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Sharp Health News

‘You Are Not Alone’

Oct. 20, 2021

San Diego artists Catherine Carlton

Catherine Carlton, a San Diego artist, painted the “You Are Not Alone” mural at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital in September, to help raise awareness during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and National Recovery Month.

Artist Catherine Carlton believes it was serendipitous to discover the art initiative, You Are Not Alone. It happened while she was browsing through social media one day in May, which happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month. The global campaign aims to comfort people struggling with mental health through murals that feature the words “you are not alone.”

Catherine, who lives in San Diego, instantly wanted to participate.

“I work primarily with restaurants by designing and painting signs, but when I found out about these murals, I wondered if I could create one at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital,” says Catherine, whose friend is a nurse at the behavioral health hospital. “I found the message so relevant and inspiring.”

The You Are Not Alone initiative launched with three murals in New York City in May 2019, timed to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month. Artists around the globe were encouraged to create their own works in their cities using a color palette of yellow, black, white and gray. To date, more than two dozen murals have been painted in the U.S. and abroad, with more than 200 digital works submitted by artists in 25 countries.

Through her friend, Catherine connected with Sharp Mesa Vista leaders and received support for the idea. The outdoor balcony of the Child and Adolescent Inpatient Program was selected as the site for the mural. The balcony overlooks a garden where adult patients can also see the message.

Catherine created a scale drawing of the space and submitted four designs for the Sharp Mesa Vista team to consider. The final design incorporates the phrase “you are not alone” in other languages, including Spanish and Indonesian, to emphasize that mental health is a global concern, especially during a pandemic.

“I wanted people to feel hopeful and included when viewing the artwork,” she says. “I also hoped having yellow as the background would give the mural a fresh, uplifting look.”

San Diego artists Catherine Carlton

It took several days for Catherine to complete the mural this past September, which was Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and National Recovery Month.

Erica Price, Sharp Mesa Vista supervisor for recreation therapy, says the timing was fitting, as September is a time that the staff at Sharp Mesa Vista celebrate the process of recovery and recommit to the principles of the Recovery Model. As a treatment philosophy, the Recovery Model focuses on the holistic nature of a patient, rather than solely one’s diagnosis and symptoms.

This year’s theme for National Recovery Month was “Recovery Is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community,” which encourages the community to support efforts in the recovery journey. It also invites everyone to celebrate diversity and seek to develop deeper understanding and connection that nurtures recovery.

“The message behind the theme helps to reduce stigma surrounding people with substance use or mental health disorders, and encourages others to practice empathy,” says Erica. “We hope that every one of our patients knows they are not alone. We feel honored to be a recipient of this mural that echoes this message.”

Catherine emphasizes that anyone can have a mental health condition, no matter their age, gender, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic background.

“It’s important to lessen the stigma of getting help to manage one’s mental health condition,” she says. “I hope my mural helps to make folks feel less afraid or judged — to know that they are not alone in the process of receiving treatment.”

Learn more about mental health programs for children, adolescents and adults at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.

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