These Art-as-Therapy Founders Have Created the Ultimate Creative Tool to Boost Mental Wellbeing

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A storytelling game for mental health's sake.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that almost half of Australians will struggle with mental health in their lifetime. Isn’t that a story worth telling, asks Flutter Lyon founder Robyn Wilson?

“In order to have a well-functioning society, we need to be doing everything we can to support and strengthen the mental health of people right across the spectrum,” Robyn explains. “To facilitate change in this area, creative and innovative solutions are needed. As creatives and people who’ve been through the system ourselves, we can see the gaps and we know how powerful creativity can be in changing things. People matter.”

Robyn has spent the better part of 10 years utilising her own technique of art therapy called “pressography” – an art form that aims to reflect the intimacy of personal storytelling in a careful, reflective artwork created with the help of flowing ink, a medical syringe and a symmetrical rendering of the resulting image. She’s since applied her unique method through her full-service arts and health organisation, Flutter Lyon, across Australian workplaces, hospitals and across the community, all with the aim of improving mental health through honest, open storytelling. A particularly important part of her work is in palliative care wards, where pressography can offer a fleeting chance to create a lasting, transformative impression.

“Working in the end-of-life setting only solidified for us what we need to be looking at: understanding and celebrating our lives much earlier than in our final days,” Robyn explains. “That’s why we’re so passionate about instilling practices in people’s everyday lives that help them to cultivate good mental health and connection with the people around them.”

Flutter Lyon, which is named for the “softness” of human experience and the “strength” of a lion, has since produced training programs in the death and dying sector, workshops for the public, workspace leadership programs, published a book, secured significant funding and won a NSW Health LHD (Local Health District) Quality Award. Now, the company has launched its latest initiative: Momentoria.

“[Momentoria] gives people a new way to talk about their life experiences and to find more effective language to describe how they feel or what they’ve experienced that has made them who they are today,” Robyn explains of their latest project. “By playing the game, you’re actually dedicating time to connecting with the people you know… Having strong bonds with the people in your life where you can be honest, ask for help or really know how to support each other – that’s a good-looking mental health picture for anyone.”

Momentoria, available on Kickstarter until 12pm on September 29, contains two components: a game kit of apparatus like black ink, a dental syringe, a storytelling card pack and instruction booklet, and an online story course that links participants to a collection of tutorial videos exploring how to create a life pressing as well as tutorials from experts educating viewers on the science of art, storytelling, vulnerability, human connection and empathy.

Although Momentoria is based on research from several faculties of thought, it’s the countless hours Robyn has clocked up creating art pressing pieces for others that is proof enough of the project’s impact.

“I’ve witnessed first-hand how the use of insightful question-asking and open storytelling can change how someone feels about a situation,” she explains. “We’ve designed every element of the experience in response to years of practical research and development in the areas of psychology, neuroscience, spirituality and creativity, through working on projects and alongside mentors and project partners.”

Robyn’s diverse mix of professional experience spanning marketing, advertising, fashion design and publicity sectors, in conjunction with business partner and managing director Ruby Lucas’ background in marketing and events services, as well as management training, have proved to be an indispensable force of skills. Together, they’ve developed a creative, impactful avenue for tackling mental wellbeing, and it’s their shared experiences with similar struggles that has provided the perfect catalyst for art-led support.

“Because it’s normal and encouraged in our team and friendships to talk about our real-life experiences openly, my resilience and productivity levels are much higher,” Robyn explains. “It’s the expression and connection aspect to my mental health that had been missing – being able to talk openly without fear of judgement. Instead, it’s just simply ‘what’s the story? I’m listening and I respect you.’ It changes everything. It can be the difference between whether someone can cope and thrive or if they remain unwell and excluded.”

Ruby echoes this sentiment.

“[Robyn’s] greatest strength in this area is making you feel like you are perfectly normal for experiencing these things – they make sense, so there’s no need for judgement,” Ruby says of their partnership. “Just talking about it changed my perspective – it lost its power and shame, and now it’s just a thing that comes up every now and then – like a cold, or a pimple on your face.”

It’s this support ecosystem that both Robyn and Ruby have taken to the wider community, with real,  tangible results.

“We’ve seen communities come together and talk about how they feel, in more vulnerable and effective ways than they have before,” Robyn adds. “[I’ve seen] artworks I’ve created for families hang in their loungerooms [or] displayed at funerals. Parts of session recordings have been played at funerals. Recently, a man had one of these artworks tattooed onto his back as a symbol of life and hope.

“[This is] the key message that we see coming through: because of what you’ve shown me, I can get on with life better.” 

Support Momentoria on Kickstarter before September 29!

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