Staff and volunteers at a Fife park have been getting back to nature in an unusual way as they mark Mental Health Awareness week.
Workers at Silverburn Park in Leven are creating art from natural resources, based on the Gugging way of working from Austria.
Gugging originally saw psychiatric patients receive therapy while they created art.
Art student Drew Walker and his dad Rab are now using the idea to support mental health recovery and protect wellbeing.
And this week they have been creating art outside from natural resources to tie in with the nature theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
Participants are encouraged to talk frankly about their mental health as they explore their innate artist – even if it is out of their comfort zone.
What is Gugging?
Gugging began at the Maria Gugging Psychiatric Clinic where patients became known for their Outsider Art. They are now known as the Gugging Artists.
Today, several artists live in a dedicated art centre, known as The House of Artists, which also includes the Museum Gugging and Gallery Gugging.
And David Bowie and Brian Eno visited in the 1990s, the result being an album named Outside.
Drew is studying for a PhD at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee.
But he has lived experience of serious mental health problems and the programme he has developed is proven to help others as it did him in his darkest times.
Drew dropped out of college for three years and withdrew from everything.
However, he was drawn to the Gugging idea that art can help people by providing them with a way of life, a community and a source of income.
And he now hopes to see the method used more widely across Scotland alongside existing treatments.
“I think what it offers could be a complement, an extension to what is already on offer, that moves into real life,” he said.
“The strapline for Gugging is ‘Living in Real Art’.”
Nature can support recovery
Drew eventually managed to return to college and said the real recovery began when he was creating art again.
He now wants to help others and is leading small groups at Silverburn, which is managed by mental health charity Fife Employment Access Trust (Feat).
Feat is also hosting a wild weaving workshop as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Weaver Susie Redman of Platform Studios, Burntisland, talks about growing flax and weaving with different types of linen.
However, neither event is open to the public due to Covid guidelines.
Feat knows only too well how nature can help support recovery from mental ill health.
Its Grow Your Mind project is run fully outdoors using activities such as conservation and horticulture alongside cognitive remediation therapy.
Nature helped us get through lockdown
Feat took on Silverburn Park in 2014 as they realised being in nature plays an important part in mental wellbeing.
Chief executive Duncan Mitchell said: “I think this year’s theme is very apt for us.
“The pandemic has made us take stock and adapt our service delivery to meet the needs of our beneficiaries.
“And our move to a full-time base at Silverburn chimes well with all the research that shows nature and the outdoors support our wellbeing.”
Mental Health Awareness Week has grown to be one of the biggest awareness weeks in the UK.
Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, says enjoying nature is very important.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of us have turned to nature to help us get through lockdowns,” he said.
“Our research shows that good mental health depends on us being able to connect with nature in some way.”