Sometimes methods of helping with the healing of those who have been through traumatic experiences come from unexpected directions.
It is hard to imagine that learning and practicing drawing and painting could have the power to help those in the community who are suffering with conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression, however a group known as Art and Soul in Wingham, are living proof of this.
Art and Soul's co-founder, Ron Hindmarsh, was a special guest of the Macksville Rotary Club at a dinner this week, he relayed his remarkable story to his fellow Rotarians and some representatives of Nambucca Valley's artistic and veterans community.
Ron Hindmarsh is an accomplished artist himself and has been assisting people with disabilities and those with stress related issues for over 25 years. More recently Ron has focused on former emergency service workers and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) who are suffering from aliments such as PTSD and the results have been remarkable.
Ron told the story of the other founder of Art and Soul, former Taree Police Officer, Jillian Oliver, who was seriously injured in a vehicle accident that ultimately led to the loss of her right arm and resulting in other health issues including PTSD.
Jillian understandably went through a rough time dealing with her injuries and the loss of her career as a police officer. A friend had suggested to Jillian that she try painting as a way to relax and, with tons of tenacity and some help from Ron, Jillian Oliver is now an artist in her own right and has gone on to curate an art show in conjunction with the Invictus Games in Sydney during 2018.
Ron and Jillian run the Art and Soul art classes in Wingham for ex-service and Emergency Service personnel who are suffering with PTSD and are changing lives in the process. Ron points to some undeniable evidence about the positive outcomes of the classes.
Some of those that take the class have been able to considerably reduce the frequency they need to see their psychiatrist or psychologist.
Comments such as 'this is the best thing that has happened, I am now learning and laughing' are not uncommon coming from participants of the Art and Soul class.
Ron added that for some of the students it gives them a reason to get out of the house and interact with others. Ron went on to say that many friendships are formed during the classes and the jokes and banter are something to behold.
Ron also supported a comment made by one of the dinner guests that art could have the same positive effect on those directly affected by the recent fires in the district.
To hear Ron Hindmarsh talk about what the Art and Soul classes are doing for people was uplifting and inspiring and left those in the room thinking that if it works in Wingham it could work just as well here. The required ingredients for a class like this would be students who might benefit from learning art, artists willing to give their time to teach, some art supplies and a venue.
Expressions of interest for art classes on Mid North Coast
If a district could bring those ingredients together Ron Hindmarsh has vowed that he would be willing to assist in helping get the ball rolling.
I would love to hear from anyone who would be interested in seeing a program like Art and Soul work here and perhaps we can bring all the ingredients together and let art do some healing. Please email me at Nambucca-HeadsSB@rslnsw.org.au with your interest or for more enquiries.
- Author Mick Birtles served in the Australian Army for 36 years where he was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for command and leadership as an officer. Now retired, Mick lives in Nambucca Heads and writes about issues affecting veterans.
Also from Mick Birtles:National Servicemen's Day, February 16