The old adage – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade – holds true for TVB actress Candy Chang, who has a unique knack to turn anxiety and fear into public art. The second runner-up in the Miss Chinese International Pageant 2010 is the brain behind the immensely popular Before I Die series, a traveling chalkboard wall where passersby could share their wishes with the world.
From anonymous submission of secrets in the public to encouraging someone to cry in public, Chang’s experiments with human emotions have benefited many. Her emotionally driven projects allow people to face their vulnerabilities and overcome the fear of being judged or ridiculed. As she is busy ahead of the opening of a new project – A Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful – at The Rubin Museum of Art, New York City on Feb. 10, 2018, Forbes talked to Chang about her career and utilizing one’s fears as a tool to solve problems in communities.
The Before I Die project, as Chang suggested, revealed the commonalities across the communities that are far more prominent than their differences. The people belonging to different countries and cultures were bound by a common theme. All wanted to love, be loved, and be valuable to others. They longed for inner peace and were concerned about their children’s well-being, Chang noted. “Whether they’re written in Farsi, Korean, Spanish, or German, the responses strike the same universal chords: anxiety about loss, desire for meaning, a need for forgiveness, a hope for a fresh start,” she responded to a query.
Chang also challenged the studies that represented people as stressed, socially isolated, and politically divided than ever before. According to her, public invitations (like Before I Die project) that allowed people the freedom to reveal their inner selves without caring about any judgment or prejudice could pave way for a society with better mental health.
When asked if she remembered some stand-out moments, she mentioned an incident when somebody wrote, “Before I die I want to overcome depression.” The incident led the whole crew of the project to share how depression had affected them or their loved ones. She recalled how she felt “unmoored and unequipped” after losing her loved ones.
In the past, she affirmed, communal rituals around the grief would allow people sufficient time to absorb the loss. However, nowadays people don’t have time even to think of the grief. “It’s very easy in our modern life to repress any feelings of sorrow, or to numb ourselves from pain,” she said. This sense of suppressing grief or becoming resilient to pain is actually affecting the mental health of people in the end. Therefore, mourning is inevitable as it helps people vent out their negative energy and start the life afresh.
Chang, who has been vocal about emotional health, raised concern over people hiding the feelings of fear, anxiety and confusion. She is also concerned about the growing use of social media that is making people feel more socially isolated. To counter this, she emphasized on the need of shared public spaces that could bind people as a community and promote well-being and kinship.
Dealing with mental health problems
Mental health issues are a major public health concern across the United States. As per a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), of the 44.7 million adults with any mental illness (AMI) in 2016, only 19.2 million had access to mental health services. Also, of the 10.4 million adult Americans with serious mental illness (SMI), 64.8 percent had received treatment in 2016.
The statistics indicated a huge disparity between people needing treatment for mental health problems and those who actually received one for their condition. Therefore, more awareness programs are required to encourage people with mental health problems to seek professional medical assistance. Besides, to eradicate associated stigma, they should be encouraged to speak about their problems.
The 24/7 Mental Health Helpline is a credible inpatient as well as outpatient mental health helpline that assists people with psychiatric disorders get information about reputed treatment centers. Connect with our inpatient and outpatient mental health helpline center by calling at (855) 653-8178 or via online chat with one of our representatives.