How Words Can Hurt or Heal

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the impact our community puzzle had on individuals who participated. Each piece has a special meaning for the one who created it and each puzzle piece is a beautiful work of art. Here are a few moments & puzzle pieces that stick out in the minds of those who volunteered at our booth at One Spark.


The first thing that sticks out about the puzzle project is we had all age groups sit down and paint. Some adults were uncomfortable and gave me that “You know I’m too old for that” look.IMG_7128 copyIMG_7130 copy

If you haven’t already read in our other literature. I’ll explain the puzzle directions…participants were encouraged to think of a feeling or emotion they’ve had over the past few weeks and write it on the back of their puzzle piece. Then they were asked to represent that mood, feeling or emotion on the front of the puzzle piece with color. IMG_7194 copyIMG_7195

I didn’t get to speak with everyone that came to our booth though I would’ve liked to. As I was explaining the artwork to one young couple she pointed toward a canvas in our art instillation that had actual hair on it. I explained it’s author has trichotillomania and that when she feels anxious she pulls out strands of her own hair. The woman told me that her 6 year old son does the same thing and she never knew the name of it. She and her husband cut his hair so he wouldn’t be able to pull it out but said with tears forming in her eyes “he still has bald spots on his head”. IMG_7123IMG_7125

I think about the following puzzle piece all the time. I watched a mom approach the booth with her two sons. They were both around ages 7 and 8. The two boys were going to paint a puzzle piece. The younger child was very active and wanted to touch everything on the table before actually settling down to paint. The older boy had already started painting his puzzle piece. IMG_7242

Distracted by someone approaching the booth, I turned to speak with them about our project. When I turned around I saw the mom looking very frustrated and anxious. The younger child had just started painting and the older child was finished. Mom smiled awkwardly and pointed to her younger child and said “this is my difficult child”, then pointed to her older quiet & seemingly obedient child and said “this is my easy child”. I wasn’t sure what to say to that so I just smiled and encouraged both boys to make sure they write a feeling on the back of the puzzle piece”. Here’s what the older child wrote on the back of his.IMG_7243IMG_7155IMG_7157

Another moment that sticks out is when my family practitioner stumbled upon my booth. His two daughters sat down to create puzzle pieces. He came back to my booth the next day and reported that when his daughters got home they got out all of their art supplies and started making artful creations while talking about their feelings. He reminded me that I may not ever know the impact I Still Matter is making but being exhausted is worth it for stories like this!IMG_7185IMG_7187

The following piece was created by a 16 year old female. While she was painting her mom pulled me to the side and told me the girl is really suffering lately. IMG_7137 copy

The girl secretly handed me her puzzle piece making sure her mother didn’t see it.IMG_7139 copyIMG_7150IMG_7152

The palm tree puzzle piece has a great message for all of us. IMG_7140 copyIMG_7142 copy

ISM volunteer, Jennifer, remembers a conversation she had during One Spark with a family whose husband suffers from a Bi-polar diagnosis. He refuses to take medication and he buys heroin with all of their money.


I remember being extremely exhausted during One Spark. There were several volunteers and we divvied out responsibilities. Sometimes our booth was so chaotic we could barely keep up. We even had to have 200 more puzzle pieces overnighted on Friday so we’d have enough for Saturday. Saturday there were so many people at our booth that we had people standing up painting puzzle pieces. When people were finished we would thank them and place the puzzle piece in a place we set aside to let pieces dry. I’m sad I missed the individual that created this piece…


Another volunteer that had been standing outside handing out flyers came inside one afternoon and introduced me to Tim. She whispered to me, I think he’s homeless, let’s let him cool off and paint a puzzle piece. Tim set his large, heavy bag in the corner away from everyone and sat down at our booth. After he became comfortable we started talking and I learned he’s been out of work and in Jacksonville for over a year. He used to be a truck driver but cannot find work anywhere.


He wrote “to feel wanted” on the back of his puzzle piece. We invited him to come back on Sunday to see the entire puzzle put together and he came. He left before I was able to get any of his contact information so if anyone sees Tim around tell him to contact us!IMG_7198

How many people can relate to feeling alone sometimes?IMG_7376IMG_7377

I love the expression on following puzzle piece. “Stoked and broke though big big plans” and in the top right hand corner “now now now now, etc.” Those of you who have experienced mania may be able to relate.


IMG_7169IMG_7171IMG_7178IMG_7179IMG_7182 copy This puzzle piece was created by a girl that stopped by our booth to paint two days in a row.

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Art creates insightful dialogue. Read how local Jacksonville and author and I Still Matter volunteer, Theresa Larsen, shared an important conversation with a stranger while at One Spark on Psych Central.

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Art is a safe way for people to express how they are feeling.IMG_7385IMG_7386

Art can give hope when there doesn’t seem to be any.IMG_7381IMG_7382IMG_7228IMG_7227

A special thanks to those of you who shared your honesty and artwork with us. Thank you to those of you who shared your personal stories with us. If you have a personal story you’d like to share contact us at [email protected]

Donate to help us place more art groups around the city here: #minimizingthestigma

Another way to donate is with art supplies. The following is a list of our current needs:

wish list