Man finds saviour in art

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Thursday November 11, 2010

Chris Montanini


If not for art, Ted Bock would have had a lot of time on his hands during his two-year recovery.

"For the first couple years when you're recovering from psychosis, one of the main problems is that it's difficult to work and go to school," he said. "So you have a lot of free time."

Psychosis doesn't refer to a single disorder but is a syndrome that is part of a group of serious mental illnesses. Although less common, manic-depressive psychosis is one of them, and Bock explained he's been hospitalized at different times for mania and depression.

"Mania is actually an easier experience because you're elevated … you're feeling more euphoric, more happy," he said. "So the experience in the hospital is easier to get through. But if you go in for depression, it's much harder because you're down."

In 2001, Bock was a patient in the Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychoses ¬– a community based program that assesses, treats and reintegrates young adults experiencing early stages of psychosis. He was in the hospital for two months, but said "the real work" started once he was released.

"For me it took two years," he said.

Luckily, he stumbled upon a therapeutic hobby that helped him focus on something other than the disorder.

"When I went to PEPP for treatment, they had some art supplies in a room and somebody suggested I try sitting down and using some," he said. "I was never into art."

But after some encouragement from the program's staff, Bock spent the next two years in libraries reading about art and practising what he learned on canvas.

"Having something like art can fill up the day," he said. "And at the end of the day you feel a little more positive because you did something … you've created something you can look at."

It's been almost 10 years now and Bock is still painting and he's still with PEPP. Now he's encouraging others to try art along their path to recovery.

With some direction from Bock, a group from PEPP recently showcased their art during the Creative Minds exhibit at the ARTS Project on Dundas Street.

The fifth edition of the show included paintings, photography, poetry and a collaborative project featuring portrait sketches of members of the program.

"Art has been identified as an important vehicle for reflection, expression and healing," said Maureen Rego, a nurse case manager at PEPP. "We think it's important for recovery and self-discovery."

Around 47 pieces of art were chosen for this year's exhibit, the fifth PEPP has put together in the last 10 years.

"We're always very proud to showcase work from our clients," Rego said. "(They) find it extremely therapeutic."

Bock, now with a visual arts degree from the University of Western Ontario, also has a piece in the Touched by Fire Show, an exhibit organized at the Royal Ontario Museum this year by the Mood Disorder Association of Ontario in Toronto.

"It's awesome," he said. "It's going to be a big show."

But it's not just about his personal accomplishments. Bock is also adamant that the mediums used as vehicles of expression for those suffering from psychosis can also be used to reduce the stigma around mental illness.

"The disability is invisible. I believe that creates stigma," Bock said. "No one is able to see it, or understand it.

"We put on this show to lower that stigma. I think every client is concerned (about it). (So) we take what was invisible and display ourselves in our works."