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Art mural created by ULM students helps reduce mental health stigma

ULM Staff Photo

MONROE, LA - Northeast Delta Human Services Authority (NEDHSA) has sponsored the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) Art Program's mental health mural as part of its Rise Above Stigma initiative the agency launched in July 2021

The ULM Honors Art Class and the Art & Entrepreneurship Class designed and created a public art project to inspire ULM students to seek help, destigmatize seeking help, and provide solutions to help overcome mental health issues. The message within the mural supports NEDHSA's Rise Above Stigma initiative, which aims to help increase access to behavioral health support services, provide mental health awareness, and other culturally and linguistically appropriate stigma reduction messaging and training for the twelve parish communities in northeast Louisiana.

NEDHSA Executive Director Dr. Monteic A. Sizer said the sponsorship of the mural further pushes the work NEDHSA has already started and will be continuing.

"Our longstanding relationship with ULM and the timing of this great work make this a perfect opportunity for two of the region's leading organizations to help our most vulnerable populations," Dr. Sizer said. "The messaging found in the mural helps us further identify and break individual, family, and community stigma operating in our region."

Dr. Sizer said that as NEDHSA works to identify the origins of stigma, "we will begin to find the solutions to what is causing it, such as structural inequalities, housing, transportation, education, and others."

"There are many contributing factors as to why individuals carry various stigmas," Dr. Sizer said. We are committed to identifying the internal and external issues and then working with communities to help mitigate them."

The Mental Health Mural will be located at the intersection of University Avenue and Northeast Drive on ULM's campus and will span 50 feet with a height of five feet. ULM's art students designed the mural to interpret mental health by identifying loneliness, stress, academic pressure, body image, depression, and more.

ULM Art Professor Brooke Foy said this project has been the "most beautiful collaboration between two very different groups of students."

"Our mission is to speak to the students, our community and to encourage more discussion around mental health," Foy said. "These students did an amazing job telling so many stories on one mural."

ULM Senior Ruby Taylor, an art major, said the mural project was an "opportunity for strangers to team up and tackle an important subject that we know too well, regardless of our studies or majors."

"This artwork creates a space that allows anyone to engage and discuss in the conversation about mental health awareness," Taylor said.

NEDHSA's Rise Above Stigma initiative includes targeted training and use of community engagement practices with grassroots community-based organizations, area churches, businesses, and stakeholders within all twelve parishes of northeast Louisiana.

NEDHSA will take the art mural beyond the campus and collaborate with the region's museums, schools, and others to share the art as a touring anti-stigma exhibit.

To read more about NEDHSA's Rise Above Stigma initiative, click here.