Mental Health Resources for Writers and Other Human Beings
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, this blog is devoted to highlighting free mental health resources in the Jacksonville, Florida area.
I Still Matter - Fulfilling an Unmet Need
My friend Carmen's idea for I Still Matter was conceived by her in 2010 but got its traction in late 2013, when she was unemployed and feeling suicidal. I was in the same boat (unemployed) when I met Carmen in 2013, often feeling discouraged and ashamed of my failure to find work, unsure what my life was worth anymore.
To build a positive outlet for herself and others who were struggling with mental health concerns, Carmen began organizing arts and crafts meetups at Chamblin's Uptown. Those meetups provided a space and time for me and my peers who needed a place where we could engage in a therapeutic, creative activity while feeling safe to discuss our problems and share solutions.
Common themes that emerged from all of the participants in the early art groups were, first, the dearth of local resources for people experiencing mental illness, and second, the need for more resources and opportunities to promote mental wellness and open discussion of this taboo topic. Recognizing the opportunity to fill an important niche in the community, Carmen founded I Still Matter to remind everyone who is struggling, "You matter," and in 2014, she launched it publicly at One Spark.
Since its inception, I Still Matter has coordinated a number of awareness projects and fundraisers, including:
Inside Out is "Jacksonville's largest multi-media art project," in which 63 people (and growing) affected by mental illness express their personal visions of their experiences. The Inside Out installation has appeared at One Spark as well as other venues to inspire conversations and help reduce the stigma of mental illness.
Circles of Hope was an outreach project to show support and solidarity with indigenous communities in Canada who were reporting unprecedented numbers of youth suicides. Participants in this I Still Matter project shipped thousands of these two-to-three-inch discs to a mental health advocacy group in Canada for an art installation in their community.
I Still Matter published the popular I Still Color, an adult coloring book to promote art and coloring for mental wellness, as a fundraising project. Fifty-two artists from all over the world donated drawings to generate money for ongoing community art groups that support people living with mental illness, as well as their peers, families, and advocates.
Advocacy and Ongoing Support
Today, I Still Matter partners with other local groups such as Where is the Sunshine and the Jacksonville Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to promote awareness, advocate for resources in our community, and offer training opportunities like Mental Health First Aid, a program that trains everyday individuals to understand and respond to people experiencing mental health or substance abuse issues. They even have a speaker's bureau and offer opportunities for people who suffer from mental illness to tell their stories to the public.
As part of their ongoing support programs, I Still Matter offers two monthly multi-media art support groups. They provide all supplies, and the leaders are always introducing cool new techniques for making art that anyone can do.
Creative Cup: First Tuesday, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. each month at Vagabond Coffee in Murray Hill
Healing Arts Peer Support: Third Tuesday, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. each month at Baptist Health downtown campus.
Links to Free Mental Health Resources
I Still Matter website