Guest blog: Art, mental health, and giving together

MHA Admin

Thu, 10/19/2023 – 11:11

by Diana Chao

“How tragic but resilient human life is,” said my half-asleep grandma, speaking over the phone from the chipped doorway of her apartment complex’s bottom-floor cafeteria.

I had just sent her one of my newest artworks – a self-portrait called “Clouds Scatter Easily”. I had waited for her to misunderstand, or to praise emptily, seeing just the colors but not the feelings underneath. But she saw right through me.

My grandma, diagnosed with major depression years prior, was the first person in my family to unabashedly pursue treatment. When I almost gave up on my own bipolar diagnosis, it was her example that convinced me to give healing one more chance. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that a conceptual photograph I created by layering my pain into puddles of dizzying neon would be so clearly understood, if by no one else, then at least by her.

In difficult moments, art was a treasure chest I didn’t want to – didn’t have to – open alone. A drawer in the corner of the closet where I stuffed all my messy feelings away; a gilded relic adorned with fake jewels I put up for others to admire. It shapeshifted to hide and show what I wanted it to. It was a way to process my feelings in peace, externally. Shouting my pain while furiously scrubbing it over with a veneer to downplay its significance, I squeezed my eyes shut hoping someone would peel the top away to prove wrong the loneliness I shoved underneath. And someone, my grandma or whoever else, always did.

Art is a way to heal, not because it promises relief, but because it promises release. An exhale of the feelings we can’t untangle within ourselves, blurted out in paint, existing defiantly, proudly, because whatever it is, it is enough just as it is. Whoever we are is enough. Just as art is.

This, to me, is what makes art so integral to mental health. It lets us pave our own way to understanding, at our own pace, with our own palettes. But it also invites others to join us on the journey, so that even if at first we’re alone, at least the path has been lit.

When I learned about the mission behind The Giving Gallery, I knew contributing was a no-brainer. A way to share art while donating to mental health charities like Mental Health America – what better way to honor everything art has been for me? To appreciate all that art has been and will be for someone else?

Artists, share your work with The Giving Gallery – let us heal alongside you. Art lovers, browse The Giving Gallery – let us learn alongside you. Art is many things, but perhaps what it is most is that chipped doorway to a cafeteria where, unceremoniously so, it houses all our loves and distastes in one place – sometimes next to one another, sometimes in isolated corners, promising an indulgent, curiously, wondrously shared moment of humanity.

Diana Chao is a Giving Gallery artist and the founder of Letters to Strangers, a global youth-for-youth mental health organization. She is part of the 2023-2024 MHA Young Leaders Council. Previously part of Adobe’s inaugural Global Top Talent cohort, her photography has been featured by Vogue Italia, Redbubble, Adobe MAX, and more.


The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: