May 22nd – 28th is Mental Health Art Week in Finland and this year’s theme is Feel Your Emotions – tunnetunteesi in Finnish. If the idea of ‘feeling your emotions’ makes you nervously want to run and hide, that’s ok! (no niin!) If you’re feeling ready to jump in and join an activity, great! Both feelings are welcome! All of You is welcome, however you feel. For me, this is an ongoing invitation (and inquiry) that threads its way throughout my life. Welcoming all emotions, not only the ones that we consider to be ‘good’ is key to being well and staying well.
Feeling your emotions includes grief
For MHAW 2023, I am facilitating two events called Eco-grief Tending on the 23rd of May and Grief Tending on the 27th of May. I’ll be inviting us to remember ‘all of our experience is welcome, including the parts that feel unwelcome.’ This foundational welcoming of how we feel is a great way to live. It’s a way of being that can feel challenging if you haven’t tried it, and transformational if you have! It helps to remember that ‘feel your emotions’ is an invitation. Your ‘NO, I don’t want to’ is also welcome.
I’m here to encourage you to participate in MHAW2023 because I know that being in (a supportive!) community helps to sustain health. This feels particularly important when dancing with Artist’s (human) shame – a subject I’ll talk about more in future posts.
What is Mental Health Art Week?
MHAW2023 is an event that brings artists and theaters together in spaces where discussions about mental health are warmly welcomed! When I say artists, what I mean is human beings. I sincerely believe we are all artists! You, me, we. In Scotland, where the idea for MHAW was inspired, the aim is to discover how active participation in the creative arts can prevent ill mental health.
“support the arts, explore how engagement in the arts can help prevent mental ill health, and challenge mental health stigma”.SMAHF
In Finland, Mental Health Art Week (MHAW) began in 2014 and is organised by MIELI ry Finlands oldest and largest mental health organisation.
MHAW aims to:
“strengthen cultural well-being, increase knowledge about the effects of cultural participation on mental health, and lowers the threshold to discuss mental health and its meaning for individuals and for the community.”MHAW2023 MIELI Without Borders presentation
This year #MHAW2023 is partnered with Suomi Teatteri and performance will literally take centre stage in the programme of activities. You’ll also discover activities that are not directly related to the theatre or the arts in a traditional sense.
Get involved, try something new?
MHAW2023 is an opportunity to tend to your mental health by trying something new and strengthening your connections to the community and others. For me, it’s also an attempt to cultivate a more intercultural Finland.
There’s a lot happening during MHAW 2023 all over Finland. Naturally, most of the program participation is in Finnish. If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’re fluent in English. If you’re also fluent in Finnish the whole program is open to you. Yay! (noticing I feel envious). If you’re learning Finnish you might want to dive in and join an event in Finnish, for the fun of it!
The events promise to be a beautiful way to meet and connect with fellow artists (humans) who are open to discussing mental health. I know I’ll be jumping into MIELI Etelän-Karjalan‘s Wellbeing for Artists event in Lappeenranta. I also know it’s going to require some courage. My hope is: all of me will be welcome, including the shame I feel speaking Finnish like a young child.
If you’re looking for an event in English check out MIELI Without Borders home page or Eventbrite for events in Lappeenranta, Helsinki, and Espoo.
I hope MHAW2023 will inspire you to connect with the creative community and nourish your well-being. It doesn’t need to be an MHAW2023 event activity! Take it as an invitation, get curious, and see where your curiosity takes you.
Feeling left out. Make connections
Until about a month ago, I didn’t have a clue there was a dedicated Mental Health Art Week in Finland, and I‘m a Mental Health and Wellbeing professional in Finland! If you’re a foreigner in Finland you’ve probably experienced the challenges (and emotions!) that feeling left out can bring. If you feel this way, please know, you are not alone! For the past 4 years, I’ve felt the challenges of navigating personal and professional activity – while slowly (very slowly – h I t a s t I ) learning Finnish.
I only knew about MHAW because I am an active member of the newly formed MIELI Without Borders which I connected to through International Working Women of Finland where I am Lappeenranta Chapter Lead and Wellbeing Lead. Getting involved in the Finnish community can be a challenge – and sadly the feeling of being left out, of not belonging, adversely affects mental health and wellbeing. I highly recommend making connections with organisations, communities of interest, and individuals…in any way you can!
I’m grateful to have started making community connections here in Lappeenranta who are kindly supporting MHAW2023 by providing support and venue space: Plantis Community Garden where I volunteer, and Nicehearts Me-Talo Lappeenranta where I am a Neighbourhood Mother.
Ending with all the ‘feel’s’!
So, how do I feel? Well, I’m delighted to be part of MHAW2023 here in Lappeenranta. Delighted might feel like an emotion unrelated to the workshops I’m offering on grief. Yet, delighted I am! (and that’s ok!) It’s time we made space for grief and the transformation that can happen when our feelings of loss are acknowledged and welcomed with respect, curiosity, and kindness.
I’m excited about the Playback Theater workshop with Svetlana Bilevich, a bit nervous and a lot curious about the Wellbeing for Artists event, and right now…as I get ready to publish this (first ever!) blog post….feeling fearful tension in my body and mind. Yep, I got so many ‘feels’. And that’s ok! I’m human.
My biggest ‘feel’ is hope! I hope that by actively supporting well-being through creative inter-cultural community connections, life in Finland will become a healthier place – for us all!
The original blog post can be found on Maria Perkins’ website!