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Painted Brain | Painted Brain Talks
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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Painted Brain Talks

Education and Advocacy

What are Painted Brain Talks?

Speakers are welcome to talk from a variety of viewpoints, open or not about specific diagnoses, personally choosing to be on medication and choosing not to be. Though often prosaic, we are never prescriptive. We start the conversation, and all talks are half story telling and half dialogue with audience members. We will change your views on schizophrenia. Bring us in for your team or students. Direct communication is the best and only way to help change people’s attitudes about each other. Painted Brain Talks have the most dramatic, immediate impact on audiences of any Painted Brain activity. They consistently, and with statistical significance, lead audience members to reconsider their ideas about people with mental illness in three key areas: reduced stigmatizing attitudes, improved attitudes about ability and potential, and increased belief in the potential for recovery. More crucially, audience members reported an increased likelihood of seeking mental health treatment and support for themselves if needed.

Speaker's Bureau event

Who are Painted Brain Talks’ Speakers?

Our speakers present a mix of voices from professionals and peer leaders. Painted Brain feels that mental health providers, like our director, can benefit the field of mental health by opening up about our own struggles. Professionals do nothing for stigma reduction by hiding our own mental health challenges, and such secrecy perpetuates the false dichotomy between mental illness and mental health. Our speakers are artists of all stripes, loud advocates for a new view of psychiatric symptoms and brave voices charting a path towards an identity that incorporates mental health instead of denying the importance of this aspect in our development.

Community Arts Intervention

Why are there Painted Brain Talks?

By speaking in raw and honest terms about living with psychiatric symptoms in a complex world, we challenge students of all ages, backgrounds, and persuasions to think differently about mental illness. Our speakers represent all walks of life and all types of mental health experiences. We do not script a message for audiences though will tailor the talk towards the demographic. For example, in speaking to young mental health professionals the focus will be on how our speakers have experienced mental health hurdles, whereas speaking to high school students the focus is on that period of their lives.

Where are Painted Brain Talks?

    • Teenline Operators Training

    • New Roads High School

    • USC School of Social Work

    • UCLA School of Social Work

    • Pepperdine Masters of Family Therapy Program

    • Antioch Masters of Family Therapy Program

    • USC School of Occupational Therapy

    • South Bay Youth Center

    • Los Angeles Conservation Corps - Saito High School and Pico High School

    • UCLA Active Minds Student Organization

    • UCLA’s Committee on Disabilities

    • LA City Public Defender's Office

Speakers Bureau at SAITO high school

Painted Brain Talks at SAITO high school

How do Painted Brain Talks work?

Research and experience tells us that stigma is best overcome through personal contact. We provide this through our speaker’s bureau, in which Painted Brain artists present to audiences about their own experiences with life, love, growth and recovery. We target our talks for specific audiences. For example, with high school students, our speakers focus on what they wish they had known about mental illness before they developed symptoms themselves. For students of Social Work and Occupational Therapy, the focus is on what has and has not been helpful in interacting with professionals. We always save significant time for questions and discussion with the audience.

How do we know Painted Brain Talks has an impact?

After rapidly growing in scope to include presentations to high school and college students as well as grad students, we were approached by a representative of the National Consortium of Stigma and Empowerment to conduct an assessment of the impact of our brand of Painted Brain Talks on student audiences. The Consortium was run under the auspices of University of Chicago by the renowned Stigma researcher Patrick Corrigan, PsyD. Painted Brain had the honor of being included in the Consortium’s impact study. To do so, we administers a pre- and post-assessment to our audience members. The assessment was designed and then analyzed by the Consortium back in Chicago. Data was gathered without identifying information of the participants. In addition, a cohort from the Consortium observed one of our presentations to UCLA college students involved in Active Minds.

History of Painted Brain Talks

Painted Brain Talks, formerly Painted Brain Speakers Bureau, began in 2009 after our director got a request from a professor of Social Work at USC who reached out to invite artists from Painted Brain to talk to a class of graduate students about living with mental illness and how art is a part of recovery. Not only was the experience fun and moving to all, it felt like a natural extension of our intentions to change the discussion about mental illness.

Bring Painted Brain Talks to your community or classroom

Contact David Israelian at

  • This platform gives great opportunities for individuals like myself to share their story and educate others about the internal workings of mental illness.

    Art Group Leader