Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Woman Fighting Mental Illness Finds Therapeutic Value in Creating Art

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Woman Fighting Mental Illness Finds Therapeutic Value in Creating Art

Article excerpt

Art has been an invaluable outlet in Laura Silverberg's fight against mental illness.

Jewelry making, painting and collaging have helped Silverberg become more patient and feel a sense of pride in her creations.

"I have grown by doing art," she said.

In 1987, Silverberg came to Topeka seeking treatment at the Menninger Clinic. Battling depression has led her to three court- committed stays at psychiatric facilities.

At one point, Silverberg drove to Interstate 70 and planned to walk into oncoming traffic. Another time, she bought a gun and went to a hotel to kill herself. When a therapist pointed out to Silverberg that she has a support system and that she should use it, Silverberg realized the therapist was right.

An art therapy program at Valeo also was immensely beneficial. Silverberg got to try new artistic techniques and learn new skills such as crocheting. She described her art therapist as being encouraging.

With jewelry making, Silverberg said she enjoys designing pieces and playing with combinations of beads.

"I'm able to look at creations and be proud," she said. "When I sell something, I feel successful."

Some of Silverberg's jewelry is on view and for sale at the Yeldarb Gallery in NOTO. A year ago, the gallery, in partnership with Valeo Behavioral Health Care, opened the "Creations of Hope Art Gallery," which features the work of artists dealing with mental health issues.

The collaboration has been a way to promote prevocational skills and reduce the stigma of mental illness, said Paula Acheson, Valeo's expressive therapies manager.

"Artists become public health advocates as they are empowered to raise awareness by describing one piece of art at a time," Acheson said.

Within the art therapy field, there is an ongoing discussion between process and product. …

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