In the last two articles Anne Liao and I wrote about Foundry’s Beauty of Life In Psychosis (BLIP) group, Discovering the Beauty of Life In Psychosis and Beauty of Life In Psychosis (BLIP): Challenging the Definition of “Normal”, we reflected on our experiences co-facilitating the first two cohorts and shared some of the amazing artwork and insights from the group. Now, as this year-long project draws to an end, we’d like to wrap things up with a celebration of our third and final cohort. 

First, a little bit of background information about BLIP: Beauty of Life in Psychosis (BLIP) was an art and creativity group for young people who self-identify as experiencing psychosis, hearing voices, seeing visions, and/or having unique beliefs. BLIP was fully peer-led, which means that it was dreamed up, developed, and facilitated by people with these experiences – Anne and myself. Our concept for the group was simple: we wanted to create a safe(r) space to socialize, be part of a community, talk about our experiences, and express ourselves creatively, all without fear of judgment. We were able to host three six-session cohorts of the group, including supplying all participants with free art supplies, in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health’s Consumer Initiative Fund, Foundry Virtual BC, and Early Psychosis Intervention BC (EPI). 

With BLIP, we hoped to challenge some of the stigmatizing ideas that exist around psychosis and unusual perceptions like hearing voices. We wanted to normalize speaking openly about our experiences in all their complexity, as a “regular” part of life and the spectrum of human experience – something that can be funny, scary, weird, interesting, or sometimes beautiful. We aimed to create a space where people felt able to explore their/our experiences in art and discussion, because often, there aren’t many opportunities to share these important conversations with other people. We wanted to recognize the value of the unique perspectives that everyone brought to the group, while also thinking about how the group could be a collaborative space to learn from each other and bounce ideas back and forth. With that in mind, for each cohort, we also worked together as a to come up with a final, themed group project. 

For the first two cohorts, our themes were “transformation” and “normalcy.” For the third cohort, the theme we settled on was “societal expectations.” The theme was deliberately open-ended, because we felt that it encompassed many sub-themes that we were interested in as a group. Some of the sub-themes we discussed were experiences of stigma and the expectation to conform; the expectation to “fit into categories”; expectations, assumptions, and judgments around “functioning” and “functioning levels”; and the challenge of finding your own authentic identity. Overall, the group painted a picture of the complexity of navigating societal expectations and identity as young people living with psychosis, voices, visions, and unique beliefs. Many of the sub-themes we discussed in this cohort weren’t specific to psychosis or mental health – instead, some were more about growing up and finding ourselves as people. After all, these experiences are only one aspect of our lives, woven into other, larger stories. 

Stay tuned in the new year for artwork from this cohort, which we’ll be sharing on Foundry BC social channel and ware looking to organize a combined exhibition of work by artists from all cohorts. Thank you to all the amazing artists who participated and to our partners at Foundry VIrtual BC, Vancouver Coastal Health and Early Psychosis Intervention BC (EPI) for helping make this group possible! 

Note about the author:
Rory (they/them) is an artist, peer support worker and researcher with lived/living experience of psychosis. They are the coordinator for the BC Hearing Voices Network and currently study psychosis in cultural context at the UBC School of Social Work. They draw heavily on their experience of psychosis in their practice as an acrylic painter.