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Painting a brighter future

August 13, 2019

Cloe Simpson, 17, poses with her painting, one of six student art pieces that grace the walls of the Addictions & Mental Health Services clinic in Wainwright.

Student artwork aims to help those struggling with mental health, addiction

Story by Tracy Kennedy | Photo by Zak McLachlan (Wainwright Star News)

New artwork at the Wainwright Addictions & Mental Health Services clinic offers a ray of hope for those going through tough times.

Drawings and paintings created by students from Wainwright High School and Irma School were installed in May for permanent display in the Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) clinic waiting area as part of a project in cooperation with Wainwright on Wellness (WOW). WOW is part of the Mental Health Capacity Building Initiative, which promotes positive mental health in children, youth and families and supports individuals in the community who interact with children and youth.

“This was a project not only about making a more welcoming space, but also about strengthening the resources and abilities in our community for good mental health,” says Christina Harvey, AHS health promotion facilitator.

The waiting area walls were empty when addictions services and mental health services co-located in Wainwright last summer. Previously, the two services operated from separate offices, but they were brought together to create efficiencies for programs and services, and convenience for clients.

Cloe Simpson, 17, experienced depression a couple of years ago and hopes her art brightens the space for those going through dark days. She painted a mountain landscape with the words, “You’ve had enough. But just don’t give up. You are worth fighting for” – lyrics from the song Battle Scars, by rock band Paradise Fears.

“The lyrics helped me when I was in a tough spot, and I thought they’d help someone else,” says Simpson. “And when I feel down, I think of when I went to the mountains, how it’s peaceful there and away from everything – and that’s made me feel better.”

Some of the other works also contain inspirational messages and feature stylized human figures that explore identity and resilience.

One of them, created by Brittney Busch, depicts two human silhouettes with multi-coloured minds, facing one another. In between the figures, the following script is written: “You are beautiful because you let yourself feel. And that is a very brave thing indeed.” – a quote attributed to Shinji Moon, a 24-year-old American poet.

Another work, by Morgan Wilkinson, features a girl looking in a mirror. Though her reflection is normal, the stylized figure looking into the mirror is brightly coloured and features symbols – including a paintbrush, a musical note, a game controller and a book – depicting the activities and characteristics that comprise a life. “You are so much more than what they see,” the script reads.

In all, six pieces of art line the walls for the approximately 800 clients served annually at the clinic. AHS staff say clients have been positive about the work, with many taking the time to examine the pieces.

“These young adults have created some powerful work,” says Harvey. “We are grateful to them and really appreciate what they’ve done for our clients and the community.”