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May Mental Health Awareness Month: Exploring The Positive Impacts of Art on Your Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to reduce the stigma and discrimination around mental health conditions, promote mental health and wellness, and inspire hope for people with a mental health condition. To commemorate the occasion, Stop Stigma Sacramento is hosting its annual Mental Health Awareness Month art exhibit. This vibrant showcase spotlights artwork created by Sacramento County residents navigating mental health conditions for the public to enjoy both online and around the County.

The art exhibit has been a standing tradition for Stop Stigma Sacramento for the last 10 years because of the role art plays in breaking barriers around mental health. Art can help people living with mental health conditions tell their stories and promote messages of wellness, hope, and recovery. It can also be a form of therapy for those who are living with, or supporting others living with a mental health condition.

Mental health is comprised of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Creating artwork has been proven to strengthen each of these areas. Psychologically, the creative process stimulates the release of chemicals in your brain that improve mood and relieve stress. Emotionally, art encourages self-expression, empowering artists to communicate and process thoughts and feelings. Socially, art can be shared for others’ enjoyment and gives a glimpse into what makes the artist unique. Art also offers the ability to share a mental health journey in an anonymous way, which can alleviate some of the tension and uneasiness that might be experienced when trying to communicate emotions and experiences face to face.

Stop Stigma Sacramento Speaker’s Bureau member Laura Bemis uses photography as an artistic outlet to overcome her mental health challenges and support her memory. She says, “Photography helps me see the beauty in the world and bring that natural beauty back to those who may not be able to venture into it themselves. While photographing, I not only connect with nature visually but also can bring all my senses together and ground myself… Taking pictures centers me and it also helps me with my memory… remembering where I have been and the beauty I have seen.”

Through art, we can help reduce the stigma around people living with a mental health condition. Artwork can foster open dialogue for viewers to discuss what a piece is trying to express and why the artist may have created it, particularly complex emotions and experiences that may be difficult to articulate with words. It can also address the misconceptions around mental health by uniting people who see the world differently, cultivating collective empathy, and reinforcing that those experiencing mental health challenges are still strong, independent, productive, and valuable members of society.

Finally, art can educate those who are unaware of the breadth and depth of mental health’s role in society. It provides a personal testament to what the world looks like and feels to those experiencing a mental health condition and is a valuable tool for others to learn from. Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream (1893), is a powerful example of this. Having battled mental illness throughout his life, Edvard put paint to canvas to communicate the intense feelings of anguish and despair that existed in his mind. The Scream is one of the most famous artistic expressions of schizophrenia to date and opened the door to conversations about mental health for years to come.

Support Sacramentans sharing their stories about mental health by visiting the Mental Health Awareness Month Art Displays this month between May 1 and 30, 2024. Click here for more information.

If you are struggling with a mental health condition, you are not alone. Resources are available at If you or a loved one are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 74174.