Maria Perkins 3 ink drawings with ‘feel your emotions’ and #mhaw2023

All of you is welcome!

May 22-28 is Mental Health Art Week in Finland and this years theme is Feel Your Emotions – tunnetunteesi in Finnish. If the idea of ‘feel your emotions’ makes you nervously want to run and hide, that’s ok! (no niin!) If you’re feeling ready to jump in and join an activity, great! Both feelings are welcome! All of you is welcome, however you feel. For me, this is an ongoing invitation (and enquiry) that threads its way throughout my life. Welcoming all emotions, not only the ones that we consider to be ‘good’ is key to being well and staying well.

Get involved, try something new?

MHAW2023 is an opportunity to tend to your mind health by trying something new, and strengthening your connections to good health. For me, it’s also an attempt to cultivate a more inter-cultural Finland.

There’s a lot happening during MHAW2023. Naturally, most of the program participation is in Finnish. If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’re fluent in English. If you’re also fluent in Finnish the whole program is open to you. Yay! (noticing I feel envious) If you’re learning Finnish you might want to dive in and join an event in Finnish, for the fun of it!

The events promise to be a beautiful way to meet and connect with fellow artists (humans) who are open to discussing mind health. I know i’ll be jumping into MEILI Etelän-Karjalan‘s Wellbeing for Artists event in Lappeenranta. I also know it’s going to require some courage. My hope is: all of me will be welcome, including the shame I feel speaking Finnish like a young child.

You’ll find the full program of events over here on MIELI’s web and updates on MIELI ry fb and instagram.

If you’re looking for an event in English check out MIELI Without Borders for events in Lappeenranta, Helsinki or Espoo.

I hope MHAW2023 will inspire you to connect with creative community and to nourish your wellbeing. It doesn’t need to be an MHAW2023 event activity! Take it as an invitation, get curious, and see where your curiosity takes you.

Feel your emotions, include grief!

When I facilitate Eco-grief tending on 23 May and Grief tending on 27th May I’ll be inviting us to remember ‘all of our experience is welcome, including the parts that feel unwelcome.’ This foundational welcoming of how we feel is a great way to live. It’s a way of being that can feel challenging if you haven’t tried it, and transformational if you have! It helps to remember that ‘feel your emotions’ is an invitation. Your ‘NO, I don’t want to’ is also welcome.

I’m here to encourage you to participate in MHAW2023 because I know that being in (supportive!) community helps to sustain health. This feels particularly important when dancing with Artist’s (human) shame – a subject I’ll talk about more in future posts.

Mental Health Art Week, what is it?

MHAW2023 is an event that brings artists together in spaces where discussions about mental health are warmly welcomed! When i say artists, what I mean is human beings. I sincerely believe we are all artists! You, me, we. In Scotland, where the idea for MHAW was inspired, the aim is to discover how active participation in the creative arts can prevent ill mental health.

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) led by the Scottish Mental Health Foundation is now in its 17th year. In 2023 will take place 4-22 October. Its overarching aims are to:

“support the arts, explore how engagement in the arts can help prevent mental ill health, and challenge mental health stigma”. 


In Finland, Mental Health Art Week (MHAW) began in 2014 and is organised by MIELI ry Finlands oldest and largest mental health organisation.

MHAW in Finland aims to:

“strengthen cultural well-being, increase knowledge about the effects of cultural participation on mental health, and lowers the threshold to discuss mental health and its meaning for individuals and for the community.”

MHAW2023 MIELI Without Borders presentation
Mental Health Art Week 2023 logo

This year #MHAW2023 is partnered with Suomi Theatri and performance will literally take centre stage in the programme of activities. You’ll also discover activities that are not directly related to the theatre or the arts in a traditional sense.

See MHAW on MIELI’s web (in Finnish) or MEILI’s MHAW FB for programme events and updates. (also mostly in Finnish)

Feeling left out. Make connections

Until about a month ago, I didn’t have a clue there was a dedicated Mental Health Art Week in Finland, and I‘m a Mental Health and Wellbeing professional in Finland! If you’re a foreigner in Finland you’ve probably experienced the challenges (and emotions!) that feeling left out can bring. If you feel this way, please know, you are not alone! Almost all of the information for MHAW2023 is in Finnish. For the past 4 years I’ve felt the challenges of navigating personal and professional activity – whilst slowly (very slowly – h I t a s t I ) learning Finnish.

I only know about MHAW because I am an active member of the newly formed MIELI Without Borders who I connected to through International Working Women of Finland where I am Lappeenranta Chapter Lead, and Wellbeing Lead. Getting involved in Finnish community can be a challenge – and sadly the feeling of being left out, of not belonging, adversely affects mental health and wellbeing. I highly recommend making connections to organisations, communities of interest, and individuals…in any way you can!

I’m grateful to have started making community connections here in Lappeenranta who are kindly supporting MHAW2023 by providing support and venue space: Plantis Community Garden where I volunteer, and Nicehearts Me-Talo Lappeenranta where I am a Neighbourhood Mother.

MIELI Without Borders, who are we?

MIELI Without Borders (MWB) or MIELI ilman rajoja, is a brilliantly conceived organisation that has surfaced to meet the needs of foreigners in Finland. It’s quickly become close to my heart and mind.

‘MIELI Without Borders is a migrant-led organization dedicated to mental health awareness for foreign language-speaking minorities in Finland.’


MWB is an independent part of MIELI ry, the oldest and largest mental health provider in Finland (and the oldest globally too). Whilst MIELI ry is a fantastic organisation (a world leader in the field!) sadly, its services are not always accessible to foreigners. The barriers to accessing services as a foreigner are well known to internationally minded people in Finland. It’s a painful ongoing challenge for many foreigners, with no quick or simple solution. MIB forms part of the solution.

“MEILI Without Borders is a community for foreigners, by foreigners, that welcomes people regardless of language skills, ethnic or national origin, ability, gender, religion, and/or status in Finland’


If you’ve experienced mental health difficulties, or supported a loved one through crisis, you know how difficult it can feel to reach out for support. To navigate mental health support in an unfamiliar language, culture, and context, can feel almost impossible. So, I’m delighted that MWB is active in Finland and awareness is growing. If you’d like to find out more, or join us as a member, partner, or volunteer, please contact MIELI Without Borders

This year, thanks to MEILI Without Borders, not only am I aware of Mental Health Art Week, I’ll also be facilitating workshops in Lappeenranta on Grief Tending, participating in Playback Theatre, and connecting with more artists close to home. YAY! I’m feeling enormously grateful for MEILI Without Borders, our partners MIELI Etelän Karjala here in Lappeenranta, and MIELI ry who are arranging and funding the whole MHAW2023 programme.

Ending with all the ‘feel’s’!

So, how do I feel? Well, I’m delighted to be part of MHAW2023 here in Lappeenranta. Delighted might feel like an emotion unrelated to the workshops I’m offering on grief. Yet, delighted I am! (and that’s ok!) It’s time we made space for grief, and the transformation that can happen when our feelings of loss are acknowledged and welcomed with respect, curiosity and kindness.

I’m excited about the Playback Theater workshop with Svetlana Bilevich, a bit nervous and a lot curious about theWellbeing for artists event, and right now…as I get ready to publish this (first ever!) blog post….feeling fearful tension in my body and mind. Yep, I got so many ‘feels’. And that’s ok! I’m human.

My biggest ‘feel’ is hope! I hope that by actively supporting wellbeing through creative inter-cultural community connections, life in Finland will become a healthier place – for us all!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *