Mural paints triumphant picture - Philadelphia News

September 11, 2008 3:45:26 PM PDT
For years, Cynthia Cooper struggled with schizophrenia, refusing to bathe and living in filth. "I would hear voices. I would listen to the radio, I thought people were talking about me. I would see things," Cooper said.

She is now in recovery. Her peaceful face now peers out from a new mural, focused on overcoming mental illness, on the sides of the Elwyn Mental Health facility at 40th and Market.

The mural is anchored by a huge sunflower.

"Something's that attracted towards the light as a metaphor for going through the recovery program and finding that guide," lead muralist Eric Okdeh said.

The focus of the Elwyn mural isn't just the challenge of mental illness, but also recovery. The idea that a happy, relative normal life really is possible.

Indeed, while a pair of sad eyes show the pain of mental illness, most of the images are upbeat, people moving on with their lives.

"One of the things we know from the research is that two-thirds of the people, even with very significant mental illnesses, will recover; they'll be functioning," Dr. Arthur Evans, Director of Philadelphia Mental Health Services, said.

Harvey Brown spent 20 years fighting depression and drug addiction.

He's hopes his picture on the mural, like his life now in recovery, inspires others in mental anguish to seek help.

"Anything is possible because I never thought I would be on a wall, so all things are possible if you believe," Brown said.

Perhaps this new mural will bring a disease, and the people who suffer from it, out of the shadows and into the sun.

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