Painting has always calmed Laura Martin. It helps her heal from bouts of anxiety and depression and connects her with patients at UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital.
The 28-year-old peer support specialist teaches patients how to shed people’s expectations and channel their own desires through different mediums of art, allowing them to cope with mental health issues.
On Thursday, Martin and UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital faculty and volunteers spurred conversation about wellness by adorning the walls of 34th Street with a mural of an outline of a human head with the phrase “#BreaktheStigma” and a green ribbon — representative of mental health. The painting commemorated Mental Health Awareness month and Mental Health Action Day Thursday.
Kayla Zamajtuk, a 19-year-old UF Health Psychiatric intern, said the vibrant blue, green, orange and purple hues should bring a smile to passersby’ faces.
The bright colors show people that conversations about mental health aren't necessarily a dark thing, and there are others with similar struggles, Zamajtuk said.
Art makes people think about what affects their mental wellbeing and helps them feel heard by the community, Zamajtuk said.
Someone passing through 34th Street might see the mural, and the picture could stick in their head and inspire them, said Enrique Abreu, a 30-year-old peer support specialist at UF Health Psychiatric.
“If people are looking for a sign, this could be the sign that they need,” Abreu said.
Tim Miller, an UF Health Psychiatric administrator, said the head and ribbon represent mental health awareness advocacy — phone numbers serve as a contact for a person in need.
Shands staff wanted to create a tangible solution, said Joe Munson, the director of clinical services for UF Health Psychiatric.
“It's amazing how much a person can feel supported by someone believing them, taking them serious and then being able to offer a resource,” Munson said.
UF Health wants to be seen as a community resource for people in crisis, Munson said.
“You need to be able to take care of yourself and you need those resources and support and people that care,” Munson said. “It's okay to reach out.”
Contact Anushka Dakshit at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @anushkadak.
Anushka Dakshit is a fourth-year journalism and women’s studies major and the general reporter on the University desk of The Alligator. She started out as an arts and culture reporter at The Avenue and hopes to pursue arts and culture reporting and print magazine journalism in her career. Along with The Alligator, she is one of the Print Editorial Directors of Rowdy Magazine. In her free time, she likes to listen to old Bollywood music, read and obsess over other writers’ processes whenever she has no idea what she’s doing (which is often).