From jail to origami - Thetford man uses ancient art to help people with mental health issues

Karl Brooker with the origami swan he made from 2,500 prison application forms folded by hand. Picture: Karl Brooker

Karl Brooker with the origami swan he made from 2,500 prison application forms folded by hand. Picture: Karl Brooker


A former prisoner has gone from jail to spreading awareness about mental health after rediscovering his talent for the ancient art of origami while inside.

An origami Minion made by Karl Brooker. Picture: Karl BrookerAn origami Minion made by Karl Brooker. Picture: Karl Brooker

Karl Brooker created a stunning swan out of 2,500 individually-folded prison application forms while serving four weeks in HMP Norwich last year.

And now the 28-year-old, from Thetford, is hoping to teach others his skill as therapy for resolving mental health problems.

Mr Brooker was diagnosed with a personality disorder in 2016, which can see him change moods for no apparent reason.

The father-of-one, who has had symptoms since he was a teenager, admitted his mental health problems caused him to become violent and addicted to drugs, while he has also self-harmed and has tried to take his own life four times.

Karl Brooker's origami flowers. Picture: Karl BrookerKarl Brooker's origami flowers. Picture: Karl Brooker

He said: “I find creating these things very therapeutic.

“It keeps me calm and it distances me from doing anything stupid and from my thoughts.”

Mr Brooker, who has a six-year-old son called Del, said he hopes to start art therapy workshops where people who suffer from mental illnesses can learn the skill, calm their minds and maybe feel comfortable enough to seek help.

“I have done so much wrong in my life in Thetford,” said Mr Brooker. “This is my way of giving back and leaving my mark.

The origami swan Karl Brooker made from 2,500 prison application forms folded by hand. Picture: Karl BrookerThe origami swan Karl Brooker made from 2,500 prison application forms folded by hand. Picture: Karl Brooker

“I want my name to be remembered for spreading mental health awareness.

“I want to show people who are suffering like me: ‘Look, I can do this - so you can too.’”

In addition to the workshops Mr Brooker, who one day aspires to be a support worker, wants to become self-sufficient in growing fruit and vegetables.

He has secured an allotment based at the Charles Burrell Centre and would like to organise a scheme where people with mental health problems could also grow their own produce, share knowledge and also discuss their problems.

Therapy through growing fruit and vegetables

Mr Brooker said he hopes to record on video his progress so he can try and help people not only in Thetford but across the UK.

He said: “I want to document what I am doing and put it out there on a blog so people can see what we are doing. It is all just to raise awareness of mental health.

“Any money raised from these projects will be put back into the projects to expand them.

“I would love to see it go viral.”

“He has achieved so much”

Mr Brooker’s girlfriend Sadie Mix said since focusing his mind on getting the projects together, his boyfriend has overcome a lot of his problems.

“Since he started this he has achieved so much,” she said. “He has had meetings and phone calls with people.

“It sounds small to people but because he has issues with anxiety, I normally have to do it. That is an achievement in itself.”

In order to get his two projects off the ground, Mr Brooker is fundraising to buy the equipment needed

To donate visit:

For more information visit: Thepapercreator on Facebook

What are personality disorders?

They are conditions in which an individual differs significantly from an average person, in terms of how they think, perceive, feel or relate to others.

Changes in how someone feels and distorted beliefs about people can lead to odd behaviour.

Those who have the disorder may feel overwhelmed by negative feelings such as distress, anxiety, or anger.

They can feel empty and emotionally disconnected.

And have difficulty managing negative feelings without self-harming or threatening other people

There are 10 personality disorders; paranoid; schizoid; schizotypal; antisocial; borderline; histrionic; narcissistic; avoidant; dependant, and obsessive compulsive.

For more information about mental health problems visit or call Mind’s helpline on 0300 123 3393 or text 86463

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