Speaking at Off the wall art expo, an annual exhibition hosted by Fountain House, Rene Minnies said the organisation often encouraged those in the programme to showcase their art at the event ‘€œbecause artists with mental problems often don’€™t get offered the opportunity to exhibit’€.

Part of the Cape Mental Health Society, Fountain House helps people with psychiatric conditions get integrated into society and employment.

Minnies said each art work reflected the ‘€œreality of how people with mental disabilities view the world around them’€.

She said their activities ‘€œhelp keep people well and out of hospitals ‘€“ for most of these people their art is therapeutic’€.

Ingrid Daniels, director of Cape Mental Health Society said the exhibition recognised the contribution made by people with psychiatric conditions to society.

She urged communities, organisations and business entities to offer support to the artists.

‘€œIf we support our artists we also give them an extra income. Most of them depend solely on the income grant ‘€“ which can only go so far in affording them a stable livelihood,’€ she said.

Daniels added that each piece of artwork sold would be an acknowledgement of acceptance by society.

Michael Meyer, a photographer whose work was on show said there was more to him than his schizophrenia condition.

Meyer’€™s photographs document his journey to Valkenberg hospital twice a month when he travels there to get his medication.

But photography is just one of Meyer’€™s many talents. He is also a published poet.  

He said most people who have not had contact with a person with a psychiatric condition often create stereotypes.

‘€œPeople need to take time and spend it with people with mental illnesses and they will realise that they are normal just like everyone else,’€ he said.

He said he had seen numerous other patients at Valkenberg Hospital whose talents were not recognised. ‘€œPeople just look at them and pass them by.’€

Meyer started writing and taking pictures after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The artists will exhibit their art again at the 2011 World Mental Health Congress of the World Federation for Mental Health to be held in Cape Town.