Breaking stigma one bar at a time

2018-11-05 11:49
A resident admires the artwork at the exhibition. Photo: Samantha Lee

A resident admires the artwork at the exhibition. Photo: Samantha Lee

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Breaking stigma, creating awareness and honouring a legacy while raising much needed funds are wrapped up in five bespoke chocolate bars as part of a collaborative effort to change the adverse perception associated with mental illness.

On Thursday, the Spring Foundation in partnership with Chocolate Time and the Peter Clarke Art Centre launched their recent campaign that sees art students create wrappers inspired by nature, creating awareness on mental health issues.

Bobbie Fitchen, sought to do something in honour of her late partner, Pat, who died at the hospital in 2016.

“My life partner had a massive stroke and was clinically depressed. She ended up here and on 14 December 2016, she died here. It was a shock to us, because when you live with someone with mental illness [you realise what it does]. She was very capable, she would have loved something like this. As a family we wanted to do something to honour her, in her legacy,” she says.

She visited the market garden with her children and wanted to get involved.

“Because we owned a chocolate factory, we immediately thought it would be great to do something with chocolate,” she says.

Chocolate Time have now put into production five bespoke wrappers that can be customised by the purchaser with flavours like maxi Belgian, milk, dark, black or sugar-free. All chocolate products are Halaal and can be purchased in sets of five for R350 via the Chocolate Time website.

Dr John Parker, psychiatrist at Lentegeur Hospital and director of The Spring Foundation says they welcomed the initiative.

“We wanted to make this meaningful and after the Peter Clark Art Centre became involved, I gave them a talk on mental illness, gave them a tour of [our market garden] and we challenged them to come up with designs for chocolate wrappers that displayed what they understood. These wrappers will now be sold to raise funds for the foundation,” he says.

The Peter Clarke Art Centre also assists Cedar High School and a total of 53 students participated initiative.

“Depression is fast becoming an epidemic in the world and to reflect on the key issues that make depression, not only hard to treat but drives suicide and this issue, is the shame and isolation associated with mental illness. This shame is the legacy of how we in the Western world have dealt with this illness,” says Parker.

“It is the legacy of building institutions that were not aimed at healing people, but locking them away.”

It is for this reason that involving the younger generation was so important, he says.

Ainsley Louw, a Grade 11 learner at Wynberg Girls’ High attends the art centre and was one of the participants.

“I felt excited to get involved in the project because it is a cause close to my heart. Mental illness is of much importance. You maybe don’t know how to get involved but maybe, making something pretty on a page can make a difference and that was interesting,” she says.

Tamia Hurley from Cedar High School says: “It is inspirational to me because there are people who look at others with mental illness and think of them as lower than them. This project is motivating youngsters to look at people with mental illness differently and help them. It makes me feel good that I was part of a solution to help them see it differently.”

The chocolate wrappers will have more information on the organisation and mental illness on the inside.

Cindie Ah Ling, acting principal of the Peter Clarke Art Centre, says the art project was also built into their curriculum to further promote the conversation around mental health.

“The project touched on the concept of packaging, repeat patterns, the elements of art, principles of design, layout and there was a conceptual link to the awareness of mental health, which are all requirements of FET Design in a whole,” says Ah Ling.

All proceeds from the sale of the chocolates will go towards the development and upkeep of The Spring Foundation projects at Lentegeur Hospital.

“This will bring in much needed funding to allow the Spring Foundation to continue to develop new models of how to foster hope and recovery in mental health care,” says Parker.

Visit www.chocolatetime.co.za to purchase the chocolate set.

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