Behavioral health murals enlist patients, provide meditation

In this Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 photo, Ivinson Memorial Hospital Foundation Coordinator Lauren Whitby works on a mural depicting the Snowy Range in the Behavioral Health Unit at the hospital in Laramie, Wyo. Two murals - one a more traditional work of art, based on a photograph, the other a therapeutic tool with ancient origins - are brightening the walls of the hospitalÕs 10-bed inpatient unit. (Shannon Broderick/Laramie Boomerang via AP)


Laramie Boomerang

LARAMIE, Wyo. — The Behavioral Health Services unit of Ivinson Memorial Hospital just got a little more colorful.

Two murals — one a more traditional work of art, based on a photograph, the other a therapeutic tool with ancient origins — are brightening the walls of the hospital’s 10-bed inpatient unit.

IMH Foundation Coordinator Lauren Whitby is helping lead the project, alongside Behavioral Health Services Director Mark Holder.

“One is designed to be a paint-by-number, so as I’ve been able to work on it, we’ve been able to invite patients to help,” Whitby said. “The other piece of it is designed as a labyrinth, which is a tool (Holder) uses a lot up there with his patients to kind of help them to feel calm and give them that meditative opportunity. So, that labyrinth will be there to be used for patients to come.”

Labyrinths look similar to mazes, but do not include dead ends or traps, and are designed to be followed or traced, rather than solved. Labyrinths have been used in religious spaces for centuries and featured prominently in certain Greek myths, but have started showing up recently in prisons and hospitals either as large physical structures, or — as is the case at IMH — a smaller image of a labyrinth patients can trace with a finger.

“It’s not a maze, technically, but it looks a lot like a maze,” Whitby said. “So, what you can do is you can trace your finger through the labyrinth all the way through and that’s just a meditative tool they use with the patients up there.”

Whitby said the paint-by-numbers mural has also been calming for the patients helping to put it up.

“It’s been neat to see how working with the patients while painting has really helped them to be able to relax and focus,” she said.

Whitby said the mural was based on a photo she took herself.

“It combines the Snowy Range and it’s kind of framed off by Indian paintbrush flowers, so it’s really a tribute to Wyoming, which I thought would be an appropriate start for this first mural that we’re doing at the hospital,” she said. “My vision for this is it just doesn’t end with this one project, but that we expand to doing more murals in behavioral health, as well as other departments at the hospital.”

Future sites for murals have not been determined, but IMH will expand its artistic involvement with patient art workshops in the near future, Whitby said.

“Starting Feb. 19, we’re going to be doing a six-week workshop with cancer center patients that are interested,” she said. “So, they’ll be able to create art for an hour once a week as sort of way for them to process their emotions during treatment.”

The Behavioral Health Services unit provides acute psychiatric care for adolescents and adults and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The unit also offers crisis intervention services and runs a crisis hotline which is similarly in operation 24 hours a day.