Sending a hopeful message

A mural created by adolescent patients welcomes visitors to the hospital’s inpatient psychiatric unit. Photo: Anna Blazevic

There’s hope on the eighth floor of the hospital.

That’s what the adolescent patients receiving treatment in the inpatient psychiatric unit want visitors, hospital staff and new patients to know. So they’ve created a cheerful mural to welcome people to the unit.

Patients who were being treated at UIC’s Comprehensive Assessment and Treatment Unit last summer designed the mural with the help of occupational therapy staff. The unit treats as many as nine patients, ages 11 to 17, with the average length of stay between six to eight weeks, said occupational therapist Anna Blazevic.

“We started talking about the message we wanted to give our visitors,” Blazevic said. “There were all of these different ideas that were voted on, but the theme of hope won.”

The 9-by-7-foot mural, completed in November, depicts a winding road called “Hope Ave.” that leads to a tree of hope and a bright rainbow. Patients’ quotes about hope are featured as graffiti.

“We talked about what were some of the images that you think of when you think about hope,” Blazevic said. “We put all of those images together and incorporated all of those pieces.”

Julia Tobin, an occupational therapy student at Colorado State University who completed fieldwork at UIC over the summer, created a master drawing from the adolescents’ ideas, then projected it onto the wall. The patients traced the artwork onto the wall and painted it.

“I pulled the different designs together so it was one big picture and it really was their mural on their unit,” Tobin said.

Working on the mural helped the adolescents in many ways, Tobin said. A child with sensory issues, for example, learned how much pressure to use when touching the paintbrush to the wall. Others improved their motor skills and cognitive skills, she said.

“The activity was definitely what occupational therapy is — doing something you enjoy doing but learning skills at the same time,” she said. “A lot of these kids have really low self-esteem, so trying a new skill for the first time helped them with gaining confidence.”

While the adolescents learned skills that will last them a lifetime, the unit as a whole benefits from the mural, Blazevic said.

“It was great to see the kids work together and use their creativity and talents to beautify and uplift the unit in a way that leaves a permanent and positive mark,” she said.

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