For children, hospital can be an unfamiliar and frightening environment. The recorded effects of hospitalisation on children include fear, anxiety, stress, behavioural problems, regression, and harm to a child’s future development.
Helene wanted to help combat the negative effects of hospitalisation on children through the creation of a fun and supportive environment. Since 2003, Helene has been working as an artist in hospitals, health centres and community health settings to transform the healthcare experience and environment for children, their families and staff.
Helium is an arts and health company setup by Helene Hugel. It connects children, their families, friends, and healthcare staff on creative common ground to achieve healthcare goals, which might otherwise be far more difficult. Helium’s team of artists offer the opportunity for innovative interventions for children in healthcare across primary, tertiary and community services. Such interventions have been shown to reduce the negative effects of hospitalisation and poor health while giving the children a voice, ownership, and responsibility for their own well-being.
Helium’s service is participatory, creating and producing ideas collaboratively with the children in healthcare settings. For the future, Helene sees the potential for healthcare facilities to be creative communities - social places where children, families and staff experience shared moments of learning, joy, comfort and belonging.
Since Helium was established in 2009, 3,500 children and their families have taken part in their projects. An independent evaluation of Helium’s work found that young people were distracted from their illness, felt a reduced sense of alienation in the hospital environment, were happier and less bored as a result of taking part, and that the work encouraged creativity, social contact, physical movement, self-expression and confidence.
The 2012 Cloudlands project was designed for teenagers with chronic illnesses, giving them the opportunity to connect with artists and their peers in other hospitals through the use of online resources and on-site workshops. Helium also runs a community health programme, the artist on call programme and a professional development programme.
In 2013 alone, 401 children and teenagers benefited from Helium’s work.
Who would know small things can make you so happy?
Boy, aged 9