The Mental Health Association of Santa Barbara will host the 17th annual Mental Health Arts Festival this weekend to encourage discourse about mental illness in the community and provide those affected with a platform for expression.

The festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2 at De la Guerra Plaza downtown. The event will feature artwork, crafts, paintings, sculptures, jewelry and music created by local people affected by mental illnesses.

[media-credit name=”Photo Courtesy of Kelly Kapaun” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]

The Mental Health Arts Festival features artwork by locals. This painting by Trinaty Lopez Wakefield will be one of many on display this Saturday.

According to Annmarie Cameron, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County, the festival is intended to eradicate social stigmas surrounding mental illness.

“Stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help with their mental illness when they need it, and that is why education is so important,” Cameron said. “The Mental Health Arts Festival not only helps raise awareness, but it also gives our participants a time to creatively express themselves in unique and beautiful ways and to share that directly with our community.”

The Mental Health Association is a nonprofit, private organization that provides housing and support for persons with severe mental illnesses. The group receives approximately 1,000 calls every year from individuals seeking mental health resources.

The festival attracts hundreds of people each year and advertises the Mental Health Association’s resources, such as the Family Advocate Program, Recovery Learning Center and housing opportunities.

The Recovery Learning Center at the Fellowship Club is the only rehabilitation and social center for people with mental illnesses in Santa Barbara, providing a space for peer-to-peer support, resources and craft spaces. Many of the people that frequent the club will have their art featured at this weekend’s festival.

“We are proud to host an event filled with self-expression and creation that provides people in our community living with mental illness with a feeling of accomplishment and a means for healing,” Cameron said.