Be Happy or Else…

Discussions and drawings about mental health.

Digital Illustrations
June 1, 2015
Get Your Game Face | Illustrations by Kay Slater
Get Your Game Face On | Illustrations by Kay Slater

When drawing on the subject of mental health, I find myself drawn to the imagery of “masks” and the importance of appearance. This drive to hide away our pain and struggle behind closed doors or the discomfort we are unwilling to wade through so that we do not impose on others, it leads to greater problems.

In Get Your Game Face On, I wanted to show how those who suffer may be simultaneously the ones who ask for the mask, unwilling or unable to face a world that values photoshopped perfection and stock photography. And those who hand us the mask, they are also guilty of both handing it over with a relieved sigh, unwilling to put in the hard time to be compassionate and to build understanding, and perpetuating the belief that feeling and personal struggles are something to be handled in private behind closed doors.

Be Happy... | Illustrations by Kay Slater
Be Happy… | Illustrations by Kay Slater

I used to think that taking medicine for depression was akin to being held hostage. That if I took pills to be “happy” that I was admitting defeat.

There is a place for medication. I ultimately took antidepressants for 2 years while I worked hard at CBT to regain balance in my life. I am so lucky that I had access to a medical professional who listened and believed my struggles, and that I was able to afford the medicine that was ultimately prescribed to me. But I fought. I fought for a lot longer than I probably should have because I had come to associate drugs with weakness. The negative thoughts that swirled in my brain told me that I was too smart, too successful, too…healthy to be depressed and that I didn’t deserve medicine. I would make up excuses that there were “sicker” people than me and therefore, medicine was not a solution for “someone like me”. Trapped in my brain, I thought that medicine was admitting defeat. I had become so arrogant and sick that to admit that I was sick became my ultimate enemy.

But admitting that depression was BEATING me was exactly what I needed to admit. Medicine wasn’t a cross to bear but rather a pair of water wings to stay afloat; a shovel to fill in the hole in which we were previously stuck; a mobility device to remain standing; a hearing aid to amplify reasonable words; a key to unlock shackles – simply a tool to level the playing field.  Medicine doesn’t hold us hostage, we hold ourselves hostage.

Gallery Gachet’s Fundraising Auction

There are some amazing, local pieces up for auction:

Drop by Gallery Gachet to see some of the amazing artists as part of Gallery Gachet’s Fundraising Auction, or just head to the auction website and bid like the wind. There are some pieces there that are blowing my mind.

Why is Gallery Gachet fundraising?

 Gallery Gachet learned in September last year that after twenty-one years of receiving core funding from the Provincial Ministry of Health their contract with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is being severed. The financial cut amounts to half of the organization’s overall budget, and represents the majority of wage and operational resources.

A press release issued by VCH on September 3rd indicated that contracts in the Downtown Eastside “without a strong health mandate” or who are offering “stand-alone services that lack formal connections to the health care system are unlikely to be renewed”. At a meeting with VCH on Wednesday, September 2nd, it was made clear that Gallery Gachet’s funding would not be renewed. The decision to remove funding from the Gallery Gachet, made by VCH management, cited the Society’s role as not fitting with the “clinical” services that will become the focus for the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The organization’s relationship to a health mandate, and/or to the health care system, was not addressed.

Gallery Gachet is a 23-year old, collectively-run society with genuinely peer-based participation in its programming through to its governance. In the largely drop-in, exhibition and studio space they manage public access annually to exhibitions related to mental health and education, in addition to providing workshops, talks, symposia, projects and other events for the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood and within the broader mental health community. They facilitate a volunteer program that currently involves over fifty participants on a weekly basis. These volunteers include clients accessing Vancouver Community Mental Health Services, Therapeutic Volunteer Program (TVP). Many of the participants are on permanent disability assistance.

Gallery Gachet works in robust collaboration with a number of organizational partners to deliver free, low-barrier services. They amplify their community members’ voices and expression in wider mental health and art networks. Their mandate supports artistic development as a means to achieve social, cultural and economic justice and supports the wellness of, and the elimination of discrimination against, people marginalized by their mental health, trauma and/or abuse experience. They promote the critical function of art and culture in the building of a healthy society. The space provides essential skills development, peer support, referrals, community engagement and a healthy, non-hierarchal environment that provides both alternative and preventative mental health care. They support each other’s engagement, analysis and capacity to provide feedback on an ongoing basis, to the conditions of that care.

For more information or to learn more about supporting the Gallery Gachet: | | 604 687 2468

For media inquiries please contact:
Cecily Nicholson, Administrator        604 339 3234
Pierre Leichner, Collective Member    604 709 8612
Bruce Ray, Board of Directors        604 687 2468

vancounicorn, hard-of-hearing multidisciplinary artist, illustrator & musician