Mental health leaders reach out to Oklahomans

Tuesday, July 15th 2008, 8:05 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Okla. -- Mental health leaders are asking for more support for artists who have a mental illness.

Expressing feelings through artwork has been used for healing throughout history, and in Oklahoma, art therapy continues. Now a number of mental health consumers are displaying their work.

Angelina Vick is a wife, a mother and a former officer in the Navy. She enjoys grabbing a morning cup of coffee, and she loves to paint. Her work is displayed in a local shop.

One of Vick's pieces, "Black Hole", is her early signature piece. Like most artists, she said she draws inspiration from her moods. Except for her, moods come and go more often, and change rapidly.

"Sometimes I'll feel like sleeping for 10 or 12 hours without even stirring, and sometimes I can't sleep all night," Vick said.

Vick has bipolar disorder. Her art is displayed among the works of other people with a mental illness. Those involved in mental health treatment, however, said, when speaking about their hobby, illness is irrelevant.

"We need to remember that they're an artist first," Pam Sandord, Thunderbird Clubhouse Executive Director, said. "That sometimes they may have more barriers to showing and sharing that art, but it's critical that they get those opportunities."

There are venues to display the artwork popping up, not only at a coffee shop in Norman where you see the Thunderbirds Collective, but also in downtown Oklahoma City. DaySpring, an outpatient behavioral health provider, is hosting an exhibit featuring paintings and photographs, where they look at the art as a means of community integration.

"I think that's more important than segregating consumers of mental health than to be given any special type of service," Morna Pederson-Rambo, Dayspring Community Services Executive Director, said.

While learning to manage her illness, Vick said art allows her to express her feelings, in an abstract way and enjoy the creative process, as every artist does.

"Even the more realistic things I do, like trees," Vick said. "You know, it's not going to be the brown tree color, it's going to be whatever I'm thinking of."

Mental health leaders said they want to change the way we identify some people. We may call someone a diabetic, or a schizophrenic. Instead, leaders said first, she's a wife, a mother, a student, or in this case, an artist.

To attend the show openings, head to 500 N Walker in downtown OKC on Friday, July 18 at 7 p.m. Or, go to Winans Coffee Shop in Norman on Saturday, July 19 at 7 p.m. at 201 E Main.