The 1,000 people who attended the two-day, statewide conference discovered recovery from addiction, mental illness, and development disabilities is also about art, writing, photography, yoga, Reiki, and drumming.
Those recovery techniques and more were featured at the conference sponsored by the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Authorities and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The event wrapped up Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
While several speakers focused on more traditional directions of treatment and recovery, a host of breakout sessions revealed many different faces of recovery, including one led by Joey Supina, executive director of the Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center. Supina and his wife, Mary, guided about 50 people through a class in painting masks.
“We want you to create what recovery means to you,” Supina said as he handed out cardboard masks, paints, and brushes. “Maybe it’s just a color, blue. Or maybe it’s black if you’re in a dark spot.”
“This is your moment to make your recovery art,” he said. “No matter where you’re at and you take this mask out you will remember Sept. 12, 2017, at the recovery conference in Columbus. Every one of these masks represents a moment in someone’s recovery.”
The noisy room of people became almost silent as each person-focused, dabbing on colors from paints in paper plates. Some painted simple one or two-color masks, while others mixed colors, designs, and patterns and added feathers as embellishment.
In a room on a different floor of the convention center, a group of about 25 people gathered in a circle in front of individual drums. They listened intently as Warren Hyer, a percussionist who is executive director of the 65-member Central Ohio Symphony in Delaware, took them through a series of exercises. He eventually led them into spirited and loud drumming.
Hyer began working with the Delaware County Juvenile Court in 2013 in a pilot program for young people with alcohol, drug, and behavior problems. Court officials found drumming not only occupied the troubled juveniles but provided therapeutic benefits as well. Since then, Hyer has offered than 500 drumming sessions, expanding to the mental health court, as well as programs for schools, senior citizens and cancer patients.
For juveniles, drumming “gives them an alternative way of expressing themselves,” Hyer said in an interview. “They can talk without saying something. It’s non-judgmental. Whatever they say is just fine. And it’s a fun activity.”
He got a government grant to pay for drums, training and travel.
Hyer acknowledges he has no mental health or recovery training, but he does know drumming. He said drumming has been shown to strengthen the immune system and “turns off” 18 of 19 chemicals “stressors” in the brain.
Terry Russell, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio, addressed the conference earlier in the day, calling for people to be “good Samaritans” to help those struggling with mental health and addiction issues.
“When I started in this business 44 years ago, there was not much hope,” Russell said, describing state mental hospitals crowded with patients living in poor conditions. “Thanks to the work of people in this room and throughout the mental health system, there is hope today.”
“Don’t believe miracles don’t happen,” he said. “They happen every day.”