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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
September/October 2009, Volume 17, Number 5 

The GlassBook Project: Trauma Awareness Through Art

Art is a powerful educational and public awareness tool when it comes to addressing responses to personal trauma, such as self injury.

In support of this idea and to increase awareness, SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) recently sponsored the GlassBook Project, a presentation and exhibit of works by several young artists who created books made of glass to express their experience of trauma, healing, and recovery. The presentation was part of the CMHS Food for Thought Series.

Photo of GlassBook project

“Powerful as works of art, these books made of glass translate the traumatic experience of self-injury,” said CMHS Director A. Kathryn Power, M.Ed.

“A public conversation about self injury hasn’t been the easiest thing to do in our society,” said Ms. Power. “However, art and the creative process help ease the discomfort of talking about this very personal issue. The GlassBook Project provides a way to reflect and openly discuss the details of self-injury and trauma.”

See SAMHSA Supports the GlassBook Project.

“Art can help inform and educate on the impact of trauma and also show that healing and recovery do happen,” said Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W., Associate Director for Consumers Affairs at CMHS. “The GlassBook Project helps reach people’s hearts and minds to build understanding and acceptance of people with mental health problems and trauma histories.”

As a metaphor, glass conveys tremendous resonance for artists and non-artists alike. For example, the material itself is fragile but it is also strong. When you touch glass, it captures both the vulnerability of the experience of self-injury along with the resilience of an individual in recovery.

Photo of GlassBook project

Even more poignant, the transparency of the glass gives us the sense of looking inside the person, of peering in and letting us see the vulnerability and the trauma. And the actual words and expressions written by the artist on a glass book’s pages give a voice to the story.

Support for the Project’s Development

Speakers at the GlassBook Project’s presentation included Helga Luest, President & CEO, Witness Justice; Nick Kline, Instructor at Rutgers University-Newark; Ruta Mazelis, National Trainer and Expert, Witness Justice; and Nora Luongo and Rebecca Ortiz, both students at Rutgers University-Newark and artists who participated in the first GlassBook collection.

Both Ms. Luest and Ms. Mazelis have worked with SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care for the past several years, and they collaborated with Professor Kline to create this inspiring project.

Photo of GlassBook project

“The students have given us some incredible insight on how learning happens with regard to trauma issues,” said Ms. Luest, herself a trauma survivor. “This project informs us as we look at creating a cultural shift in human services across the country to one that is trauma-informed and more healing for survivors. Their creative process with community involvement has really given us a lot to consider with regard to these creative paths to healing and learning that can do something that language cannot. This project has the ability to reach people and take them to a different place, adding a new dimension to how we communicate to others and foster change.”

Artists at Work at Rutgers

The GlassBook Project was conceived by Professor Kline, after many discussions about community and nonprofit work with Ms. Luest, a childhood friend. “Through this project, I’ve learned a great deal about an issue that affects many trauma survivors,” said Professor Kline. “I’ve been able to facilitate that learning between my students, a national trauma expert, and with mental health administrators throughout the country.”

Professor Kline expressed his appreciation for the power of collaboration. “With these disparate communities translates into a fuller learning and life experience—and not just for students.”

At the start of the semester, Kline provided his students a sample of research and writings on self-injury. He also connected with Newark-based nonprofit, GlassRoots, to bring another community component into this project while giving students the unique experience of creating a book made of glass.

Professor Kline invited his students to email questions to self-injury expert Ruta Mazelis; she is working with SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care. The challenge to students was to create a glass book on a topic that has helped create thought-provoking dialogue in the trauma field. Rebecca Ortiz, one of the first Rutgers’ students to take part in the GlassBook Project, told the audience, “As artists we were asked to “reach” outside our comfort zone. I think we all tried to do that. Every book is very different.”

A Traveling Exhibit

The GlassBook Project is traveling around the country as an exhibit at mental health conferences and other related public forums. Responses have been positive. Four state mental health agencies recently committed to replicating the GlassBook Project, and others have expressed interest.

SAMHSA has provided funding to create an adaptable curriculum that can be used to replicate the Project in various other responses to trauma that are often misunderstood, such as dissociation, isolation, addiction, and violence.

“Materials so often used for cutting and self-injury—these shards of broken glass—have been shaped, or better yet, transformed, into something very positive—a book,” Ms. Power said. “A book is a respected source of information and storytelling to help us understand. This is just one way to open the door to healing mental health issues through creativity.”

To learn more about the GlassBook Project, visit the Project’s Web site. To learn more about mental health, visit SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services.

   At a Glance: SAMHSA Supports the GlassBook Project


A “Food for Thought” Presentation at SAMHSA on July 13, 2009
Included Helga Luest, Nick Kline, Ruta Mazelis and a Rutgers student from the class that made the original collection.

Exhibit of “The GlassBook Project—Self Injury and Trauma” Collection
Displayed in SAMHSA’s history room on the lobby level for 1 month in summer 2009 and traveled to Hollywood as the showcase exhibit at the 2009 Voice Awards.

Pilot Curriculum and Related Tools
Developed to help create new GlassBook collections in various states addressing response to trauma that are often misunderstood.

Project’s Promotional Booklet
A booklet about the GlassBook Project continues to help raise awareness and interest.




  Cover Story & Related Articles  
Recovery: A Philosophy of Hope and Resilience

Recovery: A Philosophy of Hope and Resilience




  Treatment Updates  
Treating Alcohol Disorders with Medication

Treating Alcohol Disorders with Medication

A set of guidelines for use of effective medications, such as naltrexone.

Guidance for Change

Guidance for Change

Substance abuse treatment programs: Here’s a way to integrate evidence-based practices into their services.

Treating Opioid Addiction

Treating Opioid Addiction

Three new educational brochures for patients on medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction are available.


  Suicide Awareness  
Dealing with Suicide Loss

Dealing with Suicide Loss

To help support survivors of suicide loss, a new guide for funeral directors.

National Study on Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors

National Study on Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors

Nearly 8.3 million adults had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year.


  Grants  
Recent Awards

Recent Awards

Millions of dollars in SAMHSA funding is heading to state and community programs.

Tips on Writing a Winning Proposal

Tips on Writing a Winning Proposal

Boost your chances of crafting a winning grant proposal by following an expert’s advice.


  Communications  
Highlights of Recent Conference

Highlights of Recent Conference

New ways to engage partners and the public in improving health through an ongoing dialogue.

Strategic Communications Framework

Public health practice aligns with evidence-based communications to help establish “a common language.”


  Recovery Month  
Recovery Month Launched

Recovery Month Launched

20th anniversary events across the country marked this year’s celebrations, which included a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Photo Gallery

SAMHSA’s Dr. Westley Clark, Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, joined other VIPs to celebrate.


  New Survey Data  
National Survey Shows Overall Drug Use Steady at 8 Percent

National Survey Shows Overall Drug Use Steady at 8 Percent

Among 12- to 17-year-olds, a significant decline was reported in past-month illicit drug use.


  Prevention Update  
FASD Awareness Day

FASD Awareness Day

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day emphasized the message, “If you’re pregnant, don’t drink alcohol.”


  Special Populations  

Hispanics

An annual average of 2.6 million Hispanics age 12 or older needed alcohol use treatment in the past year.

American Indians

A recent report examines the 335 identified facilities serving the American Indian and Alaska Native population in 2007.

Race and Ethnicity

New data focus on the need for treatment for substance use and depression among adults age 18 or older by race/ethnicity.


  Also in this Issue  
Statistics on Mental Health Groups

Statistics on Mental Health Groups

Of the 28.8 million adults who received mental health treatment in the past year, about 5.5 percent also received support from a self-help group.

Science and Service Awards

Science and Service Awards

Categories for this year’s awards to 27 organizations included substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery support services, and more.

GlassBook Project

GlassBook Project

Trauma awareness through art was the topic of a recent presentation as part of SAMHSA’s Consumer Affairs Seminar Series.



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