KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — “I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for art,” Joshua Blankinship said.
Inside Blankinship’s studio in Kinston, there’s a sense of purpose.
“It allows my brain to shut down for a while,” Blankinship said. “And then when I’m done with a piece, my brain is literally too tired, you know, to compete… All I paint is those emotions put on the canvas.”
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Blankinship has been an artist for over 15 years. On the recommendation of a therapist, he decided to try art therapy.
“It really goes back to the mental illness diagnosis of bipolar disorder … It changed my life,” Blankinship said.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is defined as “an integrative mental health and human service profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art making, the creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”
Blankinship said he’s feeling the life-changing effect. He is not alone in finding therapy through art. The American Art Therapy Association says thousands are helping people like Josh find ways to express themselves.
“Art therapy can be very helpful as part of the treatment of minor or all mental disorders or on its own,” said Sy Atezaz Said, MD, executive director of behavioral health at ECU Health and a professor at East Carolina University. “Some really, really beautiful works of art have been created out of the pain of mental illness. This is one way to channel their suffering and the intensity of their emotion into something very positive.
“Basically what I do is draw things that I love or that I like, you know, for my mental health, it’s a great way for me to start a conversation about that with people who see my work,” Blankinship said.
Blankinship shared why talking about mental health is so important.
“If we don’t talk about it, then it’s something you’ve had at that point. You’re just carrying more baggage,” Blankinship said.
He said that the feeling of finishing a painting gives him value.
“What’s more powerful than creating positive feelings? You know, it’s amazing to think that something I’ve done is going to make somebody smile or maybe have a better day,” Blankinship said. “That’s the fuel. Like, they, they really make me want to keep drawing.
“The worst thing about depression is that it takes away your joy. So you can give at any time [joy] somebody else. I mean, what better gift could you give.
To see some of Blankinship’s work you can visit his website or if you would like to contact him you can do so on Facebook at Joshua Blankinship Fine Art Studio.
“We also live in times where mental health care has never been more effective,” Said said. “People do recover and can still manage their daily lives effectively and continue with what their purpose in life is and find meaning in life.”
Said shared the following resources for those who need them:
NC Department of Health & Human Services: State Telepsychiatry Program
NC Department of Health & Human Services: Mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services
National Alliance on Mental Illness
You can call the NAMI Helpline at 800-950-6264 or chat with them MF from 10am to 10pm. In crisis, NAMI says to text NAMI to 741741 for 24/7 confidential free counselling.