Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Art Helped Save A Young Man's Life

Eilis O'Neill
John Madden, holding a sculpture he made for the entrance of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit of the Seattle Children’s Hospital.";

There is a small statue that greets people as they walk into what can be a very difficult place to visit. It’s the entrance to the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit of the Seattle Children’s Hospital.


John Madden, who was a patient here a few years ago, says the 10 days he spent in the unit saved his life. He made the statue as a way of saying thank you to the nurses and doctors who treated him during a dark time in his life.


“It’s kind of an abstract, swooping shape with some points on it,” says Madden. "To me, it represents that life doesn’t have one straight path. There’s a lot of soft curves and the scoops to it where things are gravy and everything’s good and then there’s the harsh points and the edges where stuff isn’t so great and you’re not happy where you’re at.”


At the time he was admitted, Madden was going to Aviation High School, a school known for its academically-challenging program. Sophomore year, his grades, and his mental health, started to slide.


“You know, I was, I think, failing every class I had," said Madden. "I was flipping back and forth between mania and depression. Sometimes I’d stay awake for four or five or six days in a row.”  


John didn’t know it at the time, but he had undiagnosed bipolar disorder.


He talked with Sound Effect contributor, Eilis O'Niell, about what it was like to come to terms with his condition and with the fact that his actions were hurting the people he loved. He says pulling himself out of that dark place involved doing some growing up.

Today, John is a welder and an artist. He discovered his love of art during his time in the psych unit.


Children’s Hospital would like John to make another sculpture. This one will be 20 feet tall and will go in a newly created garden on the hospital’s grounds.