Jason uses his art as a way to express himself. Recently, he’s begun sharing his passion for art with others, through teaching. It’s a sign of the significant growth that has happened in his life and for that, Jason is grateful.
“Art gives me an outlet to express my emotions and creativity and not worry about day to day life,” he says. “I’m really thankful.”
Jason has lived with mental health challenges for most of his life. He noticed a change within himself when his family moved to BC from Nova Scotia – a move that he found traumatic. He was 17 when he was officially diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. A car accident left him with an acquired brain injury. More recently, he discovered that he also lives with schizoaffective disorder. But through Communitas Supportive Care Society, Jason has found the support he’s needed to help him grow personally and creatively.
“The fact that I am here and realize that I am more than my struggles, that didn’t happen until I came to Communitas,” Jason says. “Here I have learned life skills, how to take care of myself, and when to ask for help.”
Christina Stevens manages the home where Jason lives. The assisted living home offers a safe and supportive environment where people living with mental health challenges can acquire knowledge and skills that help them understand and manage their mental health concerns. Christina is inspired by the growth she’s seen in Jason in the past year alone.
“He’s learned that it’s okay to ask for support when he needs it, something that he would not have done in the past,” Christina says, adding that this is a sign of his significant growth.
Jason nods in agreement. 2023 was a very hard year for him. Jason’s sister died tragically in spring of 2023, a loss that was deeply felt as Jason and his sister had always been close. In the past, this experience would have sent him into a deep depression.
“I was always taught to ‘be a man’ and I felt like I couldn’t express pain or sadness,” he says, quietly. “But I sought help from the staff here (at my home) and they really helped me. I realize that I can be sensitive and that it’s okay to express myself and my emotions.”
Esther Tremblay manages the Communitas Brain Injury Drop-In services in Chilliwack where Jason has been participating since 2014. This is where Jason has developed his skills as an artist. Esther has also seen tremendous growth in Jason.
“He is a delight to work with,” Esther says. “He has been using his art as a way to cope with this tragic event in his life and has developed wonderful coping skills.”
Art classes at the Drop-in have been a creative outlet for Jason. Led by artist John Le Flock, the classes are more than something to fill the time. They are an opportunity to grow in confidence as well as talent, to stimulate the brain, and to do so in a safe space where people who understand life with a brain injury can learn together. Jason says that John has been a mentor to him, even though their painting styles are quite different.
“He is more of a realist and I’m more of an abstract painter but John has been a big influence on me,” Jason says.
Jason’s confidence in his own work led him to try teaching art classes at the Drop-In. At first, he was intimidated as he had never taught before and many of the people in the class are older than he is.
“I like to create space for creativity rather than tell people exactly how to do something,” he says. “Sometimes the best way to teach is to encourage people.”
Esther says the other participants in the classes have enjoyed his teaching so much that he will be doing more classes this year. It’s a tribute to his perseverance and commitment to self-improvement.
“Jason has always cultivated his ability with art and developing his craftsmanship,” Esther says. “He’s really grown in his abilities and his self-confidence.”
Other forms of art like creating animated movies and making music are creative outlets for Jason. As he looks to the future, Jason is grateful for safe spaces where he knows he can continue to learn and grow. Christina says he is an inspiration.
“I am so proud of Jason,” she says. “I think that his story and his example can inspire others. His growth has been incredible.”