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Finding My Voice Through Art: Sharing Messages

Initially art and photography helped me find a way to express myself when I wasn't able to find the words. As time progressed and I started to gain more confidence in my artist endeavors and abilities with a camera I came to realize that I could use art to tell a story. And now, I have learned that through art and photography I can also share a message of hope and recovery with others.

In November 2014, I attended the Georgia Peer Support Institute, where I first learned about mental health recovery and more about peer support services. At the completion of the training I was expected to complete a project in my community based on one of the principles I learned at GPSI and I choose to focus on the "Walking Miracle" which is where peers learn how to share about the recovery journey. I decided to create a photo project by asking a diverse group of peers the same question and then capturing the answers with the camera. It was a fun project, and one I am hoping to expand upon in the coming year. But in the meantime I'd like to share a few of my favorite photos from the original project where each person answered the simple question. . .

"What does recovery mean to you?"

As I was working on the project something happened that I had never anticipated, reading the responses from my peers helped me through a rough patch. It provided me with encouragement and hope. That was when I started to realize that I could not only tell my own stories through photography, but I could also help others tell theirs. And by working together we could spread messages of hope, courage and strength.

A few months later I had the opportunity to lead the "Art Exploration" wellness activity at the Bartow Peer Support Wellness and Respite Center with an idea I had. I started out by cutting hearts out of construction paper and we each wrote out words of encouragement and what recovery meant to us. Next, each of the peers choose the hearts they wanted to use and then I captured their images, focusing solely on their hands and and choose messages. Once I had completed the editing process I delivered copies of the final images to the Center to be printed and shared with other peers. These are some of my favorites from that day:

Last summer I had the chance to participate in an art exhibit hosted by NAMI Georgia and DBHDD. It was there that I realized that the simple art project I had started with my peers could be serve a greater purpose. I could use photography as a way to spread a message of hope to others.

For as long as I can remember my mother has shared the "Pass It On" cards sold at Christian bookstores with people. They are simple cards with some type of image (either a photo or illustration of some type) with an inspirational message, usually associated with a Bible verse. I wanted to create something similar, but different, focusing on mental health recovery and suicide prevention. And that was why I started working on creating a the "Messages of Hope" cards.

At the beginning of the year I reached out to my fellow peers and together we created a list of words and phrases that helped us get through the rough patches. The messages that have helped give us the courage, hope and strength to continue on this journey called life and living in recovery. So far I have only created the first 5 cards of the series but I have more images I working toward developing as well:

One of my goals for the new year is to continue the project in 2018, first expanding the series Messages of Hope cards (which are the size of a standard business card) using some of the other images I was able to capture this year. But I would also like to continue you working with peers to create more images, in particular those messages which have not yet been captured. But I would also like to create a series of note cards and posters as well. The goal is to spread the message that recovery is real:

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