To wrap up Mental Health Awareness Month, Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center held an unveiling of their new mural at the St. Anthony Church in Tamuning entitled “Seeing Through Stigma.”
Before choosing the final design for the mural, GBHWC held a “Seeing Through Stigma” art competition at the beginning of May.
Maricia Mariano, GBHWC social marketer and communications manager, tells PNC that they wanted to create a contest that was youth-involved, COVID-friendly, and, of course, fun.
Sponsored by Bank of Guam which commissioned their artist, Lee San Nicolas, Mariano says that it was heartwarming to see the youth competition winners and the artist himself and how they were able to interpret spreading the awareness of mental health through art.
“Our competition winners not only created something but were educated as well because that’s our primary goal as marketers for our outreach initiative — to bring awareness and education into the community,” Mariano said.
Mariano explained the symbolism behind the mural and what each part represented.
“Every detail of the artwork, shows a message. The sunflowers … they represent happiness with the color and when you think of the sun, just the name in general, it makes you think of something warm and at home. Then, we have the two youths that are on it, male and female, and it’s because mental health affects everybody,” Mariano said.
She added: “The whole mask, behind the mask, means mental health didn’t really become such a big thing until COVID hit. Everyone started actually experiencing mental health concerns and experiences while they were in COVID. So that was a big part as to the reason … when you think of a mask, people show a mask everyday. They want you to see what they want you to see. But under it, you can have underlining mental health-related illnesses like depression and anxiety … and nobody will be able to see that unless you have that hard conversation.”
The youth contest winners and artists are Cody Villegas, Maga’låhi Salas, and Phaedra Taijeron.
The local artist behind the mural, Lee San Nicolas, says his inspiration was within the title itself, “Seeing Through Stigma.”
“I wished for people to not feel the struggles they face and most importantly not to feel alone. From the youths to adults, we never know what another person is going through. And the inspired drawing and designs from the three kids I worked with, really helped me elevate the idea and portray feelings and thoughts through emotion for this mural,” San Nicolas said.
He added that this was a personal project for him and his spreading awareness about mental health and other issues is crucial and there’s always a way to express it positively … people just have to see through the stigma.
Guam Behavioral also partnered with AltrXego entertainment and they provided canopies for the unveiling.