Those who know what it is like to deal with mental health struggles remembered Saturday afternoon at De la Guerra Plaza that they are not alone. More than 50 artists showcased their work at the Mental Wellness Center’s 25th annual Mental Health Arts Festival, and these artists knew what it is like to deal with mental health hurdles.
One of the artists was Kimberly Quinn, a former journalist who turned to her venue of creative expression (origami) after her psychiatric hospitalization about a decade ago.
After being hospitalized, “I had a lot of time on my hands, and I was bored,” Ms. Quinn said.
She directed her mind to the art of paper folding, which she first discovered as a graduate student. But in graduate school before her hospitalization, Ms. Quinn lacked the patience to go through with the motions of folding a piece of paper into a piece of artwork.
In the hospital bed, however, “I discovered that I had a new kind of patience to sit down and just start figuring things out slowly and take it easier on myself,” she said, adding that she believes this kind of patience can be nurtured.
With newly found patience and time on her hands, Ms. Quinn used origami to build a surfboard on which she surfed through the waves of life.
“Otherwise you get swallowed up,” she said.
Mental Wellness Center CEO Annmarie Cameron echoed Ms. Quinn’s thoughts. Ms. Cameron believes in taking preventative measures when it comes to mental health.
“You don’t have to be mentally ill to take care of your mental health,” she said. “People should take care of their mental health just like they take care of their physical health.”
Mental Wellness Center, Ms. Cameron said, helps community members to take care of this dimension of their health by providing support groups, classes and practical services like housing and job-seeking assistance.
“We’re helping people understand that if you’re starting to struggle with your anxiety, depression or substance abuse, the sooner you find a way to get help ? the sooner you’re going to get better,” said Ms. Cameron.
Unfortunately, reaching out to seek help is not always easy. UCSB student Jasmine Wahab spoke to the News-Press about how mental health hurdles can be stigmatized.
Fortunately, Ms. Whab added, art can bridge the holders of this perception to those attempting to overcome the hurdles.
“Art can be such an incredible form of healing and expressing yourself in a way a lot of time words can’t,” she said.
Darcy Keep, a Cottage Santa Barbara psychiatry nurse who serves on Mental Wellness Center’s board of directors, agrees with Ms. Wahab that art can be a bridge.
“It’s a positive thing for both the artists and the community to be able to interact with people in a way that they normally wouldn’t,” said Ms. Keep. “There are several of these artists that are homeless that might be on State Street any other day. You wouldn’t see these people interacting with them on State Street like you’re seeing them today.”
She has made these observations over the two decades that she spent organizing the festival. Ms. Cameron described her as the festival’s matron: Ms. Keep and her husband fund the majority of the festival’s organization while volunteers that set up the festival are with Mental Wellness Center.
The festival was free of charge for both attendees and artists, who kept 100 percent of their sales.
Ms. Wahab already knows she will be back for next year’s event.
“This way you’re supporting people more directly,” she said.
Mental Wellness Center, which began more than 70 years ago, usually takes about three months to plan for each year’s festival. The nonprofit is located at 617 Garden St. and can be reached at 884-8440.