40 Mural artists are working to change attitudes about mental health in the small Spanish town of San Boi.
Founded in 1855, the mental health hospital at the centre of San Boi in Spain is what gave the town its nickname, “the town of the loonies.” According to the locals, when you come from San Boi, you get used to the nickname from neighboring towns, but now local artists are seeking to change the perception of the town not by hiding the psychiatric hospital but rather by breaking down the prejudice surrounding it.
Though they admit that the interactions between patients and local residents have resulted in some awkward situations, most locals are familiar with the presence of the hospital and its patients as part of normal life. “Residents are in need of social interaction,” Nien Boots, a staff member at the hospital says. “They will sit down with you at the terrace or try to talk with you on the street. Everybody gets a bit lonely sometimes.”
Boots, whose family is personally affected by mental illness, spearheaded the joint effort of 40 European artists to create a mural for the hospital that will seek to change attitudes around mental health.
The hospital already possesses an artistic heritage, with patients even having helped with refurbishments in the early 20th century, but now the walls surrounding the hospital have become deteriorated and tarnished by graffiti. The artists involved are re-doing the walls with a mural to encourage others to come see the hospital and not be hesitant or anxious around it.
By transforming this unappealing exterior into a place of beauty and healing, these artists will help reflect a warm and welcoming attitude towards people in any state of mental health.