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Mural helps teen patients make a space of their own
Photo caption: Occupational Therapist Pam Pinto designed the new mural on the Behavioral Health Unit, which adolescent patients on the unit then painted.

Hinsdale – To make the space a little more their own, the teenage patients in the Behavioral Health Unit at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital have helped to paint a new mural.

Titled “Funky Sol,” the mural features an orange and yellow sun rising from a bright blue ocean, where orange clownfish, spotted jellyfish and green sea turtles swim.

Designed by Occupational Therapist Pam Pinto, the mural plays multiple roles for the unit’s patients. It helps to differentiate their space from the adult patients staying there and works on important skills, offering patients a healthy activity that they have a personal stake in, Pinto said.

“Art helps patients express themselves in a non-threatening manner and in a meaningful way,” she said.

It also helps them begin to express themselves and deal with some of the difficult emotional issues they face, said Dr. Charles Burda, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who works with patients at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.

“This type of project is not only a part of the healing process,” Burda said. “It also shows them what they can accomplish, both individually and as a team.”

Fourteen adolescent patients took part in the mural’s construction, starting with Pinto’s design and then painting their own personal additions. The patients, for instance, came up with the clownfish and turtles on their own.

An amateur artist, Pinto has done murals for family and friends, but this is her first on the Behavioral Health Unit.

“There’s another small wall, and I’m going to use that to do a tree of hope,” Pinto said. “Each patient will design their own personalized leaf on the tree, and it will be an ongoing project. As we get more patients, each one will add their special touch to it.”

At first, some of the patients were reluctant to paint on the mural, worried about doing something to ruin it, said Jane Mitchell, director of Behavioral Health and Rehab Services at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.

“Pam did a great job of incorporating this into a life lesson, that everyone makes mistakes and it can be corrected,” Mitchell said.

As they moved along with the project, the patients came to realize that was true, Pinto said, and ended up enjoying the experience.

“One of the teens we had, she had significant social and emotional limitations,” Pinot said. “She really blossomed as she painted.”

The mural will remain for a while, and then Pinto plans to paint over it and start again with new patients, so they can create a work of their own.

In anticipation of this, Pinto has taken a photo of the completed work, which she has had framed. She’ll keep that on the unit in case some of the patients return, so they can see that a part of what they did remains.

That photo is featured in the Adventist Midwest Health National Arts Program Healing Arts exhibit, which opened Nov. 6 at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital.

Finally, Mitchell said the unit wants to put the photo on postcards, which will be sent home to all the patients who took part in the mural’s construction.

“It’s a great way for them to remember the lessons they learned, a positive reminder of the experience,” Mitchell said.

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Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. To find a physician, visit www.keepingyouwell.com.

Physicians on the medical staff of Adventist Midwest Health Hospitals are independent contractors, and are not agents of the hospitals.

Media contact: Chris LaFortune, public relations specialist, Adventist Midwest Health, christopher.lafortune@ahss.org; (630) 856-2354.