Brette Tell, Angela Tuckerman, and Jane Engleman from Mental Health organization Painted Brain and spoke to various mental health consumers on issues regarding acquiring mental health services. As mental health consumers, we all know how challenging it can be sometimes to ask for help. Even after seeking help and nearby resources and using nearby resources, some problems can arise such as power differences amongst therapists and clients, receiving the wrong medication, or being improperly diagnosed. Sometimes asking for help can be the hardest thing, especially when that help isn’t properly given. At Enki, a mental health facility in East Los Angeles, Brette lead a very thoughtful ice-breaker activity where everyone got up and introduced themselves to each other. Afterwards, she briefly discussed her own story while giving some helpful tips for navigating the present day mental health system. Then Jane got up, shared a very powerful and moving poem about her own personal struggles while cheering along a new-found friend. Finally, Angela closed the Speaking Engagement with an announcement for Women’s Day as well as help lead a Q and A, giving the consumers an opportunity to ask personal questions to Painted Brain members. Flyers were passed, email addresses were gathered, and food was served. Overall, it could be considered a very productive, powerful, and successful event.
The mask project at Painted Brain is geared towards the destigmatization of mental illness. We hope to achieve this by putting a face to mental illness. Contributors at Painted Brain are making masks and then taking them off and talking about what it’s like to live with mental illness. Some contributors have made videos when they are speaking out about their particular experiences and we hope that members from the public who are unable to come to Painted Brain community center will create their own masks and submit videos as well.
Expression through art is what Painted Brain is all about. We do not have art therapy but rather various art groups where we encourage people to participate at their own comfort level. This creates a relaxed environment for people to express themselves and be who they are. Additionally, there is the opportunity to expand your creative network, learn new artistic skills, collaborate on projects together, gain inspiration and make new friends.
Mental health awareness is comprised of many things, including educating ourselves and the public about what it’s like to live with mental illness. In an effort to fit in, people with mental illness often wear a mask in order to present as “normal.” The willingness of those who live with mental illness to speak out about it is a powerful way to break the stigma. People living with mental health issues can participate in the unmasking and education of those around them by being vulnerable and willing to show their face; the face of mental illness.
Mask making encourages you to explore the persona you show or conceal from the world. It’s a great exercise which can bring to consciousness how we see ourselves or how we would like to me seen. Individuals can decorate both the inside and outside of the mask according to what they show the world on the outside and how they see themselves on the inside. This does not necessarily need to be done in a therapeutic environment in order to be beneficial. Speaking with someone who lives with mental illness, helps dispel the misunderstandings that many have about the illness while helping those with mental illness feel less ashamed of their condition. We all have family, friends and coworkers who are living with mental illness. As long as people feel the need to hide their mental illness, the stigma will persist. Often being diagnosed with a mental illness can cause people to feel alone. The more we speak out about mental illness, the more faces we can put to mental illness, the more we can all heal.
The findings of this new study are hopeful for persons suffering from schizophrenia, or at least that is what this article aims for you to believe. To give background, antipsychotic medications come with a myriad of side effects, and can create issues for those who rely on them. In certain circumstances, due to side effects of medications those suffering from schizophrenia are forced to come off the meds, which assist them in functioning and due to medical complications. This new study finds that a team base treatment approach can help those suffering from first episode psychosis. However , the theme of the article appears to be more hopeful than when actually reading the study.
The study had limited success in showing that talk therapy can be useful, but with a very specific population of those with mental health issues, notably those with schizophrenia. Even within this diagnosis, only those suffering their first break have shown improvement through this method. More research is necessary to determine whether of not this study and its methods will be available to a larger portion of the mental health population. While this study has limitations, and this treatment approach won’t be readily available, it has future potential to help others.
According to the American Journal of Public Health in 2010, there were over 100 studies conducted which determined that there are several health perks to nurturing your creative side. The art can range from music, poetry, painting, drawing, photography and more. The benefits identified by the researchers of the studies include:
“Art filled occupational voids, distracted thoughts of illness”
“Improved well-being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones”
“Improved medical outcomes, trends toward reduced depression”
“Reductions in stress and anxiety; increases in positive emotions”
“Reductions in distress and negative emotions”
“Improvements in flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks”
As you can see just about anyone can improve their health by spending some time being creative. It was shown that there was change on the cellular level. The Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine found that HIV patients who spent time writing, had change occur on the cellular level, improving their immune system.
There are mental health and physical health benefits when we create art. Nurturing your inner artist will improve your overall wellbeing. Think about creating something with your family or a group of friends as a way to take care of yourself. Don’t limit yourself creatively, just go for it. Pick up a paint brush, a pencil or open a document on your computer and allow yourself to be creatively free, you will be healthier from having done so.
“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” — Pablo Picasso
When living with mental health issues some find it helpful to create art. It’s a way to express yourself and sometimes even process feelings. Creating art can calm your brain and allow you to focus on what you are creating. There is no need to work with an art therapist to benefit from the therapeutic value of creating art. Creative expression can be a relaxing outlet and is not limited to visual art. You may want to express yourself using poetry, playing music, or movement based creative expression. Art can help lower stress and anxiety and help you feel calm. You may find it helpful to take some time every day to express yourself using art, it can be like meditation. In art, there are no right or wrong answers, yet it is helpful with problem solving as it requires both sides of your brain to be working at the same time. Art can also boost your self esteem as it increases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is know as the feel good molecule. Finding a group of like-minded individuals to create and share art with is beneficial as well. Those who engage in art for 2 hours a week report significant improvement in their mental health and over all well being. Art and health have been a human interest since the beginning of time we are just now learning of the benefits.
This piece is painted on muslin, which adds texture and dimension.
We’ve been in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Koreatown for over 6 years now and our Korean neighboring residents, staff, interns, and volunteers have played a huge role in shaping and influencing the organization. Painted Brain partnered up with USC’s Masters of Occupational Therapy (OT) program in 2013 to develop and discuss the effects and practice of OT through our art workshops, case studies, vocational programs, and our peer-run organization model.
Our strong relationship with USC recently opened the door to Korea. On February 8th, the USC OT program brought 15 OT students from several South Korean universities to our community center to learn from Painted Brain’s program models and practices as a new way to work with mental health populations. It was an amazing opportunity for everyone in the room to learn about how mental health services are facilitated in each country, and a fun chance to make art with some new friends.
We hope to go to Korea in the near future to continue our relationship and spread community-centered mental health concepts overseas!