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Art Exhibition: Eternal Art of the Simulated Mind

Observations from Kingston University and St George’s University’s simulated Mental Health Ward

The work of Faculty students and staff has been made into films and a series of artworks now being exhibited Kingston Hill.

Artist and film maker Alban Low (photographed right with Julia Gale and Harvey Wells from the Faculty) was invited to watch mental health nursing students as they took part in simulations and spent two days sketching on the Clinical Simulations and Mental Health Skills’ Development Programme.

Alban was granted access to this high octane environment where students from the School of Nursing at the Faculty apply their mental health skills in a simulated ‘live’ ward situation. He is no stranger to ‘live’ performances but nothing could prepare him for this emotionally charged assignment.

Actors play the part of patients with mental health problems on a ward as the students role play working with them. The simulations give students experience but in a safe environment where, if mistakes are made, there are no consequences to them.

Alban was invited by Harvey Wells, senior lecturer in mental health nursing. “There is a lot of mystique and stigma around mental health,” he said. “I thought it would give an interesting insight to have an artist unconnected to the sector to come and see some of what goes on in a ward environment.”

“It was a unique experience for any outsider,” Alban said. “Watching the students diagnosing, managing and interacting with not only one patient but several in a pressurised ward scenario, I felt surprisingly uneasy. As the role of patient was played by actors, you would think this would be like a normal performance where the audience just sits and watches on. That was not the case. The anticipation was palpable.” Student Lucy Riddett said: “As a Year 1 mature student with little healthcare experience, the simulations made me acknowledge that I already have skills that can be applied to working with service users. This hugely increased my confidence and validated that mental health nursing is the right career move for me. The art exhibition captured the service users’ (actors/actresses) extremely well, portraying their emotions in the moment in the various scenarios. The paintings and short film will be great to illustrate various mental health issues to the public.”

Alban’s film Eternal Art of the Simulated Mind, premiered at the British Film Institute at the start of July as part of the fourth Walthamstow International Film Festival where it was shortlisted for the animation award. He also made another film, Simulated Mental Health Ward Snapshot, about their training using photographs of the students.

The artwork reveals what makes this programme so special and why it won Teaching Innovation Of The Year at the Student Nursing Times Awards 2012.

Eighteen portraits and sketches are now on display at Kingston Hill, 1st floor, Frank Lampl Building. You can also see them, and get Alban’s experiences in his own words in these two blogs posts; Chris Hart and Fish Bowl Peter and Mental Health Cat and Mouse.