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Youth mental health patients get creative with new art program

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Vancouver - Arts Umbrella is helping BC Children’s Hospital psychiatric patients explore their creative side through a new community partnership. The visual arts program, Creative Arts, was made possible by generous lead funding from David and Pamela Richardson.

Arts Umbrella creates opportunities for patients aged 6-18 to discover art forms, such as sculpturing, painting, mixed media and more with the guidance of professional art instructors.

“Partnerships have long been a big part of Arts Umbrella’s commitment to community engagement,” says Paul Larocque, president and CEO of Arts Umbrella. “They are a fundamental aspect of who we are, allowing us to extend our programming far beyond our core locations, reaching young people we might not otherwise. For children and youth managing mental health challenges, we’re grateful to play a small part during their treatment and rehabilitation in hospital. It’s an honour to partner with BC Children’s Hospital, an organization whose commitment to serving young people is internationally renowned.”  

Inpatients at BC Children’s psychiatric units can be experiencing severe mental health disorders, developmental disabilities and complex neuro-developmental and psycho-social challenges. Arts Umbrella instructors work with Vancouver School Board Special Education teachers to identify each patient’s unique strengths and interests, and deliver various visual arts activities in a safe and supportive environment.

“The partnership with Arts Umbrella has helped us provide a holistic educational experience for our patients while in treatment,” says Sarah Bell, interim chief operating officer at BC Children’s Hospital. “In some cases, the arts program is the first interaction our patients have with visual arts. We are grateful to Arts Umbrella for helping us bring awareness to the benefits of art, and supporting patients to discover novel ways of expressing complex feelings and emotions.”

“I wanted to ensure that there were circumstances in which kids could create art in a safe and nurturing environment,” says Arts Umbrella’s Artistic Director of Visual Arts, Roxanne Gagnon, who was part of the team that shaped the pilot program.

“This partnership is about kids and mental health, and that’s extremely important,” says Gagnon. “My hopes and dreams are that the program grows so that we can make an even bigger impact."

Unlike structured classes at Arts Umbrella’s Granville Island or Surrey locations, the program at BC Children’s is more fluid, to provide the participants with artistic options to suit their frame of mind that day. “Even though we have a program in mind,” explains Arts Umbrella visual arts instructor, Jamie Hume, “we also have another one that allows them to just relax—whether that’s sketching or painting or modelling clay.”

Quick Facts:

- Arts Umbrella and BC Children’s launched the pilot project in January 2017
- Arts Umbrella and BC Children’s have confirmed the program will run for at least two more years
- BC Children’s estimates the program will reach approximately 220 children and youth each year

Child and youth mental health in BC:

- The Child Psychiatry School Program at BC Children’s Hospital is provided through the Ministry of Education Provincial Resource Program, and administered by the Vancouver School Board.
- Nearly 13% of children and youth aged 4-17 years (approximately 84,000) in BC experience clinically significant mental disorders at any given time (that is three-to-four children in a classroom of 30).
- More than 16,000 visits to BC Children's Hospital were made by children and youth with existing and emerging mental health problems.  
- 1,063 children and youth sought treatment for psychiatric issues through the hospital.
- 325 children and youth were admitted to inpatient units at the hospital.

Learn more about BC Children’s Mental Health Services and Programs:


About Arts Umbrella 
Art can change the lives of children in incredible ways, which is why Arts Umbrella helps young artists cultivate creativity and grow self-confidence through dance, theatre and visual arts. Since 1979, the not-for-profit has opened the doors for all kids ages 2 to 22 to find and explore their artistic voices. More than 20,000 students discover the magic each year - with more than half participating at little to no cost to their families.
BC Children's Hospital
Children's Health
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