Voices: The Art of Those Touched by Mental Illness

April 7, 2012 Randye Kaye

"We're all human beings too, no matter what anybody says."

These are the words of "P.G.H.", age 16, whose art is part of a traveling exhibition called Voices:The Art of Children, Adolescents and Young Adults Touched by Mental Illness now displayed at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CT. The exhibit will be there through noon on April 13th, 2012, and then will travel to other areas of Connecticut.

Young adults diagnosed with mental illness often feel their potential is lost in the sea of crisis, diagnosis, treatment, and stigma. Especially stigma. Ann Nelson, founder of advocacy organization A Compassionate Mind, wants to create opportunities that, in her words, "offers a voice for youth living with a mental illness utilizing their artist gifts as an awareness and stigma reduction tool."

At the grand opening of the exhibit this week, she does just that. I was billed as "keynote speaker," sharing how my son Ben's potential as a young adult had felt frozen for years, and how only now at age

[caption id="attachment_777" align="alignleft" width="134" caption="Deborah's Self-Portrait"]PTSD Self-Portrait[/caption]

29 is his incredible gift for poetry finally able to bloom for all to see. But the real keynote speakers were the young adults who got up to the podium to share their stories and their art. One artist, Deborah, age 18, shared about her journey with PTSD. Her art is shown above. Below the "PTSD self -portrait", Deborah writes:

I have PTSD on my forehead, because in fact I do have PTSD. I have had this illness for a long time and it also took a long time to diagnose. That is why uncovering with my hair, my forehead this is to show that it is not always obvious to everyone when you have a mental illness.

[caption id="attachment_774" align="alignleft" width="170" caption="With Artist Deborah"]Deborah and art[/caption]

Deborah graciously allowed me to share this photo with the beautiful artist standing next to her work.

Her is another wonderful young artist named Allie, age 16, with her work: (her words: "Mental Illness has given gifts, the ones inside the two hands." Among these, inside the hand-heart, are: Courage, Strength, Hope.

[caption id="attachment_775" align="aligncenter" width="170" caption="Allie and Her Heart/Art"][/caption]

These young adults show such gifts, such empathy, so much to share with the world. Thank goodness their voices and visual art - are being shared. I hope too, for Ben, that his poetry can reach, inspire, and comfort others who may feel left out of life due to mental illness. It's time to see potential, not stigma!

APA Reference
Kaye, R. (2012, April 7). Voices: The Art of Those Touched by Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Randye Kaye

Dr Musli Ferati
April, 21 2012 at 9:37 pm

Among other mentions that brings mental illnesses are those that explicate the deeply secrets of psychological apparatus to both category of people: mentally ill and mentally health ones. For instance, the burden that distinguishes mentally health condition from mental disorder state isn't lucid. On the contrary, this discernment exhibits a continuum between two extreme ends: one ideal well-being mental state and the other of totally dilapidated mental state. These two mental conditions are indeed very rare opportunities, in real life. The overwhelming majority of peoples are present among these two end points.Essentially is the level of global life functioning that has got many probabilities to improve by mental health education, particulary to mentally ill persons. Your observation, Ms. Kaye, this statement definitively confirmed.

April, 9 2012 at 7:22 am

I think theire is often something in people with a mental illnes, what have to come out of us human. A mental illnes is a sign that your feelings and realising is much finer than the realising of normal people. Writing and Painting is a sign that something come out of the people how have a mental illnes. Art is mostly the start of healing for the most people with mental illnes!

Katie Larson
April, 7 2012 at 8:47 am

Thank you for sharing this inspiring article. I can imagine how difficult it may be for a child or adolescent to deal with the stigma associated with mental illness. Finding a way to express who they are is very important in the healing process. In terms of development, this point in a child or adolescents’ life is critical to them finding their own identity, which can be difficult when mental illness plays a role in that identity. Others around them may not understand what mental illness is or how an individual is affected by mental illness. I have seen so many kids feel like they do not fit in or are different because others treat them differently. Expressing oneself through art gives voice to who they really are. I believe this is also a great way for children and adolescents to tell their story. I know several young adults who will use Rap to tell their story, whether it is about what is going on that week or that year, it is a way for them to tell you how they are being affected. It gives them voice, which may not be there otherwise.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
April, 7 2012 at 9:07 am

Thank YOU, Katie, for this insightful response to the post!

Deborah Antinori
April, 7 2012 at 7:53 am

Love this - art heals.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
April, 7 2012 at 8:11 am

...and communicates!
thanks Deborah -

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