Patients design ‘bear-illiant' sculpture

Mental health patients from St Andrew’s Healthcare in Birmingham have been putting their artistic skills to the test, by designing a bear sculpture which will be on display in the city from July 10.

The patients’ ‘bear-illiant’ design – named Vincent the Bipolar Bear – forms part of The Big Sleuth trail, a free public art trail in aid of Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity. So named because the collective noun for a group of bears is called a ‘sleuth’, the trail is a free, family-friendly event, which will see up to 100 giant bear sculptures (and over 100 bear cubs created by schools and young people) leave their paw prints all over Birmingham.

A number of St Andrew’s patients got involved with the project, all of whom are currently being treated for mental health conditions on an inpatient basis. The colourful bear was inspired by artist Vincent van Gogh, who was believed to have bipolar disorder and other mental health issues.

The patients wanted to challenge people’s perceptions of mental illness with their design, and the bear shows the patients’ journey through mental health recovery, bringing to life their different experiences of mental health care. Vincent features a rucksack, waves, sunflowers and a wristwatch, representing the patients’ recovery journey ; moving away, undertaking treatment , growth and finding peace – a journey which may take some time. Vincent's full design - and his new city centre home - will be unveiled when the trail opens on 10 July.

Marcela Stenson, Visual Arts Specialist at St Andrew’s Healthcare Birmingham, explained: “It’s great to be involved in a large-scale project like The Big Sleuth and be able to share our patients’ stories with the wider community. We wanted to get involved in the project to give our patients the chance to have a voice, and help to break down the stigma attached to mental health.” 

For more information regarding The Big Sleuth, visit the trail website. Vincent the Bipolar Bear has his own Twitter page; follow him here.