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MHAW 2023: Art and Mental Health – Wavelly House resident Curtis Jones on creating photography & benefit on Mental Health

Posted on 16, May 2023

Together’s theme for 2023 will be Art and Mental Health and we will be looking at the beneficial impact art and creativity can have on mental health and wellbeing. Curtis Jones is a resident at our Wavelly House Accommodation Service and offered to share his experience of creating art through photography and what that means to him. Wavelly House is located in Basingstoke and provides 24 hour residential support to 6 to 8 residents.

To begin the interview Curtis explained how he had come to live in Wavelly House having spent 16 years previously in secure mental health facilities from a young age having become involved in some traumatic experiences that led to some criminal charges.

He had gone into those hospital settings as a teenager and at different times received diagnoses of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Curtis described how being in those settings from that key age had made it difficult for him when he was able to move on having missed key points within growing up and that time in forensic settings had made it difficult for him to trust professionals and to ask for help.

Through his own hard work Curtis is now in a vastly different position working as a chef in a restaurant, having gotten married and him and his wife welcoming their daughter. His previous lived experience is very important to him and so in creating art he has a special focus on mental health. As well as painting and creating music, an artform he enjoys is photography and he explained he “wants to capture images that give a window into people’s mental health state and show difficult situations with powerful images”. Curtis has a desire not to shy away from difficult topics and that reflects some of his own lived experience as he has had issues with self-harm from a young age and thinks about people experiencing suicidal thoughts and showing that struggle. Considering the seriousness of that and the impact on the people around a person though he reflected “however bad you feel, creating pictures can sometimes change your mood”.

In terms of photography itself, Curtis detialed how he feels images should make points and that they should be intentional and show the bigger picture. He speaks about using metaphors in his work and how the modern culture of taking lots of photos on phones can make them meaningless and that people don’t look back at them, storing huge amounts online. The images he produces mean a lot to him and he hopes they will for others too and considering this he added That’s the beautiful thing about photography as it stays with people”.

In terms of the impact on mental wellbeing Curtis feels being creative does really help him and he shares that with friends and others regularly. While that benefits his own mental health he is still always keen to highlight issues faced by other people and describes how he had created images to show the struggle of people coping with Anorexia for example and to change stigma that exists around that area of mental health.

He feels he will taking photos and would recommend that to other people as a form of expression and for the benefits to mental health. He had actually been thinking of investing in new equipment for his camera and set up although realised with his increased responsibilities now that would be difficult to afford. The focus of that responsibility is on providing for his family and that is something he has shown within his photography as well documenting that in open and heartfelt pieces like the one below:

A big thank you to Curtis for sharing his work and his lived experiences.