t know well. However, I have always found my time at Sense less draining than other places, as for some reason I am much more comfortable around people with learning disabilities. I’m not sure why this is, and why it’s particularly people with learning disabilities as opposed to other disabilities, but I feel it may have something to do with both me and them having a ‘mind’ disability. This unison is something I would like to explore through research and performance in the near future.