“The mission of Compeer is to reduce the isolation and stigma for individuals who experience mental illness, with a commitment to enhance mental health recovery and holistic wellness and increase their community reintegration and inclusion through friendship, meaningful involvement and service.” —MHALC Website
While driving to the Art Journaling class organized by Mental Health America of Licking County’s (MHALC) Compeer Program, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. In my head, I had imagined a group of people sitting around tables doing art pieces in relative quiet, maybe even with some sort of sullen air. I had also imagined a lot of personal support happening between Shari Johnston (the program coordinator) and members attending the class.
There was definitely a group of people sitting around tables doing art, but that was the only thing my imagination had gotten right.
The group at Compeer wasn’t sullen or quiet at all. In fact, the entire 2-hour class was filled with laughter, collaboration, and general chatting. The members shared their weeks with one another, congratulating successes and encouraging each other to keep going in the right direction. They gave each other meaningful advice, and showed each other a relatability that is unique to the group.
Shari participated in the discussions as well, giving advice and helping to encourage everyone while she worked on a painting of her own. But, it wasn’t the personal support session I had imagined at all. While there was definitely self-help of a sort taking place, it was as a group, and it seemed so much more productive and beneficial to everyone.
In fact, I even participated in the class, doing what Shari called a “passion board,” which is a square of cardstock that you can fill with whatever you want. I enjoy painting, so that’s what I spent my time doing. I could really see, just from that short time, how this program can really work as a form of self-help and support for Compeer members. It was very mood-lifting to paint and listen to all of the members joking with one another, and watching them share their creative pieces with the group.
From passion boards and portrait work, to learning to crochet and petting a wonderful therapy dog, the art class had a little something for everyone to do. There are coloring pages if you prefer that, and even regular paper and pens if you just want to write.
The group was incredibly welcoming, and the atmosphere was that of exactly what MHALC and Compeer strive for—a community of support and acceptance.