Vincent the Bipolar Bear scoops award

We're delighted to announce that Vincent the Bipolar Bear - a sculpture designed and created by our patients in Birmingham - has won a prestigious National Service User Award in the category of 'Breaking Down Barriers: Tackling Stigma".

The judging panel for the awards featured a mixture of guest and service user judges, and the winners were announced on Thursday 12 November during a black tie gala event at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

The National Service User Awards are designed to recognise all of the amazing things that people in inpatient services have achieved across the country. Our entry, Vincent, was part of 'The Big Sleuth' - a free public art trail held last summer in aid of Birmingham Children's Hospital. The trail featured 100 giant bear sculptures (and over 100 bear cubs created by schools and young people), who left their paw prints all over Birmingham.

The people in our care wanted Vincent's design to show their journey through mental health recovery, and they drew inspiration from artist Vincent Van Gogh, who was believed to have bipolar disorder and other mental health issues. 

Marcela Stenson, Visual Arts Specialist at St Andrew’s Healthcare Birmingham, attended the awards ceremony.

She commented: “It is great honour to be part of the National Service Users Awards and to be recognised for the work our patients do. Vincent the Bipolar Bear is a great project which speaks to many who experienced or are living with mental health condition.

"I’m extremely proud for all the work our patients put into this project and it will have long lasting legacy for many years to come.”

The patients' bear design brought to life their different experiences of mental health care, with the design featuring a rucksack, waves, sunflowers and a wrist watch, representing the patients’ recovery journey; moving away, undertaking treatment, growth and finding peace – a journey which may take some time.

Marcela explained:  “Our patients were involved with the project from the very beginning, and the idea was presented to them during delegated workshops and in individual sessions to ensure that as many people as possible were involved.

"The final version included 12 key designs combined into one, which had to be submitted for approval as part of the project. After this we were able to start with painting. Many patients took part in various aspects of the painting and worked tirelessly in completing the sculpture's design.

"This sparked lots of interest from other patients and staff who usually are not interested in art. Throughout the process, patients would come and comment on the progress and ask questions about the project.It genuinely helped to build our patients' confidence, as they were also able to see how the final sculpture was persevered by the community and visitors of Birmingham."

Click here to find out more about our Arts team 

Picture courtesy of Roy Hughes