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Mattie O

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Why I Support NAMI Colorado Springs

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Tell me about your journey and the role that mental illness has played in your life. How did you go from being an engineer to an artist?

My mom was mentally ill and had bipolar and personality disorders. Throughout my childhood, she was in and out of mental institutions, which were not great places in the 50’s and 60’s.

When I was six, my mom was actually my first-grade art teacher. She was a very pretty lady–gorgeous, actually–all the kids were in love with her, and I was very proud. She was a star. But then she had a particularly bad cycle of manic-depression, and she was hospitalized for six months. This greatly affected me. Years went by where I was unable to do anything artistic.

While she was in the mental hospital, my dad became my primary caregiver. He was a chemical engineer and pushed hard for me to learn math and chemistry. That’s how I got into engineering. But even while I was in college, I remember making sketches and hiding them away. It wasn’t until I was 45 that I picked up a pencil and paintbrush again. I definitely associated mental illness with art. I was terrified that if I did art that somehow I might be affected by mental illness myself.

Why do you give to NAMI?

I donate to a number of organizations, but NAMI is the one that I donate to from the revenue of my business. I donate 10% of my earnings to NAMI from every piece of art that I sell. I donate to NAMI in honor of my mother, my first art teacher.

NAMI is there to provide aid through the ebbs and flows of hope one experiences as a caregiver. Programs, especially Family to Family, help caregivers become educated, set boundaries, and ensure that people know they are not alone.

What would you say to someone who was on the fence about donating to NAMI?

I donate to NAMI because it is doing good work in a community that is deeply affected by mental illness. This is a personal cause for me–I know the devastation and heartbreak that can be caused from living with and caring for loved ones with mental illness. NAMI eases this burden and helps us, as a community, better understand and respond to mental illness. Helping loved ones with mental illness takes a lot of patience, love, and care–and NAMI helps caregivers and family members provide this.

 

To see Mattie’s artwork, click here.

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