Last summer, a team working out of the University of Minnesota Physicians NAVIGATE team in St. Louis Park, MN, were inspired by the poetry written by one of the people they supported. As a result, they produced a chapbook titled, Through Our Lens: An Art Collection Created by Those With Lived Experience. It contained 35 submissions by 15 artists and included poetry, images, and songs.

Social worker Melissa Rosewall, MSW, LGSW, and colleague Craig Chapman, Supported Employment and Education Specialist, led the effort to bring the small book to life. They are part of the clinic’s NAVIGATE and Strengths programs, which provides coordinated specialty care using a team-based approach to both clinical and nonclinical services. The programs work with individuals from 15 to 40 years old diagnosed with first-episode psychosis.

Craig Chapman (left) and Melissa Rosewall in Lausanne, Switzerland

“The chapbook gave our folks a platform for sharing their creativity and inspiring others to use art and writing to help boost their mental health,” said Rosewall. She and Chapman had the opportunity to present a poster about the project during the International Conference on Early Intervention in Mental Health, July 10-12, 2023, in Lausanne, Switzerland. (They are pictured here with their poster, holding copies of the chapbook.) 

The chapbook was funded by the U of M Foundation and offered for sale or distributed free of charge to various clinics, hospitals, and other organizations. Individuals who wanted a copy could choose to cover shipping costs or make a larger donation to a Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences education and research fund managed by the Foundation, but it wasn’t required.

Artwork by Dean Holmes

Fast forward to the present, and Rosewall is working on publishing the second edition of Through Our Lens. It includes submissions like the one pictured here by Dean Holmes. She is partnering with Strengths peer ambassador, Michelle Abdon, who brought her lived experience – and her creativity – to the first edition. They are also working with NAVIGATE colleague, Jewels Lindholm, LICSW, on a new wrinkle that is generating great content for the second edition, according to Rosewall.

“Jewels and I have been hosting a weekly creative writing group with the Strengths and NAVIGATE folks,” she said (the group is pictured above). “Everyone in the group has submitted work for the second edition and it’s all thanks to Michelle.” Abdon applied for and received a grant from The Women’s Club of Minneapolis to pay for the group’s activities, such as hosting guest speakers like award-winning journalist and author, Marya Hornbacher, and Dena Denny, who is a photographer, videographer, and writer.

One of the group’s recent writing exercises generated some “very sweet” content for the chapbook, according to Rosewall. “On several sheets of blank paper, we wrote things like, ‘How does it feel to be you today,’” she said. “Each person wrote a response, crumpled up the paper, and threw it in the middle of the room. Group members then chose one of the paper balls, unfolded it, and responded to what was written as if it was a loved one who said it to them.”

Submissions for the second edition are now closed. The next steps include having the book gently edited, which is being done again this year by Tijqua Daiker, and then moving into the printing process. Rosewall expects the chapbook to be available in time for the 2023 holidays.