The power of art as a therapeutic activity benefiting the mental health of individuals and communities is showcased at the 14th Annual Awakening the Spirit Art Show and Sale.

CMHA and the Mental Illness Family Support Centre come together each year to put on the Show, featuring exquisite art work for viewing and purchase. Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre has generously donated the space to display the art. “The show celebrates the creative talents of people living with mental illness,” said Marie-France Ladouceur, CMHA Community Education Coordinator and Art Show Committee member.

Artist, Renah Woods has been involved with the Art Show since its inception. Throughout the years the Art Show has been a medium for storytelling for those who have faced mental health challenges and use art to share their personal journey.

Art has always been an integral part of Renah’s life since she was 6 years old. Her passion for art grew out of the mentorship of her middle school Art teacher, creating a lifelong love of art. This love of art would provide a bright light in the tough times to come.

“I always knew there were problems, but I did not know what they were,” said Renah. “It was not until I was in my 40’s that I was diagnosed with depression and received treatment. It took a loved one to really recognize something was wrong before I even knew. Depression was my “normal”, I could not see beyond it at the time,” explained Renah.

Renah used art as a creative outlet in which she could find a sense of peace. “I use art to lift my inner spirit and I get lost in my painting. It lift’s me out of that negative space I felt when struggling with depression. It truly is an amazing form of therapy,” said Renah.

Depression can have a hugely debilitating impact on your life. If left, untreated, depression can last for a very long time, impacting what you eat, how you sleep and your ability to get through your day. “I was having challenges simply getting out the bed in morning, my sleep patterns were very unhealthy and I could not manage a balanced routine day, “explains Renah. “Once I admitted to myself that there was a problem and I got the help I needed I was able to move past the negativity in my life and find a healthy, peaceful outlook; art played a huge role in finding that peace.”

“I encourage anyone who is facing any type of mental health challenge to seek help. We all have mental health, we all face our own personal challenges and we all have to help each other manage our mental wellness,” said Renah. “By just talking to someone and creating more social connection and an open dialogue about mental health we can break down the stigma and live mentally healthy lives.”

The Awakening the Spirit Art Show & Sale runs from September 7 to October 11 at the Coatcheck Gallery at the Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre, 3800-33rd St. It is open to the public during performances, and noon to 2pm on Tuesdays

For special viewings, please contact Marie-France, 250-542-3114.

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