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Jo Munday (left) and Adriana Leonardi (right) pictured with a piece of art made out of recycled newspapers by Cooinda mental health participants—to be displayed at the upcoming exhibition. Photo by UnitingCare Health.
Jo Munday (left) and Adriana Leonardi (right) pictured with a piece of art made out of recycled newspapers by Cooinda mental health participants—to be displayed at the upcoming exhibition. Photo: UnitingCare Health

Mental health on canvas

Art is at the heart of Cooinda Mental Health Service’s vision to normalise mental health experiences within the Sunshine Coast community. Ashley Thompson writes.

The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital’s Cooinda Mental Health Service is inviting members of the public to participate in its second annual Mental Health Week art exhibition in October.

“Mental health is often misunderstood, or ‘if it doesn’t involve me then I don’t need to know about it’,” says Cooinda’s Service Development Manager Jo Munday.

“So this is an invitation to the public, not just the internal patient population, to be artists, to be guests and to come and have a look.”

Stemming from a strategy to inspire and re-energise people participating in Cooinda’s group therapy programs, the art exhibition is a celebration of diversional and recovery craft commonly referred to as art therapy.

Greg Wuth is a calligraphic artist and working party member of the art exhibition. His personal experience as a patient of Cooinda underpins his passionate belief in the therapy of mindfulness and socialisation art exhibitions can offer.

“It is not just the art itself, sometimes it is the ritual of meeting with people, being valued and that sense of worth that comes with people liking or appreciating what you do,” says Greg.

“I know during parts of my treatment or illness I have just wanted to hermit myself away and the art allows for a breaking out of that.”

According to Greg, stigmas of mental health issues are not limited to outsiders but can be carried even by those who suffer from it. He believes art has the power to dispel the “demons and voodoos” carried by those who misunderstand.

“You are looking at and in a sense normalising it and saying ‘let’s not just categorise people according to their mental health issues’—that is just one part of them. They still are intelligent, vital, passionate, caring and loving people who can be a strong part of the community,” says Greg.

“I believe it is a sense of belonging that truly helps to stimulate and excite people with a mental health condition who might otherwise feel that they are useless, worthless or hopeless.”

Mental Health Week is a national event from 5–12 October. Cooinda’s art exhibition is 9 October starting 6 pm. For more information visit tscph.com.au

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