Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day.
How are you? Are you feeling OK? How’s your mood?
Mental health is best understood simply as our state of mind. Many of us are avoiding and lying about how we really feel as a means of escaping our inner conflict. Everyone has a breaking point and there’s only so many abnormal events one can absorb.
Americans wake up to daily discord that holds space in our minds, our bodies and our unconsciousness which affects our attitudes and behaviors and can even alter the brains ability to function.
Before the pandemic, Americans were already experiencing increases in suicide, drug overdose, addiction, anxiety and depression. As a result of the many complicated circumstances of covid-19, we are now experiencing the ripple effects with an uncertain economy, loss of jobs (and health care), at-risk essential workers, grieving families, overwhelmed teachers, students and parents and many other fragile human conditions.
Many people cannot access help until they are in a deep crisis. It is a problem that the initial point of care for many mental health conditions or substance use disorders begins with the criminal justice system.
In order for communities to overcome adversity and thrive, it is imperative to overhaul what care and rehabilitation look like for the well-being of our people and our country. More of the same will not fix the problem.
Mental disorders are primarily seen as a medical health deficit. I believe this viewpoint perpetuates a negative stigma.
Every single human being deals with mental distress in their lifetime. We all experience major change and disruptions in our life, (birth, death, health, environmental crisis, etc). that affect our social, psychological, physical and spiritual self.
We can choose to view these times of great stress as recoverable and manageable. We can choose to live in social conditions that enable individuals to look after their own and each other’s wellbeing. First, we have to recognize and define the program, our country is experiencing a mental health crisis.
This year continues to be relentless for everyone. I cannot speak to all of the pain felt by others, but I know I’m not alone in my pain.
Excluding the pandemic, my husband and I have experienced multiple family crises involving clinicians, medical institutions and the criminal justice system as we navigated our way in seeking support and services. As a victim of ethnic harassment that eventually escalated to terroristic threats to my family and our neighbors, safety became our highest priority.
We have experienced first-hand the resources available in trying to mitigate situations that became unsafe. Through every step, there was disappointing inadequacy in the availability of compassionate, person-centered and comprehensive care. There is no lack of compassionate people working their hardest to solve complex issues, but the systems we have in place don’t strive for preventative well-being or rehabilitation into society. If anything, individuals face more trauma, are marked with having a medical pre-existing condition which means less opportunities to make recoverable change.
Changes in infrastructure don’t happen overnight. It takes a movement from many people, leaders, and capital to recognize, research and enact changes. Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing that can be done, it is what it is. There are many things out of my control, but I’m choosing to focus on what I can do. Personally, art and art making is therapeutic for me. Whether I’m listening to music, playing music, painting or metalsmithing, I find that I am able to shift my energy into the present moment and self-regulate.
Psychologist and Expressive Arts Therapist Cathy Malchioldi, who has spent over 30 years working with individuals with traumatic stress says, “the arts have a unique role in restoring a sense of vitality and joy in traumatized individuals because aliveness is not something we can be ‘talked into’. Instead, it is experienced in both mind and body and particularly on a somatosensory level.”
Reading Malchioldi’s “Art Therapy Sourcebook” really influenced me on how art making can be used for personal growth, understanding and enhancing well-being. I’m drawn to the active participation of both counselors and individuals to externalize a conflict in a non-verbal channel through visual art.
So I’ve decided that I want to become an art therapist. I have experienced first-hand a myriad of examples of how art and art making has brought personal fulfillment, beauty, creativity, healing, resilience and enjoyment into my life and others.
I seek to understand the science behind the transformative power that art and specifically art therapy, has on our nervous systems. Now more than ever, people are in need of compassionate and comprehensive care.
Becoming a mental health art therapist is not only a personal calling, but it’s also my desire to be a part of transforming how mental health is perceived and to ensure that quality mental health care is more accessible.
I’m currently applying to graduate programs for a Masters In Art Therapy. I don’t know what that means for Frost Finery, but I hope to be able to integrate jewelry making with Art Therapy in the future and offer healing and creative programs.
So please tread gently on your neighbors and with yourselves. Embrace some form of restorative activities: art, music, dance, walking, hiking, running or yoga. If we want to rebuild systems that enable communities to flourish and thrive, it begins with ourselves. Next time you notice yourself spinning out of control, reach for a pencil, or a paint brush, or go for a walk and breathe. Feel your lungs fill up with air and find gratitude and joy that you are human and you are capable of change.