Members of Helium Arts Youth Advisory Group, from left: Saoirse O’Brien, Mountnugent, County Cavan, Franchesca Byrne O’Malley, Dundalk, County Louth, Owen Petticrew, Mullingar, and Eric O’Connell, Galway City. Photo: Julien Behal

Helium Arts expands Creative Health programme

Westmeath children with lifelong health conditions can ‘find their tribe’ as Creative Health programme expands

Helium Arts, the children’s charity committed to improving the wellbeing of children and young people living with lifelong physical health conditions, recently expanded its Creative Health programme to hospitals and in the community in Dublin, serving families living in Westmeath via online programmes.

The programme has been running in hospital and community settings in Cork, Limerick and the mid west, in Galway and the west since 2019. It is also offered online.

It provides free, artist-led creative workshops in hospital paediatric outpatient clinics to children and young people living with lifelong physical health conditions. Following the hospital-based workshops, participants can be referred to Helium Arts community and online programmes, which include free workshops and camps during school holidays and weekends. The workshops, led by professional artists, provide on-site medical support and are accessible to participants with a variety of needs. Supported conditions include diabetes, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, allergies, heart conditions, asthma, spina bifida, juvenile arthritis, rare or complex conditions and many more.

In Dublin, the programme is being rolled out at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Connolly in Blanchardstown and Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Tallaght, in partnership with the CHI Arts in Health Programme.

Free online Creative Arts summer camps are also available for children with lifelong physical health conditions, including in Westmeath, in July (see

CEO of Helium Arts, Helene Hugel, said: “As we celebrate five years of our Creative Health programme, we’re excited to expand the reach of our programmes to enable children and young people from Westmeath to participate. In Ireland, 156,437 or 12%, of all children and teenagers live with the effects of illness or disability every day. This key step in our national growth means that even more children can have improved outcomes in health, wellbeing, social connection and creative expression.

“Our new partnership with the CHI Arts in Health Programme is a testament to the strength of community and collaboration that drives us forward to improve access to creative opportunities for more children living with chronic health conditions.”

Sheila O’Brien is mother to Saoirse aged 15 who has hydrocephalus. The family live in Mountnugent, County Cavan. Speaking at an event to launch the programme in Dublin, Sheila said: “Saoirse has been lucky enough to participate in the Helium Arts creative programme since its foundation. At that time, she was struggling to find her place within her peer group and couldn’t join sports groups like her peers.

“Her participation in Helium has evolved her imagination and filled her with confidence and courage. She is now a member of their Youth Advisory Group. Helium has transformed my daughter’s outlook and for that I am eternally grateful.”

Impact report

According to the Helium Arts impact report for 2023*, children and young people living with lifelong physical health conditions can often experience stigma, isolation, loneliness and anxiety, and its Creative Health programme uses creativity to inspire these children to feel more confident.

By empowering them with tools such as friendship, community and new skills, the programme helps these children to become more prepared and capable of overcoming adversity.

Other findings on the impact of the programme contained in the 2023 report show that:

• 84% of children reported they felt happier when going to hospital and 100% of parents said that their children’s moods were improved.

• Seeing their children happier meant that 98% of parents reported their own moods improved while in the hospital waiting room.

• 51% of community programme participants came from rural areas, 39% were from disadvantaged backgrounds, and 53% had a disability or additional needs; research shows that children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and those who live in more rural areas face greater challenges due to lifelong physical health conditions.

Joan Mulvihill, artist, Mullingar, at an event in the Naughton Institute in Dublin on June 11 to announce the expansion of the Helium Arts Creative Health programme to Dublin and serving Westmeath. Photo credit: Julien Behal

Helium Arts hosts week-long celebration at Naughton Institute

To mark its launch in Dublin and to celebrate its first five years delivering a range of impactful, creative programmes, Helium Arts hosted a week-long celebration last week at the Naughton Institute (the former Science Gallery) at Trinity College Dublin on Pearse Street.

Free, public events were offered to people the opportunity to meet members of Helium Arts and learn more about the art workshops they ran under their Creative Health programme:


CREATIVITUDE was a week-long exhibition of artworks created by young people from Cork, Galway, and Limerick who participated in Helium Arts Creative Health Hub programmes during 2022 and 2023.

Curated by Monica Flynn and made in collaboration with artists, Ashleigh Ellis, Chelsea Canavan, Sarah Fuller and Niamh Gibbons, the works on display provided a window into the creative exploration of materials, expressions of identity and ideas by young people that go beyond their experience of illness.

For more information about Helium Arts, visit: