By the Mental Wellness Center
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and the time to raise awareness of mental health issues has never been more urgent. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently declared mental health as “the defining public health crisis of our time.” Mental Wellness Center has been at the forefront of advancing mental wellness in Santa Barbara for seventy-five years, and has purposefully scheduled its 27th annual hallmark arts festival in May, to coincide with the nationwide effort.
Reimagined going forward as “Artful Minds,” the Arts Faire takes place on Saturday, May 20, from 11 am – 3 pm on the beachfront opposite Chase Palm Park, and showcases the talents of approximately 60 local artists living with mental illness, across a variety of visual and craft mediums which include painting, drawing, jewelry and sculpture. Many discover their talents for the first time as participants in Mental Wellness Center’s Fellowship Club, where peer educators and an art specialist help them explore their emotions through self-expression.
“This is a poignant way to put a human face to mental illness,” said Darcy Keep, former MWC board member and Administrative Director of Psychiatry and addiction medicine at Cottage Health. Keep has spearheaded this event for more than two decades, and artists who participate in the show often come through her referral sources.
“The Faire provides an outlet for those living with mental health challenges to celebrate their creativity in a safe, supportive space. It’s an opportunity that allows them to be recognized for their talents,” said Keep.
“Like no other time in the 75-year history of the Mental Wellness Center, has mental health commanded the national conversation or been acknowledged as among the most important issues facing our community and our world, as it is today,” she said.
Mental health challenges are particularly devastating among youth.
Nationwide, suicide rates for young Americans ages 10 to 19 jumped by 40 percent from 2001 to 2019, while emergency room visits for self-harm rose by 88 percent.
These staggering national statistics are mirrored in Santa Barbara County, where suicide is now the third leading cause of death among local youth ages 10 – 24, according to Cottage Center for Population Health. This same study reports that ninety percent of teens who complete a suicide have an untreated, underlying mental illness. The Santa Barbara Unified School District recently reported that there were 56 “suicide incidences” in the first semester of the 2022 school year alone.
Mental Wellness Center has made tremendous strides in raising awareness among youth through its Mental Health Matters curriculum, impacting over 4,500 elementary and middle school students, and its Wellness Connection Council – a high school leadership program that educates and empowers students to become mental health advocates. The goal of these programs is to educate and invite conversation, as well as identify mental health challenges early, getting help before it’s too late.
Mental Wellness Center reduces barriers to receiving support by providing all services free of charge and offering them in both Spanish and English. The Center also offers remote as well as in person options.
“With a commitment to diverse programming through re-envisioned, bilingual programs and services at our state-of-the-art, downtown location, we have launched full-force into shaping an imminent future where all community members can easily seek out and participate in the mental health support they need,” said CEO Annmarie Cameron.
Support Mental Wellness Center by attending the 27th Annual Arts Faire – Artful Minds – a free event to the community that takes place on Saturday, May 20, 11 am – 3pm. Food trucks will be on hand serving delicious lunch options, coffees, smoothies and more. For more information, visit https://mentalwellnesscenter.org.
Celebrating 75 years of service to Santa Barbara, Mental Wellness Center provides mental health education to local students; a residential services program, which offers a home to more than 100 community members across seven residential sites; and serves individuals and families impacted by mental illness through support groups and social connection programs like the Fellowship Club, an onsite Recovery Learning Center, offering community and a variety of resources for those working on their mental health and wellness.