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By Amanda Lipp, Founder & CEO of The Giving Gallery

When I was 18 years old, I experienced psychosis during college and went through an experience that I now consider to be the ‘internship of my life’: becoming a patient at a psychiatric hospital. Now, at 27 years old, I have learned how deal with my mental health issues and I am proud to say that this experience led to me building The Giving Gallery, becoming a filmmaker, and giving speeches around the world promoting mental wellness.

Leading up to my hospitalization at 18, the academic stress of college, coming out as gay, and repressed childhood trauma, culminated into the perfect storm of risk factors that led to attempting suicide and dropping out of college.

I hit my rock bottom.

Instead of going to class, parties, and living in a dorm – “the typical college experience” - I would instead live in a hospital, go to group therapy, and take medication.

This was the most challenging journey of my life, but it is an experience I am not grateful for. Three months of cycling between inpatient and outpatient services gave me insider experience of the mental health care system as a young adult.

I heard the traumas and dreams of the patients around me. Their stories allowed me to see that there is strength in vulnerability and opportunity amidst adversity. As an artist, I craved for a creative outlet that could help me communicate the pain I was feeling. One day, a thoughtful nurse walked over and handed me a box of crayons.

That is when my life changed.

Crayons became my voice - a creative catharsis for managing my symptoms and communicating my feelings. In fact, studies have shown that art can help rebuild or rediscover identity from mental health difficulties, cope with distress, and relate to experiences in new and different ways.

I began to recover, one crayon drawing at a time.

After I was discharged from the hospital, I felt a sense of urgency to connect with other artists and get involved in mental health. I wanted to pay it forward. I began auctioning my crayon art and sharing my story to raise money and awareness for mental health nonprofits. This led to raising thousands of dollars, and most importantly, feeling a sense of purpose that my art could have an impact beyond myself.

I began to wonder how other artists could have this opportunity as well. So, I built The Giving Gallery, a free online platform where artists can sell their art and share their story to support mental health nonprofits.

When artwork is purchased, the sale proceeds are split between the artist and our partnered mental health nonprofits. MHA is one of those partners. Every drawing makes a difference. Join our movement as an artist, or purchase art on The Giving Gallery to support Mental Health America. Let’s get creative with mental health.