Israeli David “Eli” felt a wall approach him in his coworking space in the Los Angeles Arts District in 2009. Israelis are software developers living with mental illness (schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder). -compulsive, borderline personality disorder). And he’s hallucinating.
But as the weeks went by, he said his space was getting really smaller. He saw Dave Leon, a stranger who shared the area with him in the warehouse at the time, moving the walls of the cube, and they started talking.
Leon, a licensed clinical social worker, can’t remember the details, but he recently started a project called Painted Brain to create a community for people with mental health issues. They had a lot of gatherings, he explained, and they had a lot of things – pianos, drums, tables and a lot of art supplies. They were beyond their space.
After the Israelites heard about Painted Brain’s mission, he suggested that they create a better website for them. At that time, Leon did not know that the Israelites had difficulty entering and leaving the hospital. The Israeli coded his first version of the website in print on one of his missions to a mental health facility.
Leo was excited when the Israelites told Leo about his diagnosis.
“I was like, ‘You are part of our team,’” said Leon. ” “it’s incredible””
“I say to myself, ‘Look at your mouth,'” the Israelites joked before getting serious. “I live with this. It wasn’t such a gift, ”he said,“ I understand. ”
Leon also identified a companion who has experience with mental illness. He has been living with depression since he was 10 years old.
“But we both built this … [our challenges] It could turn into a gift… this power, to create this superpower, ”the Israelites said.
Painted Brain is a Los Angeles-based mental health nonprofit co-founded by Leon, Israeli and Rayshell Chambers. For them as leaders, it is important to be transparent about their own experiences and to share their stories.
“It’s the way mental health systems have worked for many years, and it’s a very top-down system,” Leon said. “It’s about labeling and identifying the symptoms and trying to treat them. To the best of our ability, this can be a little dehumanizing. And within the public system, obtaining and maintaining services. It is difficult to do, to access, and of various qualities. “
Their peer-managed model aims to overturn the traditional hierarchy of mental health care. The executives and members of the community are on level ground. They all know what it’s like to fight mental health. They understand what is at stake and what is needed to prevent the other from falling apart.
“Mental illness is just a part of some people’s lives,” Leon said. “And it’s going through it, accepting it, living around it, living it and learning to live with it. But it becomes part of your life and it has a purpose or a meaning. to find out, I think the way it’s spoken is often trying to get rid of it or put it aside. “
How it started
Leon started Painted Brain because he was looking for a place to bring together young adults with severe mental illness whom he had met individually as a therapist.
“This is where my heart is,” he said. “I’m just trying to find ways to help people who don’t suit me find themselves and probably get better.”
He soon found it difficult for them to open up and speak. They felt more comfortable sitting together and painting.
“I worked with groups from different backgrounds, like the entire Los Angeles palette. I thought these people were the coolest people I have ever met. Leon said. “Some of them barely spoke. Some spoke very loudly. Some were just great artists… and I just thought, “If people can see this, we’ll have different attitudes towards mental illness. “
About a year later, he began to publish their works in a magazine. Their first Painted Brain clue was consistent with the basic concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy: thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Each issue included a beginner’s guide to mental illness, featured artist, featured mental health worker or parent, poetry section, cartoon section, fashion photography, and plenty of artwork . Printed from 2006 to 2012 and continues online.
As Painted Brain grew, Leon and the Israelis began to develop programs to address issues faced by community members.
“We had a contract, and it slowly piled up, slowly piled up,” the Israelites said. “And when I put Rayshell on it, Rayshell came like fire.”
Before Chambers joined Painted Brain, he was a technical writer for a nonprofit focused on community care for ethnic communities. She helped Leon create grants, but it was the first time they had crossed the road after her sister died of an overdose.
She told him that she was struggling mentally. She felt helpless to write an addiction program for her job, but she couldn’t save her sister.
“It felt like I had to do more. I have to do more, ”she said. “And I wanted to use my skills, at least to normalize mental health, especially for the color community.”
Chambers became COO in 2016 when he helped join the company. Currently, it has over 40 employees and not only manages an arts group, but also offers occupational therapy, crisis support, peer support, digital literacy training, homeless services. , advocacy and more.
Find a goal
It also provides jobs for people with a history of mental health issues, freeing their peers from barriers and making the transition to a full-time career.
“What we’re doing here is leading you to find your purpose, your people, and be productive,” the Israelites said. “If you don’t do these three things, you’re going to spiral down. “
When Painted Brain hires people, it says they don’t list job postings or hire them. They try to understand the psychic powers of each individual.
“I train people living with mental health problems in coding. They learn to code faster than others…. So how does their brain process information. It says a lot about how to find these patterns in order to retain what they learn and apply it to practices, ”the Israelites said.
Leon said that all mental illnesses have hidden strengths. He points out that mania is considered a superpower in warrior culture and can fight for days without getting tired. People with autism have increased sensory awareness. Some cultures may view schizophrenia as having access to other areas. People with mental illness can also be seen as making the transition to become a spiritual leader in the community.
“When we think of what we call ‘symptoms’ and what other cultures and societies call ‘experiences’, the meaning associated with the experience is how we see it and how. It has a big impact on what you understand and what you do. Build your life around it, ”he said.
Chambers said seeing Leon and the Israelis so open about their mental illness gave him the courage to publish the story of bipolar disorder and hospitalization.
“It’s a little scary to be real and transparent,” she said.
But once he realized how much he could change by speaking honestly, he said he couldn’t be afraid anymore.
The Israelites also fled his diagnosis. Now he accepts them.
“I think being a person with schizophrenia, OCD and BPD is very empowering for me,” he said. “Because I don’t empower these labels. You will remember me, my personality, my contributions, creating Painted Brain and everything I did.
He understands that some people still harm him, but he says it’s the kind of people he prefers to be around who accepts him because of his vulnerabilities. I did. The type of people who contribute to an organization like Painted Brain.
“Is it better to create a program or a business model that primarily responds to the experience of our peers?” ” He said. “Who is better than the one who lived it?”