Local groups creating art installation to erase stigma surrounding mental health

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A new art installation coming to Virginia Beach will take the ordinary and turn it into something meaningful.

NAMI Coastal Virginia, the Season for Nonviolence Collective (citizen group) and the ViBe Creative District are working together to raise awareness about mental health, remove the stigma of talking about it, and create a space for community healing and hope.

Artists of all ages are using rocks to spark conversations about mental health, something that is often a taboo subject.

“Things like ‘you’re not your illness,’ one little child put ‘God still loves you,'” said Kay Ashby, with the Coastal Virginia chapter of NAMI, or National Alliance of Mental Illness. “Positive mental health messages.”

 The groups that have participated involve:

  • Cooke Elementary
  • Hermitage Elementary
  • Norfolk Academy Middle School
  • Princess Ann High School- Lighthouse Psychology Club
  • Landstown High School  – through Morgan
  • Mayor’s Youth Leaders in Action (member in collective)
  • Muslim Youth Group (member in collective)
  • Jewish Community Center (member in collective)

Zero’s Subs Oceanfront is also hosting a drop-in painting rock painting table now through April 30 in the ViBe District at 632 Virginia Beach Blvd, daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Ashby says the goal of the project is to erase the stigma surrounding mental health.

“The more people become aware of it, can talk about and see it in different situations, the better we are to do something about accepting it, just as an illness, like a physical illness,” said Ashby. “We just know that the more positive outcomes happen when people have support.”

Organizers are also hoping to create a space of healing and hope. Students at the Virginia Beach Technical School are building benches outside of a new garden and mural, which is called “Seeds of Hope.” Local artist Erika Hitchcock is creating it with the help of other local artists and students.

“We have this three-panel mural that’s three-dimensional,” said Ashby. “She used a quote, ‘If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk through my garden forever’ and that’s from Tennyson.”

The ViBe Creative District is also sharing ways that local businesses can get involved:

  • Plant a green pinwheel flower at the entrance to the business
  • Turn the lights green or install one green light
  • Wear green ribbons (green is the color of mental health awareness)
  • Share information about NAMI

The art installation will be unveiled on May 8th.

You can learn more about the project here.

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