Exhibition promotes art as therapy for depression

President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca inaugurates an art exhibition by Liene Zalkalne who says art helped her defeat her depression

The art exhibition is set up at San Anton Palace
The art exhibition is set up at San Anton Palace

Men should never fear sharing their feelings or talking about the struggles they face and to eventually seek help, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said today.

The president was speaking at the inauguration of an art exhibition entitled 'My Journey… painting myself out of depression, organised by the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre in Bormla, on the day the world marked suicide prevention.

Coleiro Preca said that suicide was an issue even in Malta and that 88% of suicides were carried out by men and, most often, boys. She encouraged men to not be afraid to seek help.

The exhibition focused on the abilities and treatment of mental health with artworks and a personal story by the artist Liene Zalkalne.

Artist Liene Zalkalne (Credit: Elina Zalkalne)
Artist Liene Zalkalne (Credit: Elina Zalkalne)

Liene Zalkalne, who herself suffered from severe depression, shared her story at San Anton Palace and thanked the professionals who made her believe in her art again.

“This is a day of celebration for me,” the president said, “because indeed we have a lot to celebrate when we discover that someone sought help, strengthened his resilience and unleashed his potential. I would like to sincerely thank Liene for sharing her talent with us through her beautiful paintings now exhibited in Antonie de Paule hall at San Anton palace.”

She referred to a recent study by psychiatrists Andrea Saliba and Nigel Camilleri regarding the mental health of Maltese youths. They found that although youths appreciated the services related to mental health, they concluded more work was needed on a long-term strategy.

Coleiro Preca appealed to the relevant authorities to “continue their work so that this continuous treatment and care becomes more efficient and more accessible to youths.”

She praised NGOs that work in this sector and that help fight the challenges of mental health.

“We need to remember that no single person is better than another and that the only difference between one person and another is the step forward, the help he seeks to be able to work on himself so that he can accomplish great things and achieve happiness and spread happiness," she said. "Liane has made me happy today with this extraordinary exhibition.”

Zalkalne thanked everyone for the support she received and said how in 2010 she was referred to a mental health clinic where she started recovering. “I was referred to the local rehabilitation centre where my artistic tendencies were noticed by an occupational therapist, Claire Busuttil, who gave me immense encouragement.”

She said she recovered her artistic self-esteem and it was Busuttil who asked her to make a painting for the president. 

Zalkalne said that she felt a small victory over her depression when she started painting again.

“I always dreamed of having my own exhibition. I thank the professionals and Her Excellency for this possibility,” she said.

She also thanked her daughter Elina who was there to support her through every step and who was there to celebrate her success with her.

At the end of her speech, Liene switched to Maltese to urge anyone fighting depression to seek help because she now believes that it can be cured. “Do not suffer in silence,” she said.

The exhibition My Journey... painting myself out of depression will be open to the public in Antoine De Paule Hall at San Anton Palace from Monday to Friday between 9am and 6pm until 21 September.