Circle of Friends for Mental Health

“Fewer than 20% of children, and 33% of adults with diagnosable mental illness receive professional treatment.”

Circle of Friends is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to building the health and enriching the lives of people with mental illness by offering various classes including art, photography, creative writing, drama, and music. Through educational classes, these individuals are given an outlet to tell their stories, a way to release worries and things they’ve hidden, and are given the opportunity to build friendships.

The programs are offered at selected clubhouses and living facilities, which can be found on the Circle of Friends website. The clubhouses are places where adults with mental illness can go during the day, where they can be close to their counselor, can eat a meal, and do activities.

Participants of the programs get to showcase and sell their artwork in various coffee shops and businesses around the community. Displays are not limited to just artwork, dramas, poetry, and music are too. At one event at the Solo Bar by the Seattle Center, a play was put on, someone played the guitar, and poetry was read. Every year an event called Arts and Action is put on where artwork from all the clubhouses is displayed. Tickets are sold for the event in order to raise funds.

Like 5ks? Circle of Friends is putting on a race (bike, walk, run) June 15 at Magnuson Park called Stampede Over Stigma. The purpose of the race is to eliminate the stigma against those with mental illness and to get everyone in the community talking about mental wellness. The goal is to get kids with mental illness help when they need it before they get into drugs or commit suicide. The earlier they receive help, the better success they will have in life. To register for Stampede Over Stigma or to volunteer, check out their website.

For those who are interested in joining one of the Circle of Friends programs, teaching, or volunteering, call (206) 525-0648. Classes are open to anyone and are free of charge. There are new classes Thursday afternoons in the ART room at the University Christian Church. Photography classes also meet there and then move to new places for the class session. Circle of Friends has an upcoming Artists Reception January 17 from 4:30-6:30 at the UW School of Social Work First Floor Gallery where artwork will be showcased.

An artist of Circle of Friends once said that he would draw outside of class all week long if only he had sketch paper. Circle of Friends accepts donations, grants, and gifts. Art supplies and cameras (they hope to switch to digital cameras with donations) are always needed. To help someone with mental illness be able to express themselves artistically check out the Circle of Friends website to make a donation.

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