Craft projects are effective outlets for individuals who suffer from mental illness. Through crafts, people can express themselves in a safe, non-threatening manner, which may be easier than sharing their internal feelings verbally. Crafts are therapeutic and serve as a positive distraction and means for calming down individuals who feel anxious, depressed and manic.
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A self-portrait project can be an effective craft for people with mental illnesses to express how they feel about themselves. Using paint, brushes and canvases, let individuals paint what they think they look like. Remind the group that this is to be their interpretation of what they look like, and it is not a contest about being the best artist or painting the most accurate picture. You may find that some people paint self-portraits that look nothing like them in real life, but is how they wish they appeared. This speaks to issues involving self-esteem, ego and confidence.
Creating beaded jewellery is a craft project that allows people with mental illnesses to focus on a task, and create something that they can wear or give away as gifts. Provide a variety of beads with string and talk about different types of patterns that can be made out of the beads. Members of the group might make jewellery using all of one type of bead, or they may make jewellery with alternating beads in a pattern. Working with beads is effective for helping those with mentally illness manage their anxiety because it forces them to pay attention to details, while taking some of their attention away from the panic itself.
Using heavy card stock, old magazines, craft scissors and craft glue, have your group of individuals create collages on a particular topic that you assign. For instance, if you are leading a workgroup on the topic "good health," use that theme for the collage. Individuals may create collages with pictures of healthy foods, people exercising or people smiling. The goal is for the individual to create what the topic means to him using creativity. This craft project helps with focusing and concentration skills, as well as serves as an emotional outlet.
Paper Plate Masks
Many people wear metaphorical masks to disguise themselves or fit in with society. For your craft project, have individuals with mental illness create masks out of paper plates and art supplies, such as colourful yarn, googly eyes, pom-poms and crayons. The masks should represent various types of masks that they feel like people, or themselves, wear. Examples may include happy faces, sad faces, the faces of animals or monsters. This can be a therapeutic activity for some by allowing them to uncover what they feel like their own mask is.
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