Art therapy to overcome Covid-19 fears


When Mr Kandasamy Sakthivel tested positive for Covid-19 in August last year, he was beset by fear and anxiety as he was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) from his dormitory for treatment.

But, soon after, he got to indulge in his favourite passion: art.

That gave him mental relief and he left the hospital a week later considerably calmer.

The 41-year-old's painting was among several others by migrant workers and TTSH medical staff that were displayed from Feb 6 to 20 in an art exhibition titled Where Every Person Matters: A Collective Reflection Through Covid-19 at the hospital.

Out of the 80 paintings showcased, 20 were the creations of migrant workers who got the chance to paint or draw when they were hospitalised with Covid-19. The works were mostly acrylic on canvas. Others were pen and colour pencil depictions.

Social workers used painting as a therapeutic medium to help the migrant workers cope with the emotions associated with being infected with Covid-19.

They organised 10 art training sessions at TTSH's short stay wards, where the migrant workers learnt to paint and share the meaning of their creations in a group discussion.

Mr Sakthivel, a native of Kadaloor district in Tamil Nadu, arrived in Singapore in 2003 to work in a shipyard.

In August last year, he was rushed to TTSH in an ambulance after he felt dizzy and had nausea.

He tested positive for Covid-19 but showed signs of recovery soon after.

Three days later, he was transferred to the Expo Convention Centre, where he stayed for 14 days.

A day before he left, Mr Sakthivel was given the chance to work with paint and create a picture. He drew a portrait of himself. "I feel honoured that they gave me the chance to paint a picture," said the migrant worker, who has a 11-year-old son.

"I was comfortable doing it in an environment of caring medical staff. They made me feel like I was part of a family."

Social worker Lee Qing Hui, who attended to Mr Sakthivel's needs, said the art initiative, along with other activities enabled him to slowly open up. "He was quiet and reserved, initially even reluctant to update his family of his situation," she said. "Gradually, we helped him to relax and express himself better."


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