Eighteen textile design students at Peter Symonds College have put together their own interpretation of mental health issues using textiles and art in a joint collaborative enterprise with the Southampton Neuroscience Group (SoNG), part of the University of Southampton.

SoNG invited the students from the College to use mental health issues as creative inspiration for artworks including garments, sculptures and paintings. The Changing Minds project aims to raise awareness and dispel myths and stigma surrounding mental health and neurodegenerative diseases in an unusual way.

Dr Shmma Quraishe, Katie Askew, Shreyasi Chatterjee and Professor Lindy Holden-Dye from Southampton Neuroscience Group have worked with Peter Symonds’ Textiles teacher Beki Vaile to discuss the current scientific understanding of the biological basis of poor mental health encompassing different disorders ranging from depression to dementia.

Using different mediums of textiles, art and design the students have interpreted this scientific insight into their own inspirational fashion and art pieces. The exhibition enabled the students to showcase the work they have produced as part of this project to the Southampton Neuroscience team as well as friends, parents and teaching staff.

“Mental health problems and neurodegenerative diseases touch the lives of so many people,” said Dr Shmma Quraishe, BBSRC Research Fellow within Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton.

“Despite this, the biological mechanisms that underlie these conditions are poorly understood by many. The work the students have produced is fantastic and offers us a unique way to get people to talk about and understand mental health.”

Each student has selected a different neurological condition including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Stroke, Epilepsy and Multiple Sclerosis. Through their research they have found out about the potential causes and internal changes to the brain as well as the physical attributes of sufferers.

Textiles teacher Beki Vaile, who is leading the project at Peter Symonds, comments, “This is a project where art meets the mind and brain diseases are interpreted by artists through the tangible medium of textiles and art. Many of the artworks are bright and beautiful, challenging the traditional representation of mental illness and encouraging people to think differently. We would like this work to be a step towards a better understanding of these complex conditions.”

Professor Lindy Holden-Dye added, “The students at Peter Symond’s surprise and enchant us with their thoughtful and thought-provoking interpretation of the biological basis of mental health. All this work is a step towards addressing the isolation felt by many individuals who struggle to live with the challenge posed by poor mental health.”