Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ismaili Walk for Mental Health

On Sunday, September 18th, I shared my story of recovery at the 25th Annual Ismaili Walk at Stanley Park. They raised over $280,000 toward the Segal Family Health Centre at Vancouver General Hospital and the CMHA Living Life to the Full for Youth program which teaches cognitive behavioural therapy.

There was a turnout of close to 300 by my estimate. They had wonderful food, a live band, bellydancers, and great support from the community.

Over the past five years, I've seen more courageous people sharing their story, their struggle and solutions to the problems we face. There is this movement gaining momentum in events like this, conferences and the Me Too Conversations sponsored by the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation. There is a spark, a focus to improve the lives of people living with mental illness and reduce stigma.

I went to the Me Too Conversations Vol. 5 last Friday where I learned about coping strategies.
1) Self-regulation of physical, mental, psychological and mental health
2) Self-awareness, living in the present not the past or future
3) Self-empowerment, don't dwell on the barriers or the can'ts but be positive, take initiative and believe in yourself
4) Prepare yourself with a back-up plan if things don't work out

For years, I depended on health professionals for advice on dealing with conflicts in my life, but truthfully, I haven't been hospitalized for 18 years. I've heard the same solutions: self-care, exercise, rest and reduction of stimulation. It's time I applied the rules to myself and not depend on others to find solutions for me. I've been fortunate to have stability in my life. It's time to take the reins and move in new directions.

Life seems to get better the longer I'm around.

Me Too Conversations Vol.2

Saturday, April 23, 2016


I'm speaking at this event this coming Saturday at Century House, 620 8th Street, New Westminster about using one's brain to aid recovery from mental illness. The event is put together by high school students and all proceeds go to The Initiative for Neuroscience and Dementia.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Television and other stories

So I confess I do watch a lot of cable tv. Blindspot is a show about a woman with amnesia who is discovered with tattoos over all of her body, naked in New York's Time Square. On her back is the name of a FBI agent, Kurt Weller. The tattoos on her body predict crimes or events that the FBI try to solve or prevent. It becomes apparent that the woman has the equivalent of Seals training and has past secrets that have been erased from her mind.

Okay, so now I have a problem because how did the tattoo designer or someone know these events were going to occur months ahead of time? Who is orchestrating this? Is it ESP or is there a massive plot against the FBI and for what reason? The storyline is starting to introduce another group from her past. But who can trust who? And the whys are getting larger.

Another show I watch is Lucifer. The character of Lucifer is not only fascinating but played very well by Tom Ellis. He leaves hell to come to earth, rejects his Father, burns his wings and decides he doesn't want to go back. He opens a nightclub and enjoys the temptations of sex and vices in the city of Los Angeles. He links up with Chloe, a beautiful homicide detective and aids her in solving cases. However, he starts to become more human and starts to do some good. As he becomes more human, his body is no longer invulnerable. Before he could be hit by a bullet and not bleed, but now he does. There is chemistry between Lucifer and Chloe, but complicated by her ex-husband who brings troubles of his own.

I'm waiting to see where these two shows go with the plot lines.

So how is the Saga of Sandra? I've been the Vancouver Art Gallery four times to see the MashUp show that runs to June 12. It's a history of collage, readymades, appropriation, mixed media, music, sound, writing, architecture and video that fall under art production that remixes or 'mashups' ideas and/or objects and makes them new. The exhibit occupies all four floors of the gallery. My favourite floor was the 4th, where there are works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Kurt Schwitters, and Marcel Duchamp.

The gallery had a replica of The Fountain, a urinal signed by R. Mutt. A tour guide told this story that Marcel Duchamp wanted to submit this work to an exhibit but couldn't because he was on the board. He gave the idea to a female artist who took on the pseudonym R. Mutt, but the piece was rejected and Duchamp resigned. The original ready-made was destroyed.

The first floor has more contemporary versions of MashUp art production. However, I would agree that it takes perspective and time for art trends or styles to be established and recognized as such. In today's world, art is for everyman and may be created and possessed by everyman because of technology. Anything can be art. Put it on a pedestal or nail it to the wall and it becomes aesthetic or a comment on art, politics, or society. A person with a Smartphone can have access to a multitude of images with a touch of a button, or take photos, record and alter using a built-in camera.

As an artist, I am influenced by many art styles and life experiences. At this point, I am still exploring, which artists should do. A friend of mine explained that not every painting needs to be a masterpiece. This did a lot to break down the feeling of artist's block. It's not that every work has to be a marketable success, but that I as the artist am fulfilled with doing it. Have fun, throw paint!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Lost and Found, a new release by Maria Savva

"Human nature is not neat and predictable.

What makes us betray a loved one?

Can isolation lead to irrational behaviour?

Why do other people’s lives always look more appealing?

Ordinary people living ordinary lives, torn apart by regret, remorse, and deceit. We’re all stumbling through life together. This collection of stories shows you the Lost and Found among us."

Kindle release date is 18th March 2016. The book is currently available for pre-order on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Found-Maria-Savva-ebook/dp/B01BX7Q6HE 

It will also be available in paperback soon.

Maria's various links are:

Maria is a very talented, seasoned writer living in the UK. Please check out her other books on her website or Amazon!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sandra at Me Too Conversations Vol. 2

Thanks to Waynes World Studio for taping my talk at the event last week!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Project Pulse Vancouver 2016

Project Pulse is a nationwide series of presentations to introduce high school students or interested parties to the world of Health Sciences. For people interested in the field, I will be a keynote speaker at their Vancouver event Saturday, January 30th, followed by talks by talented students and professionals. If you go to their Project Pulse website, there are more details about the event and ticket prices you can buy online. Plus bios of all the speakers and the schedule for the day. Here's the blurb on my presentation:

A Client's Perspective

With images of her art over the span of her illness, Sandra will describe her experience of schizophrenia, the elements that aided her recovery, the holistic model of care, and the role of health professionals including Mental Health and Addictions Case Managers, Occupational Therapists and Psychiatrists. If you'd like to learn more about schizophrenia and how you can make a difference in the field of mental health, this presentation is for you.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Me Too Conversations Vol. 2

Happy New Year!

With a new year comes new expectations…higher expectations. It seems as though everyone is setting goals, making plans and developing new habits. But what if you can barely slog your way out of bed in the morning? It’s a reality for many of us. It’s the darkest time of year. The holidays are over and the credit card bills are coming in. People feel alone.The good news is that despite how isolated we may feel, we certainly aren’t alone. VGH & UBC Foundation is presenting the second installment of a speaker series that aims to get us talking about our mental health struggles.
Me Too Conversations Vol. 2 is happening January 13th, and is an event where individuals with mental illness can share their personal stories of hope, resilience and innovation. The idea is that by talking about mental health and how it affects us all, we can reduce the stigma that keeps people from seeking help.
The list of speakers is impressive and represents people who have worked in mental health care, and been recipients of it as well.
  • Mental health writer Natasha Tracy of Bipolar Blurble, who has been named one of the most influential people on the Internet on the subject of depression. Her blend of professional and personal experience with mental health challenges makes her a compelling and insightful voice. 
  • Sandra Yuen MacKay, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 15. In spite of a diagnosis that would stop many people, she’s an inspiring artist, author and speaker, with a degree in art history from UBC. She’s even received a Courage to Come Back award for her outstanding achievements. 
  • Ryan Tine is a frontline mental health worker who has supported people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who are struggling with mental health issues. Ryan draws on his personal experience with bipolar disorder, trauma and addiction. He’s  also experienced homelessness after aging out of the youth care system in Manitoba. He specializes in transgender health issues and rights, and is a proponent of harm reduction and “housing first” models
To get the dialogue started, organizers are encouraging people to share their own “me too” stories on twitter using the hashtag #metoovan and tagging @VGHFdn. Having the courage to say “me too” could make a huge difference for people suffering with mental health issues, at the time of year when the need is most acute. We aren’t alone in this.