The readers’ forum

Creativity abounds for the mentally ill

 

National Art Exhibitions by The Mentally Ill Incorporated (NAEMI) is proud to celebrate its 25th year of existence. Established in 1998 to help persons with mental illness through the expression of their art, the organization has grown to where it is today. Whether you are a mental health practitioner, advocate or an art lover, you can appreciate how NAEMI has sought to recognize the artistic talent among many individuals suffering from mental illness.

NAEMI has been a pioneer in bringing public awareness that many persons with mental illness possess unique artistic talents that often go unrecognized. We have published several books on the topic of the art of the mentally ill. Organized in Miami, NAEMI originally sought to recognize the artistic talents of those who live here, and five years ago NAEMI expanded to form NAEMI España.

We have received art works from all over the United States, and mentally-disabled artists from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Belgium and Italy have submitted works for consideration in NAEMI’s annual juried show. Once the selection occurs and the artists are notified, the artists often begin to make progress in their recovery. Artists who attend the shows experience a magical effect derived from the interaction and admiration from the public. The stigma of mental illness melts away for both the artist and the art lover.

The history of art as a therapeutic tool reveals that individuals that suffer from depression were less depressed if they participated in art therapy groups. Soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder who were allowed to draw and express creatively the visions and images that haunted them were able to adjust to civilian life better after they returned from combat.

Scientists have long recognized the relationship between art, creativity and mental disorders. We at NAEMI acknowledge this relationship and attempt to decrease stigma and increase public awareness.

Our exhibitions and publications provide a venue for mentally-ill artists to be accepted as productive citizens and be recognized for their creative accomplishments. They are always grateful for the opportunity to share their artistic accomplishments.

Coinciding with Mental Health Month, NAEMI’s 25th annual art exhibition is being held now through June 6 at Borders Picture Framing Gallery, 1601 SW 1st Ave, Miami (www.naemi.org).

As we move toward the future, NAEMI remains dedicated to discovering, studying, promoting, exhibiting, and preserving the art of those struggling with this disease.

Daniel Castellanos, M.D., vice president, NAEMI, Miami

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