Theresa Monagle has lived with schizophrenia, a serious mental health condition which can cause hallucinations and delusions, for almost half her life.

For Theresa, who is a patient of the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust, art has been a vital part of her life, giving her a means to escape from her illness.

“Art is like the saviour,“ says the 39-year-old, who is just one of the artists exhibiting work at a new artsdepot exhibition organised by mental health teams based at Barnet Hospital.

The show, titled Discover Art in Recovery Exhibition (DARE), offers people who are being treated by the trust the chance to showcase their work.

“People there express themselves through their art and it is a nice way to show your work,“ says the patient of Barnet’s Springwell Centre clinic.

She continues: “Schizophrenia is one of the worst diseases there is in mental health. I’m a survivor, I definitely believe that people can recover once they get the help they need. The doctors have been great.“

Although Theresa has her condition under control, she has wrestled with mental illness for 20 years and suffered a nervous breakdown aged 19.

“I’m still on medication, I still have a doctor,“ she admits. “I always will be, I probably will be for the rest of my life.“

But she has pieced her life back together – in no small part due to her ability to express herself creatively – and last June graduated from the University of Middlesex with a degree in fine art.

The painter, who creates her pieces using a palette knife, thickly sculpting oil paint to depict her subjects, joins around 30 other artists in the exhibition, including Barnet resident Francoise Lewis.

“We are looking forward to it very much,“ says the 59-year-old, who used to draw fellow patients during her time in hospital.

“I just love painting and it is every day I have to create something.“

DARE came into being after psychologist Dr Jane Plimmer helped secure funding through a Dragon’s Den-style initiative organised by the Trust. Artists using the mental health services were contacted, and requests from interested parties, including people living in care homes, began pouring in.

“We hoped it would be a small number of people but it has become very popular,“ laughs Dr Goran Petronic, clinical psychologist in the community support and recovery team at the trust, who is helping organise the exhibition with Dr Plimmer.

The show aims to challenge negative stereotypes surrounding mental illness, and to promote social inclusion.

All sorts of work will be on display from artists at a range of levels, from beginners to those already exhibiting.

While some pieces depict pain and suffering, the exhibition also aims to communicate a message of hope and recovery.

Goran, who has worked with the Barnet trust since 2005, explains: “I think it helps them to build their own confidence to feel part of the society, part of the culture. The stigma surrounding mental illness, we need to break it down and banish that.

“The project is about promoting art in terms of creating an outlet for our clients who are in residential homes or out there in the community to help them occupy their time and use art to express themselves.“

And it will not be the last show of its kind, as Goran says two more exhibitions are in the pipeline.

“We hope that this will just be the beginning,“ he says.

artsdepot, Nether Street, Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley, April 23 to May 5. Details: 020 8369 5454,