Mental health patients combat illness and stigma with art

Madam Halimah Yacob and SAMH Executive Director Tan Li Li views the In Process, In Progress exhibition on Feb 17, 2017.
Madam Halimah Yacob and SAMH Executive Director Tan Li Li views the In Process, In Progress exhibition on Feb 17, 2017.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Madam Halimah Yacob looks at the artwork by Nuzhat Kazi, 47, titled A Small Serving Of Singapore.
Madam Halimah Yacob looks at the artwork by Nuzhat Kazi, 47, titled A Small Serving Of Singapore.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) showcased the art created by its patients at an exhibition titled In Process, In Progress, launched at Goodman Arts Centre on Feb 17, 2017.
Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) showcased the art created by its patients at an exhibition titled In Process, In Progress, launched at Goodman Arts Centre on Feb 17, 2017.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Ms Yee Yung Jen, 38, with her artwork, titled By The Beach.
Ms Yee Yung Jen, 38, with her artwork, titled By The Beach.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Mr Tan Choon Heng, 54, with his artwork, titled My Home From The Past.
Mr Tan Choon Heng, 54, with his artwork, titled My Home From The Past. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Mdm Halimah Yacob looks at the artwork by Mr Tan Choon Heng (centre).
Mdm Halimah Yacob looks at the artwork by Mr Tan Choon Heng (centre).ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Suffering from schizophrenia and unemployed for seven years, Mr Tan Choon Heng found healing and focus in art.

The 54-year-old picked up a paint brush at Creative Hub in 2011, after he was referred there by the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

He learned pointillism, a painting technique that uses tiny dots. Mr Tan said in Chinese that painting this way allows him to focus and concentrate better.

He added that the medication he takes causes his hands to shake, and that pointillism helps him to stabilise both his body and his mood.

Thanks to this form of therapy, Mr Tan's visits to the doctor have decreased from once every five weeks to once every 10 weeks. His doctor has also prescribed a lower dosage of medicine for him.

  • What: In Process, In Progress

    Where: Goodman Arts Centre, 90 Goodman Road,

    Singapore 439053

    When: Till Feb 21

    Opening hours: 9am to 10pm, daily

    Admission: Free

Two of his paintings are now on show, along with about 50 other works, at the Goodman Arts Centre. Forty artists - most of whom suffer from mental health issues - are featured in the exhibition, titled In Process, In Progress which was opened by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob on Friday (Feb 17).

Said Madam Halimah: "This exhibition is a wonderful way of allowing those with mental health issues to express themselves."

She noted that Creative Hub holds classes for both members of the public and SAMH clients, and that this helps with integration.

Creative Hub is an artistic space managed by the SAMH. Since opening in 2011, it has held classes, and annual art exhibitions featuring the results of these classes.

Recently, it began organising classes for both SAMH clients and members of the public, in the belief that interaction will reduce stigma suffered by mental health patients.

Madam Halimah said that society here still has "a long way to go, especially in terms of stigma".

"It's not an easy illness to understand, but the awareness through an art exhibition like this is also really important to give people the opportunity to understand... (it) better."

Aon Risk Solutions Singapore chairman Geoff Lambrou, 45, who attended the exhibition opening, said his company was looking to buy some of the pieces to help raise funds for SAMH.

He was impressed by the quality of the works and said: "You can see that there's an awful lot of passion and emotion that's gone into the artwork and creating it."

The exhibition will be on until Feb 21.