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    Art Heals: The Story of Our Spring 2022 Cover

    When Allentonian and Banana Factory Resident Artist, Anthony Smith approached Fig’s Lehigh Valley Director, Kate Hughes, about taking a page in the Heart & Soul Issue as a means to shed light on the mental health crisis, the two just knew they had to figure out a way to make it happen. With the residual effects from the past few years of the pandemic beginning to surface, Anthony decided to use the voice that speaks the loudest—his art. To increase the impact, Anthony assembled a team of three other artists—Nina Boodhansingh, Michael  Freeman, and Michelle Neifert. All four artists have spoken openly about how important mental health maintenance has been in each of their lives. With NAMI Lehigh Valley’s support, the team of artists got to work on their collaborative piece that will shine a light on creativity’s impact on mental health. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness and for their friends and families.

     

    Along with his idea, Anthony brought insight into mental health stigma and the need to normalize asking for help in the Black community. According to the NAMI website, stigma,  defined as negative attitudes and beliefs towards people who live with mental health conditions, is pervasive within the U.S. and can be particularly strong within the Black community. One study showed that 63% of Black people believe a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness. As a result, people may experience shame about having a mental illness and fear they may be discriminated against due to their condition, preventing people from seeking mental health care when they really need it.

     

    “Admitting to needing help with your mental health in the Black community is not just frowned upon, it is forbidden. The Black community doesn’t talk about it. That needs to change.”
    – Anthony Smith

     

    NAMI LV’s mission is to improve the lives of those affected by mental illness and their loved ones through education, support, and advocacy. Their courses, groups, and presentations are free of charge. NAMI believes that recovery from mental illness is possible. Providing help and hope to individuals working to recover from mental illness and to their family and friends is the priority of all involved with NAMI LV.

     

    In addition to live and Zoom programming, NAMI offers online articles and resources, including some designed to meet the needs of specific audiences. “Sharing Hope” is a one-hour program to increase mental health awareness in Black communities by sharing the presenters’ journeys to recovery and exploring signs and symptoms of mental health conditions. The program also highlights ways to navigate the mental health system. The “Sharing Hope: An African American Guide to Mental Health” booklet provides mental health information in a sensitive manner through personal stories. The booklet outlines where to find more information, and how to seek help for yourself or others. For more information on Sharing Hope or any of the many programs offered by NAMI Lehigh Valley, please contact info@nami-lv.org, call 610.882.2102, or visit the website at nami-lv.org.

     

    This collaborative work is entitled, I Am Not My Mental Illness. Be sure to follow all four artists on Instagram at: @nin_bood, @asmithjrnyc, @michaelfreeman360, @zipnstein

     

    This article is sponsored by NAMI Lehigh Valley.

    NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness and for their friends and families.