Arts, Entertainment, Food and Culture / Health, Science and Technology

Arts and wellness

by Travis Cobb

Walmart donated $25,000 to the Mental Health Association for Greater Baton Rouge last Tuesday.
That money will feed clients with hot lunches.
For one man, the lunches aren’t the best part of his day.

No one is a stranger to James Duncan.

“I never meet strangers because you can never know what’s in a persons heart or what you can do for that person,” Duncan says.

That hasn’t always been true for Duncan.
Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and later bipolar disorder, Duncan sometimes saw himself as a stranger.

“I didn’t understand myself at first.”

Duncan has been going to the Mental Health Association’s Alliance House for 20 years.
The House offers Duncan and others education services, nutrition classes, arts programs, and more.
MHA Director Melissa Silva says their organization wants to help the community understand its clients.

Silva adds, “James is a wonderful, wonderful individual who unfortunately sometimes is feared by those in the community because of ignorance.
Duncan says “It’s not about how it look, it’s how somebody look at your picture.”

Part of Duncan’s picture is the calm he feels from art.

“I’m not the world’s best drawer.”

Duncan says his favorite part of coming to the alliance house is the arts for wellness program that happens twice a week.

“When you try and you do your best that’s the best artwork of all.”

Silva says, “Art is all about creativity self confidence and bringing back self esteem.”

“When you present yourself with a picture it’s coming out as a picture, something that you going through good or bad,” Duncan adds.

The up and down nature of life with bipolar disorder, Duncan says never took away from drawing or his friends at the alliance house.

“I enjoy the people here as family home away from home,” Duncan says.

To Duncan, that family has always been there.
Skipping the step of being strangers.
Silva adds mental illness impacts about a quarter of the United States population.
An art drive with MHA client art will take place throughout the month of April.

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