Removing the Mask of Mental Illness
In our culture, we’re all used to wearing masks to help hide our struggles and put our best foot forward. Sometimes the masks help to maintain our image so that our differentness doesn’t make us stand out. Every now and then, we need to remove our mask and disclose those struggles with our loved ones and those who are there to support us through the thick and thin.
With mental illness, there is often more of an unspoken social pressure to not let anyone know how hard the extent of one’s struggles. It’s hard to relate and uncomfortable to let down one’s guard entirely. Nevertheless, it’s important to have a safe place in relationships even if it’s just identifying a few emotions each week to someone else. Failing to foster deep connections leads to more isolation, loneliness, and oftentimes, increased symptom severity of mental illness.
On the cover of the recent February issue of National Geographic, there is a picture of a soldier looking down on a mask which he made in an art therapy group, depicting some of his own struggles which, for many combat vets, are difficult to disclose.
Looking through the magazine, although it wasn’t the primary subject of the featured article, there are several pictures of masks which veterans have made in order to express their struggles with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress. One veteran stated that he was extremely reluctant to pick up a paint brush with hands that were used to holding knives, guns, and tools.
Using Art As Therapy Versus Talking
By trusting the process, one thing led to another, and several veterans were able to use creative expression to depict the masks which they see within themselves and are often unable to discuss. Many masks carried similar motifs of patriotism, pride, death, mouths sewn shut, and eyes that have been blinded as a result of their encounters on the battlefield. In the end, they said that it was a positive experience to show their inner mask to the world.
It’s easy to wear our masks and stay below the radar. As an agency that advocates for improving mental health in our communities, we are aware of the social difficulties and stigmas that are attached to depression, anxiety, PTS, bipolar, and many other severe mental illnesses. Many who have walked through our doors have found help and healing to move forward. We just want you to know that we’re here and ready to provide a safe place where your mental health needs can be met under one roof and with exceptional service. We aspire to be the most hospitable and the most efficient mental health providers in the Baton Rouge and Northshore areas. That’s part of the PTI difference and we’re dedicated to making a difference for you.