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Westminster mental health club promotes art to express feelings

This piece of art by Natalie Boren describes how it feels to be diagnosed with Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness, she said. The piece was part of the Stigma-Free Art Show, which is meant to put a light on mental illness, and is being hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness Club in Shaw Student Center. (Photo Courtesy: Natalie Boren)

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Club at Westminster College, affiliated with the national association, is hosting a Stigma-Free Art Show. The purpose of the art show is to stop the stigma of mental illness by providing a space to explain how it feels, according to the club’s co-president Katie Perry. 

Natalie Boren, a student participating in the art show, says she decided to be a part of the art show because she thinks art is an expressive medium and pairing it with mental illness creates an outlet for those issues to be shared. 

Her piece represents being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and feeling vulnerable and exposed. 

“I remember being upset and alone,” Boren said. “But it is nothing to be ashamed of.” 

She said she is happy NAMI is creating a space to talk about mental illness and feel comfortable. 

The NAMI posted on its website the following statistics of mental illness: 

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
  • 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 

NAMI is known for promoting getting help with mental illness and making the community aware of mental illnesses. 

An art piece featured in the Stigma-Free Art Show hosted by NAMI. The art show’s goal is to bring more awareness to mental health and includes art work from students and alumni. (Lewis Figun Westbrook)

“There are people in the world going through these illnesses,” Perry said. “A way to express that is through art.” 

The Stigma Free Art Show is just one of the art shows Westminster is hosting on campus this semester, with another student art show beginning Feb. 24. 

Other Westminster students said they like to have opportunities to share their work with a larger audience. Jerica Bird, a junior BFA major, said she submitted a piece to the student art show on Feb. 24 and is excited for the student body to see her work. 

“I think the opportunity to showcase my work to the Westminster body really offers me a stepping stone in the field that I’m pursuing,” she said. “It desensitizes you to the process so you aren’t as scared to do it in bigger fields reach for those other opportunities that are going to come up.”

NAMI has a few submissions already and hopes to receive more submissions from the community. The art show will be held on Feb. 17, 2020, and will be up for a week in Shaw Student Center. They hope that many will come to look at the pieces submitted by their peers and others. 

“I hope that the art will be a way for students to recognize that mental illnesses look like this and mental illnesses might feel like this,” Perry said.

The club provides resources as well for those diagnosed with mental illness.

If someone is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.


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Makayla is a senior and will graduate in the spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Makayla has been a part of The Forum for four years, working as the former business director and currently working as a reporter. She also works as a Director of Blogging, Email Marketing, and SEO at Big Red Jelly, a digital marketing agency in Utah County. Makayla is excited to finish up her last year at Westminster and continue writing.

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