I was thirsty and ye gave me drink,
I was a stranger and ye took me in,
I was naked and ye clothed me,
I was sick and ye visited me,
I was in prison and ye came to me.
Then the righteous and I asked and the Lord
When were you sick and in prison?
He Answered and said unto them: “Inasmuch as ye
have done it unto me one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me”-Matthew 25: 35-40.
The above biblical passages, says one local advocate, is the perfect tribute to those who have suffered and are still suffering with mental illness. During a recent Sunday service at Collinsville Baptist Church, Ann Hamilton, local artist and instructor of continuing education at Northeast Community College, unveiled one of her latest paintings, “Castaway”, as a love offering for Mark Delk who has struggled with mental illness since the late 1980s.
“This is a mixed media-oil painting honoring a young man who has suffered and triumphed,” said Hamilton. “It will be used as an educational platform from which to applaud the courage of individuals like him.”
During the ceremony, Delk unveiled the painting and read scripture. The painting, according to Hamilton, depicts the hands of God reaching down to a person in distress, whether a person with mental illness or other crisis or illness in his/her life.
Delk, according to reports, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1987. Because there were no medical facilities available for mentally ill patients at that time, he was placed in jail for several days. It was then that Mark’s mother, Jerry Delk, began fighting for the rights of the mentally ill. After what her family had been through, this strong Christian advocate didn’t want to see another innocent person incarcerated just because he/she came down with an illness.
Because of her work, numerous changes have taken place in the treatment of mentally ill patients. She was instrumental in getting the Community Service Officer Law implemented for local counties. This law enables law enforcement officers to transport mentally ill patients directly to crisis centers during times of crisis. It also enables probate judges to appoint qualified CSOs to make the determination of a person’s mental state during times of crisis.
“This painting stands for so many who are outcasts because so many people turn their backs on the less fortunate, whether it is for mental illness or for all unpleasant circumstances,” said Mrs. Delk. “This picture is to show people in the world that life should always be respected because we are a reflection of God and provisions should be made to adequately help the suffering and other less fortunate people for this is pleasing unto God”.
Hamilton, according to biographical information, is a former newspaper editor and publisher, is listed in Who’s Who of Women and also the World’s Who’s Who of Women. She is co-chairman of Vibrant Visionaries, a non profit organization dedicated to providing new venues and employment opportunities for artists stricken with mental illness and/or physical disabilities.
She has a home studio in Fort Payne, and has led very popular watercolor workshops for all ages at Collinsville Arts Festivals. After the unveiling of “Castaway” at Collinsville First Baptist Church, the painting will be on traveling exhibition throughout the state.
Sandra Taylor, a musician from Madison, Ala., assisted Hamilton with the unveiling.
“My greatest joy in life is singing praise to the wonder and majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Taylor. “It is always an honor and a privilege to bring hearts together in worship. Thank you very much for allowing me to be part of Ann Hamilton’s unveiling of her painting “The Castaway.”
While strides have been made, Mrs. Delk reminds citizens that much work remains to be done in erasing the stigma attached to mental illness. May is Mental Illness Awareness Month, she noted.
“When our politicians make their vital decisions-how to spend the taxpayers’ moneys, the utmost consideration should be for those who can’t help themselves during medical crises and thereafter,” said Mrs. Delk