Entertainment: The Art of Mental Health: Using Creativity to Cope With Anxiety, Depression and Suicidal Thoughts (3/28/22)

Kelly Downs works on a photo of her late best friend Matthew MacDonald and his grandmother. She keeps his memory alive and respects him by sharing his art, which is unique to him, with his loved ones.

Photo by Cynthia Walman

Kelly Downs, a student teacher and director of the Arts Council, is creating a collection of works of art to send to friends and family to pay tribute to the memory of her close friend Matthew MacDonald who recently passed away.

“My dearest friend loved art, and I know he was attached to it, it was his wish,” Downs said. “She was beautiful, had a wonderful job, had a lot of friends, and everyone she knew was very interesting. [by his death]; Not below. ”

Their friendship began on their first day of college in Michigan, where they walked to the library along the Red Cedar River. They shared a love of books, poems and old jazz records. Downs said from the first day they met, they were “forever tied up.”

“Some of the happiest and most sacred moments of my life have been associated with Matthew,” Downs said. “I remember spending the whole afternoon with Matthew in complete silence in the Zen Garden in Chicago. That was how much we loved each other. Love filled in the places where words failed.

This is not the first time that suicide has affected Downs’ life. She lost her cousin Michael when she was 17 years old. Downs said her family experienced the suicides of other teenagers when she was a teenager herself.

“My first knowledge of life was a really significant sense of death,” she said. “I feel like suicide was always something that was around, but not discussed, and it had a profound effect on my mental health. I’ve been an artist all my life, but I’ve been mentally better all my life. There is nothing wrong with that confession; as a sensitive, vulnerable human being, the world often feels overwhelmed.

Downs said he has a long-standing interest in art that he remembers. She shares her love of art with her father, who is also an artist.

He uses the practice of art as a mental health treatment.

I use my process for processing. That’s the only way, ”Downs said.“ I’ve tried everything else. As far as art and medicine, it gives the same structure. I haven’t found a way to make it feel as real to me as being able to process through art and the feedback I get because it takes so long to process.

Downs creates a series of xenotypes to process the death of his friend and her cousin. Cyanotype is the process of printing images that produces cyan-blue printing. She was also inspired by My Morning Jacket Bond. Their songs “Single” and “Dondant” are about their band friend Aaron Todovich who died of suicide.

Downs said: “The way I keep these people alive and respect the tragedy – without staying in the tragedy – is to use the art of advocating for other people to let them know that such people exist. Who cares. ” “If there’s any way I can tell someone, just wait a day to see it change, then I respect them.”

Downs offers mindfulness, therapy and mediation as the best tools for strengthening mental health. She teaches yoga at the Southeast Missouri Arts Council and Yoga East. He also suggests painting with watercolors or creating openings to help manage mental health.

“I had very deep experiences, very beautiful artistic experiences, where I mentally crossed over what I had reflected on the canvas, and suddenly the answer would come,” she said.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255).

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