Becky WQ Jan 2024 Place 2 BE

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The ‘magical’ difference of art therapy in Scotland’s schools.


05 February 2024

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When Becky Wilkinson-Quinn was a teenager, she drew on her art skills to help cope with struggles at school.

At the time she didn’t properly understand that it was a form of therapy - and little did she realise that years later she would be using her own experience and the know-how she had back then to help youngsters across Scotland improve their mental health.

Becky, 43, works with the children’s and young people’s mental health charity Place2Be who - thanks to the generosity of players of People’s Postcode Lottery - have supported more than 7,000 children in primary and secondary schools up and down the country during the past year.

Becky, a trained Art Psychotherapist and Place2Be’s Clinical Lead in Scotland, said: “Art really did help me when I was younger and so I know the difference projects like this can have. It’s magical - and I don’t say that lightly. The way children can use their creativity to help them heal, just constantly amazes me.”

Art therapy sessions are just one of the services the charity delivers for free in their partner schools. From sketching and painting, to making models and sculptures, the sessions are there to help children, young people and their families cope with their emotions.

To date, Postcode Lottery players have raised more than £2.6million to help Place2Be offer support and enable more young people to benefit from its work. The sessions offered often come at a critical time in young people’s lives.

Becky explained: "I remember all the children from my placements, however, one in particular has always stuck with me. He was eight years old and during our sessions, he moved from being frozen and silent to being able to communicate with me through his art.

“His art became play and he went from a young boy who had no friends and couldn’t accept help from his teacher, to having a group of friends and beginning to progress at school. "There were still many challenges but he now had a voice, a way forward and the start of a more positive future. That’s why this work is so important.”

Place2Be believes supporting young people and their families in those early years is vital. Their trained experts, such as Becky, help schools understand and identify mental health problems, enable pupils to focus on learning and give them the tools to cope with challenges throughout their lives.

Becky recalls another child who had experienced multiple bereavements and was really struggling to talk about it. A pivotal moment came during an art therapy class, when the youngster made a bridge between themselves and Becky.

“It was such a special moment,” said Becky. “A real breakthrough. That is the thing about art. It is so powerful. That bridge was a symbol and something you just couldn’t put into words. And kids are just so good at that.” The charity also works to ensure young people have the confidence to ask for help if they need it.

“That is massively important. If we can give them the skills early on to be able to recognise how they are feeling and ask for support, then it’s going to make a real difference for young people going forward,” said Becky.

And in the digital world in which we now live, Place2Be is constantly evolving its services and looking for new ways to connect and engage with youngsters, especially those in more rural communities.

“There's lots that you can do online,” explained Becky. “There are interactive whiteboards and different arts packages. So instead of physically making artwork, children can do it virtually or on the screen. There is definitely a place for it and it’s really helping us reach out across the country.”

Place2Be has come a long way since it was founded in 1994. Growing from supporting a handful of inner London schools, to now working with more than700 nationwide. This year, the charity marks its 30th birthday – the perfect opportunity, Becky says, to reflect and celebrate the impact it has had.

“Looking back, I definitely would have benefited from this at school. Place2Be really does make a huge difference to the lives of so many. It’s why I feel so privileged to be working here.”