Mental Health Wellness Quilt Shows What Community Healing Looks Like

  • July 23, 2012

By Kimberly Ky

Adelina Tancioco, a recent graduate from Cal State East Bay’s Masters of Social Work Program, has created a community art project — a mental health wellness quilt that will be touring the East Bay, building awareness and empathy as it travels. It is a project of healing, art, social justice and community.

It all started with a needs assessment of the Hayward area. Tancioco asked why people weren’t using the available resources for mental health wellness. After multiple interviews, the answer was clear: the negative stigma around mental health issues prevents people from seeking the help that they need.

“People fear being labeled as ‘crazy’ or ‘needy,’” Tancioco explained.

Although the obstacle of stigma exists in all communities, according to Tancioco, there are additional barriers of access and trust in governmental agencies for people of color and non-native English speakers. This is especially important in the Bay Area, which has a wide range of ethnic and language diversity.

The concept is simple. Tancioco wanted to draw on the preexisting strength in communities, finding people who have overcome the stigma and have begun their healing process. She provided them with affirmation and an opportunity to share their experience of healing through the making of their quilt panel. The project evolved into an empowering collaboration with these organizations: 

  • Eden Adult Community Support Center is an outpatient mental health clinic that provides individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, case management, and meditation services to adults with chronic mental health illnesses.
  • Filipino Advocates for Justice (FAJ) hosts a youth-led group, Pilipino Youth Coalition (PYC). PYC’s mission is to foster cultural identity and awareness among youth through education, community service, and recreation, while encouraging academic achievement and the development of leadership, public speaking and community organizing skills.
  • Magnolia Women’s Recovery Program assists pregnant and postpartum women overcome substance abuse addictions while letting go of any shame that is associated with their addiction.
  • Women on the Way Recovery Center is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol nonprofit organization that provides a safe and loving home where women can regain their health, mental stability and dignity.

Each quilt panel expresses what healing means to the individual and their voices are united by way of quilt construction. In the coming months, the quilt will be shared in open community spaces including an art gallery, church, coffee shop, and school.                                     

Tancioco will continue to pass on the experiences and healing messages shared along this journey. She wants to encourage acceptance and understanding of mental health issues and the people who have them. She raises important questions.

“What systems are in place for people to become addicted to drugs, feel depressed, have eating disorders?” Tancioco asks. "Racism, sexism, colonialism. Basically, every system of oppression. It is constantly the same population that is being effected and stigmatized."

“There is a gap between the American dream and reality. Systems of oppression are there to perpetually and purposefully keep people down,” she states.

The Mental Health Wellness Quilt is then a project which brings attention to the opportunity to heal from these systems by encouraging each other to get the help that we need, and letting go of our harmful and judgmental thoughts of others.

The greatest obstacles she has faced have been more about her own socialization and issues with asking for help. Practicing what we preach, as well all know, is much easier said than done. We are not an exception. She offers this process for us, for when our own prejudices arise:

  1. Notice the stereotypical/stigmatizing thought about a group or a person.
  2. Analyze where that thought came from.
  3. Forgive yourself for having it.
  4. Acknowledge that you are a product of society.
  5. Deconstruct it. Remember the thought you have been fed is not true for every single person in that community.
  6. Continue to practice this process.

The Mental Health Wellness Quilt will kick off its journey this Saturday, July 28th, at Sun Gallery, for the group show, “A Thread Runs Through It”, from 1:00 PM – 4:00PM. To support the project, you can “like” its page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mhwellnessquilt.

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