Anne Gagnon remembers when any mention of mental-health issues – particularly relating to oneself or one’s family – was stigmatized; a matter for whispers only.
“Mental Health Week was something I didn’t even know about until I was a patient at Riverview in the early 1980s,” she recalled.
“I ended up there because White Rock had no facilities for long-term patients.”
But starting with the establishment of the Whalehouse Society in the mid 1980s, Gagnon found she was once again able to live in and contribute to her home community.
Since that time, ultimately with the development of Peace Arch Hospital’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services – adjacent to the hospital and, like the Whalehouse, funded by the hospital foundation – there has been a huge change in available resources in the community, including programs for children and youth.
While some of the old stigma still persists, there have also been significant changes in perception over the last three decades, Gagnon said, as many in the community have had to face the reality that, statistically, they, or loved ones, are likely to deal with some kind of mental-health issue at some point in their lives.
It’s to raise awareness – as well as funds – that Gagnon and other members of MHSAS’s advisory committee are staging their first art show this coming Monday in the hospital lobby.
Quality paintings and needlework – and a whole range of other juried arts and crafts work created by members of the Whalehouse Society, and others who receive help from Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services – will be sold for one day only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at reasonable (cash-only) prices.
“The idea is to showcase the positives of mental health,” Gagnon said. “There are so many talented and giving people in the mental-health community.”
There will also be an opportunity to learn more about options and opportunities for addressing mental-health and substance-abuse issues – through MHSAS’s community partners, including Sources Community Resource Centre and White Rock Hospice – from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Among pieces for sale at the event will be evocative watercolour landscapes and seascapes by Adam Lipschultz, and Gagnon’s own meticulous cross-stitch creations.
Also showcased at the one-day event will be one of the stellar submitted works – a quilt made by Cary O’Malley, being sold for $150.
“It’s made up of some 700 pieces, it’s 66 by 78 inches and it took 20 hours to make,” Gagnon said. “The fabric alone is worth $125.”