Advertisement

P.E.I. artist hopes painting brings to others the comfort her sister struggled to find

Emily Howard says she was honoured to create a piece of art for the new mental health emergency room at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. (Submitted by Health P.E.I. - image credit)
Emily Howard says she was honoured to create a piece of art for the new mental health emergency room at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. (Submitted by Health P.E.I. - image credit)

Emily Howard gets a soothing feeling when she looks at the beige sand dune, grass dancing in the breeze in front of blue waves rolling gently below a calm, cloudy sky.

It's a feeling she hopes everyone gets when they see her large acrylic painting hanging on the wall of the new mental health emergency room in Charlottetown.

"It could be any shore on P.E.I., but you really do get that sense of like, 'OK, I'm at the beach, everything's OK,'" she said.

"When you're outside, you tend to just feel a bit more calm," she said. "Your nervous system settles. So I'm trying to bring the outside inside for people."

The ER began taking patients last week. It is housed in the same building as Queen Elizabeth Hospital's ER in Charlottetown, but is a separate space for treating people in a mental health or addictions crisis.

It's an environment Howard knows well. Anna Howard, her sister and "best friend," suffered from depression. She died seven years ago at the age of 35.

Emily Howard says her sister, Anna, right, would have loved the painting. (Submitted by Emily Howard)

Anna's death changed how Emily approached her art.

"I wanted everything that I do to be somehow trying to quietly reach those people who need a little bit of love or need a little bit of calming in their life."

I wanted everything that I do to be somehow trying to quietly reach those people who need a little bit of love or need a little bit of calming in their life — Emily Howard

She said she was honoured to be commissioned by Health P.E.I. to create a piece of art for ER.

"It's a very intimidating thing to walk through the doors of the ER, especially if you're dealing with something that is, you know, something we don't often talk about, which is if you're dealing with a mental health crisis or an addiction to anything really, you really want to feel like you're in a safe space."

The acrylic painting shows a beach scene that could be anywhere on P.E.I., Howard says. (Submitted by Emily Howard)

That also goes for people struggling with "caregiver burnout," Howard said.

"When someone you love is in pain, you feel the pain too…. Even if you're not the one who's having that crisis, you need a little love yourself."

Howard is confident the new ER, with its separate entrance and waiting room, will encourage more people with mental health issues to seek help. While her sister is not here to access its services, Howard said she would have been proud to know the painting was helping to calm the nerves of the people who walked through its doors.

That includes Emily herself, who also deals with anxiety.

"She would have loved it. I mean, I think she does love it. I think she kind of has been pushing me along the way. She was one of my biggest supporters, so she would have thought that it was so perfect."