Healing Ointment Exhibit

Stories are the salve of our time


A puppet infused art exhibit, inspired by, and in response to, the participant’s stories from View from the Inside: Courage Journey Workshops. Celebrating the universal challenge of being human.



The avatar suspended in the open mouth is expressing the helplessness and hopelessness when one’s story is not being heard.

But if a tree falls in a forest, do you need an audience?

Do you need just one person to hear your story or an Internet world of people? Do you write a private journal entry or tweet 140 characters?

Do you scribe, and then burn, a letter?
Is re- telling the story enough or do you have a ‘call to action’?
Do you talk to your dog?

Someone is always available to hear your story@ Calgary Distress Centre 403.266.HELP (4357) or Call 211, for free, confidential, multilingual (200 languages) referral service available 24 hours a day 365 days a year.


To be the “Leader of the Worm Rescue” is to own an active imagination. Time to play and to be curious about all that is new and wonderful is a child’s right.

The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children states every child has the right to relax and play (Article 31) and to enjoy freedom of expression (Article 13). The international treaty was designed to protect all children under the age of 18 years.

Info: United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (1989)




The ability to see the perspective of another is evidence of social and emotional intelligence. Parents and educators alike strive to help children develop empathy – the capacity to feel and understand the behavior of others and to care for them.

World religions and philosophies promote compassion and kindness such as the Golden Rule – Matthew 7:12 or The Dalia Lama “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay, but acknowledging that it is not.

For more information: http://www.calgaryoutlink.ca/

Support and community connectedness for all gender and sexually diverse LGBTQ+people.


Butterflies are a strong metaphor for re-birth, hope, change and endurance. A number of workshop participants used butterfly imagery in their masks. We see a correlation between the astounding Monarch butterfly migrations and the personal journey’s of many of the participants.

The Buttons recall a participant’s way of managing the tasks she didn’t want to do – a ‘coloured button’ reward, a visual motivator for a completed task. Self-help or self-care are important factors in maintaining balance. Establishing routines and rituals to support well­ being are some worthy examples of self-care.

Self-help resource: https://foundrybc.ca/stories/seven-days-self-care/



This mask speaks for Nathan. In his poem he addresses his constant companion “my sickness”. Some may accuse the sufferer of using the sickness as a crutch but the truth is that becoming unstuck is not as simple as “pulling up your socks” or “getting your head out of the sand”.


“Sickness” need not define a person or be the cause of the sufferer’s withdrawal from society. Treatment can provide relief from misconceptions and help provide ways to reduce symptoms that prevent individuals from living a life of possibilities.

Shatter the Mental Health Stigma





ROD’S WORLD: Genius, Geeky, Quirky, Weird or just Different?

History discloses that Einstein, van Gogh, Poe, Newton, and Mozart are amongst some of the many brilliant individuals who were thought to have a mental illness.

Like Einstein, Dr. Temple Grandin, a 21st century author and speaker on Autism was considered ‘weird’ and had a speech delay as a child. In her book “Different not …Less”, Grandin comments that most of Silicon Valley is led by people on the Autism Spectrum.

Medications are prescribed to control identified disorders. Dr. Oliver Sacks in “Anthropologist on Mars” suggests that there is a danger that over medicalizing for various psychiatric disorders reduces complexities of expression and takes away from individual’s uniqueness. Afflicted individuals sometimes view subdued or suppressed passions as a cost to pay for mental health.

For more information: https://www.templegrandin.com

Sacks, 0. (1995) Anthropologist on Mars: A paradoxical tale


Hearing voices or having ideas that are not based in reality are frightening symptoms for individuals living with a Bi-polar disorder.

Currently the exact cause of Bi-polar disorder is unknown. Researchers continue to focus on genetic markers for answers. This disorder is long term and disruptive, when undiagnosed, however the condition be managed with treatment.

For more information visit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health https://www.camh.ca/en/


“I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in order
.”(John Burroughs 1837-1921)

This rawhide mask represents a growing alienation from nature. Richard Louv is an author and strong advocate for embracing nature. He reports that studies from the University of Illinois indicate nature has a positive impact on the physical, mental and spiritual health of children and adults. Vitamin N is known to alleviate stress and is a highly effective therapy for depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder.

Consider supporting efforts to preserve nature so that we may enjoy the benefits of a nurtured mind, body and soul through nature.

For more information: Louv, R. (2016) Vitamin N
Video Nature – deficit disorder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GFBT48qTwA


The mannequin couple portrayed in this piece, display how having a supportive friend is an effective means of coping with stress. Standing together in the ‘chess game of life’ alleviates stress and promotes psychological well-being.

In addition to having strong caring relationships, maintaining a hopeful outlook, believing in your strengths and abilities, moving towards your goals, accepting change as well as practicing self-care are some of the factors that build resiliency.

For more information on building resiliency:



These mini envelopes, some translucent, some opaque, some sealed in layers of tape, represent the events or memories that we manage for ourselves. Certain envelopes require the assistance of a professional to assist with their unsealing.


Experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event can have lingering and traumatic effects resulting in a serious mental health disorder such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms are nightmares, flashbacks and severe anxiety that are prolonged and increase in severity. Veteran soldiers who experienced these symptoms after the war referred this condition as “Shell Shock”.

The primary treatment for PTSD is psychotherapy. Group therapy is also helpful.

For more information or to take a free self-assessment visit



Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobiological condition that impacts normal brain development leaving most individuals with communication problems, difficulty with social interactions and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour.

Autism is complex and varies in severity based on symptoms and age of diagnosis. Early recognition of this disorder supports understanding and management of symptoms.

For more information and program support visit: https://autismcanada.org/


Anxiety is manifested differently from one person to another.

Anxiety as represented in this diorama represents the horrors, fears and monsters that are present in the everyday life of those suffering from a mental illness identified as Anxiety Disorder.

There are many types of Anxiety Disorders. Most common are General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Phobias, Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder and Social Anxiety. Sufferers are able to manage their days with the help of counselling, medication and self-help groups.

For more information and support visit: www.cmha.ca


WALKING ON A TIGHT ROPE OVER SHATTERED GLASS is a metaphor for the experience of living with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia Society of Alberta reports that Schizophrenia affects approximately 34,000 Albertans. There is no known cause for this physical disorder. What is known is that 70% of schizophrenics that receive treatment have positive outcomes.

For more information and programs visit:


YOU HEARD: A person sits on a swing. Contented

When Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta, reports that one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, it’s time to improve the conversation and remove the stigma of mental illness.

“Healing Ointment” strives to create empathy for all people, going beyond the statistics, and encouraging understanding through metaphor and art

After all, the common thread that binds us all together, is the essential experience and fluid nature, the highs and lows, of mental wellness.


Link to PDF version of this page: Healing Ointment Exhibit updated Feb 2021

Using the power of puppetry to impact social change.