'How art helped my battle with mental health'

Being sectioned saved Victoria Cank's life. Now she has built her life back from dangerous overdoses which landed her in A&E. Now Victoria, an artist, has launched an exhibition showcasing work about mental health issues.

Wednesday, 7th March 2018, 7:12 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th March 2018, 8:15 am
Victoria Cank at her exhibition Insight which shines a spotlight on the difficulties people with mental health conditions face.

When artist Victoria Cank was sectioned for repeatedly overdosing and self-harming she decided that when she got better she wanted to show the world the creativity she was capable of.

At her worst Victoria was being rushed to A&E on a weekly basis.

Now, after two years of intensive treatment in a psychiatric hospital she has launched an exhibition in Chorley to showcase her artwork and the work of others who have also struggled with mental health conditions.

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Victoria Cank at her exhibition Insight which shines a spotlight on the difficulties people with mental health conditions face.

The 35-year-old, who moved back to Chorley to live near her mum and sister once she left hospital, says making art or craft is a way of helping to manage the issues she struggles with.

Victoria says: “I was sectioned for two years under the Mental Health Act. Some people who are retiring take up art to stop them from feeling lonely or depressed. Art and design can be used for any of those extremes.

“Since I came out of hospital in 2016 I have not really been well enough to go back to work. I needed something to keep me mentally busy and I have always loved art.

“While I was sill in hospital I approached Lancashire Mind about doing something like this and I put a call out there for applications. The whole idea of the exhibition is that it’s meant to be based around mental health issues and it’s also about using art as a way of keeping positive.

Victoria Cank at her exhibition Insight which shines a spotlight on the difficulties people with mental health conditions face.

“I want to change the way people perceive mental health and demonstrate the capabilities and talents of those living with conditions.

“I decided to call the exhibition Insight to allow others an insight into our world, where mental ill health is a constant struggle.”

Victoria was a teenager when she began to struggle with low self-esteem.

“I was 13 when I first had problems with self-harming,” she says. “In 94 it wasn’t really something that anyone was aware of. People talk about it more now.

“I struggled at school not feeling like I fitted in and being bullied. That went on until I was 19.”

Victoria found solace for a few years at Norwich University of the Arts studying fine art and then working for an art gallery but it was when she got into an emotionally abusive relationship between 2010 and 2014 that her mental health really took a turn for the worse.

“I was self-harming and overdosing on a weekly basis and ending up in A&E,” she said. “I was taken to a physiatric hospital. They always said to me ‘you have insight and capacity’. They meant that in my head I knew that if I took a certain amount of tablets I knew what would happen but having that insight didn’t mean I stopped. I needed more help.”

Eventually Victoria was sectioned for two years, from January 2015 until November 2016. It was in the physiatric hospital that she underwent dialectical behaviour therapy which is designed to help people suffering from personality disorders.

“It was a very hard programme but it did save my life,” she says. “We learnt skills on how to deal with an emotional crisis. It was just like learning life skills. When you’re so wrapped up in your emotions you can’t see clearly.”

Victoria feels that the therapy helped to re-train her in how to act to cope with her emotions in a constructive rather than a destructive way.

“I’m still dealing with the problems I did when I was in hospital, I can just deal with them in a safer way now,” says Victoria.

“I left that abusive relationship, moved back to Lancashire to be near by mum and sister and that has been amazing.

“I can’t praise the NHS enough - their compassion-focused therapy was absolutely amazing.

“What people don’t realise though is that you leave hospital and then all of a sudden you come out into the world and you are all on your own again.”

Art showcase

The exhibition, called Insight, is a look at the use of art, design and crafts for mental health wellbeing, illness and recovery.

Victoria is showcasing her own work as well as the work of over 20 other artists from across the UK and abroad.

Insight opened on Saturday, March 3 at the Community Art Gallery at the Farmhouse in Astley Park.

It will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon until 3.30pm.

The exhibition, in aid of Lancashire Mind, comes to a close on Wednesday, April 4.