In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the DeKalb Community Service Board (CSB) put together a showcase of its clients’ art on May 15.
Psychosocial rehabilitation, or PSR, is a service offered by CSB that provides day treatment to clients with mental illnesses who need assistance with life skills, including money management, coping skills, communication and job skills. A new group in the program focusing on art and expression is helping clients uncover fresh talents.
“Research has shown that creative expression helps clients with expressing internal conflict,” said Marianette ReFour, director of the psychosocial rehabilitation program. “People with anxiety, depression and other problems can identify and change negative thoughts and emotions.”
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy can improve attention, focus on tasks and self-esteem, among other things.
“A lot of the clients say it’s a sense of relaxation for them, it takes your mind away from stress, from feeling depressed,” said Helen Hogin, a therapist with CSB and a creative expression instructor. “It puts your mind in a whole other mood.”
The staff often lets the clients choose what they want to create. Everything from knit throws to beaded jewelry was displayed
“Some of the canvas art they do [expresses] their feelings or what is going on in their minds,” Hogin said. “A lot of times we have meditation music or relaxation music, so it can be a nice tranquil place for them.”
Alice Robertson said she found the CSB after moving to Atlanta from Winston-Salem, N.C., with her son. She said she felt lonely, sad and lost a lot of self-esteem. She joined the creative expression group and found that it helped her with those thoughts.
“It helped me by doing drawing and art and mixing with the people,” she said. “I have made a lot of friends in the program and helped a lot of people.”
Despite never having tried it before, Robertson made jewelry–necklaces and bracelets–though they did not make it to the showcase.
“One of the things that we have seen that was surprising is there is usually some hesitation because they think, ‘Oh, I am going to have to be an artist,’”ReFour said. “They like doing it after the first time. They see the way they are thinking and changing those thoughts.”
Many clients reported feelings of enjoyment and pride when completing their artworks.
“PSR is a nice program and it’s very encouraging,” Robertson said. “I’ve gained a lot of knowledge from going there, and I’ve become a stronger person.”
This article originally appeared in The Champion Newspaper.