Bodhi Tree Art Leads to Better Mental Health

Bodhi Tree Art Leads to Better Mental Health
An undated photo of a weeping fig tree in Puerto Rico (Lee Reich via AP)
Alex Joseph

Ahead of World Mental Health Day, specialists at an Australian clinic are encouraging people to engage in a collective art therapy project creating a Bodhi Tree for mental wellbeing treatment.

COVID-19 outbreaks and restrictions have left many people worrying about their mental health, noted Allied Health Manager and Clinical Psychologist, Deborah Shand. Shand from the Northside Group, with four clinics in Sydney, is promoting easy access to Art Therapy strategies for mental health wellbeing for World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10.

Top therapists at Campbelltown's, Macarthur clinic, are inviting patients to contribute expressive messages written on leaves for the  Bodhi Tree mural (also known as Sacred Fig Tree or People Tree), chosen for its symbology of growth and grounding.

The Art Therapy projected led by a health worker and professional artist Amanat Grewal is part of a broader initiative to offer self-help exercises for people displaying mental health disorders, which have been heightened by restrictions and COVID-19 outbreaks.

Grewal explained that the Bodhi tree Art Therapy project at the Campbelltown clinic is designed to allow space for individuals to express themselves at the clinic.

“The people (Peepal) tree is also called the Bodhi tree, and the natural shape of the leaves are heart-shaped so we thought it would be symbolic for people to talk about mental health in a very loving, very nurturing caring way," Grewal told the Epoch Times. "We invited all the people associated with Northside or would like to participate in this display of understanding or talking about their life story, essentially putting that on a leaf."

Northside Macarthur Clinic, Sydney, 2020. (Image supplied)
Northside Macarthur Clinic, Sydney, 2020. (Image supplied)

Grewal hopes for around 500 leaves to be part of a live exhibition where people can walk around the installation and engage with the stories that come up.

When asked why Art Therapy is important, Grewal said that it's a unique form of counselling where discussions take place through the universal language of art-making via metaphors and symbols.

First popularised in the 1940s by British artist Adrian Hill, Art Therapy has ancient origins with art being for communication since prehistoric times. Cave paintings found throughout the world are known to be tens of thousands of years old.

The Bodhi tree, which grows abundantly in India and many other Asian regions also has a long history. It is said to be where The Great Buddha also known as Buddha Shakyamuni meditated and attained enlightenment long ago.

Where meditation in its various forms focuses on connecting with one's self, Grewal notes her Art Therapy sessions follow a similar path.

She said, "It's about being present—in the moment, and when you're in the here and now, it's about working with whatever you have going on for you, currently in your present state of mind, so it's a bit like mindfulness."

She explained that it helps people confront their trauma, or domestic abuse and reflect upon their feelings. The most common problems people are presenting with are anxiety, depression, and bipolar conditions.

Last year, Northside Group treated 22,000 patients through their several different mental health care programs. Their holistic approach focuses on psychological, physical, nutritional and social health.

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