Mental health issues continue to be some of the most troubling trends on the rise in recent years, as schools, communities and countries seek answers on how to address and solve the issues that can be caused by stress, anxiety and much more.
In Berlin, at least one group is attempting to solve this issue through art therapy with May being Mental Health Awareness Month.
Nancy MacGregor, program director with Taylor Care Adult Behavioral Health in Berlin, is trained in art therapy and helped bring the practice to the building in hopes of using it to help others.
MacGregor says creating art through a variety of ways can help create a communication tool to help others understand what some go through on a daily basis.
“The use of art in therapy allows for a different mode of expression, a different way for people to explore their thoughts and feelings,” said MacGregor. “In many times, you can get to things faster through imagery than you can through traditional verbal therapy.”
All art done in the art therapy groups at Taylor Care were created over time and used to construct an art exhibition, composed of work from both employees and clients in the program, which was put on display Tuesday, April 16 and is expected to stay up for approximately a month.
MacGregor says the artwork done in these art therapy groups had multiple different avenues for clients to focus on, such as grief and loss or self-identity and exploration, to help those suffering from specific life experiences have a comfortable way to express themselves.
Stevie French, an art therapist with the program, helped the more than 80 clients in the program through the multiple classes.
MacGregor says she hopes the art show can serve to show those in the local community that mental health is a real issue, but more importantly that those who suffer from it are also real people.
“We find with mental health stigma sometimes that people are dehumanized, they are reduced to being a mentally ill person,” MacGregor said. “And one of the ways to allow people that don’t understand mental illness to connect with those that do is to open up that communication, it destigmatizes everything. We thought that the visual representation and expression would be a great way for people to understand in a more significant way.”
Breaking down the barrier of only using words, which can be hard for those suffering from mental health issues to explain, opens up the door to understanding, according to MacGregor.
“We can get limited by verbal expression,” said MacGregor.
MacGregor and others say the art show is expected to be open for about a month from its opening, and have aspirations for it to be a yearly thing or even travel around South Jersey to open up the communication to more people across the region.
Currently, the art is on display at 147 Jackson Road in Berlin on the second floor of the building.